Detroit Lions CB Jeff Okudah: Rookie year more difficult than I imagined

Detroit Free Press

Carlos Monarrez
| Detroit Free Press

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It hasn’t been an easy year for Detroit Lions rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah. In fact, he admitted Thursday that the transition has been even more difficult than he imagined.

“I want to say yes,” Okudah said in a conference call. “But at the same time I think earlier on this summer I kind of just told myself, ‘Just trust the process. It’s going to be growing pains, it’s going to be good moments and it’ll be bad.’

“So I think that when I go back and just look at that reminder I sent myself in the summer I think that I knew what I was in store for.”

Okudah plays one of the positions with the steepest learning curves for rookies. The coronavirus pandemic was a hindrance to the offseason development for all rookies. Okudah was held out of the opener with a hamstring injury. He struggled in his debut against top Packers receiver Davante Adams, but otherwise has been solid, if unspectacular, with 40 tackles, one interception and another pass defended.

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Okudah has mostly been a starter, but he was replaced last week by Amani Oruwariye and played 39% of defensive snaps — his lowest number this season. He said playing in a rotation has been a challenge.

“I would say it is tough in a way,” he said. “I think one thing about this year with all the things that have happened that are kind of unusual, I would say that it’s part of the experience. You kind of embrace any new challenge and you put your best foot forward and then you make the most of the situation.”

Okudah said he wasn’t naïve about how good NFL receivers would be, but he has worked hard to adjust to the big difference between college and NFL quarterbacks.

“I think it’s been definitely a learning process from the first game just to where I’m at right now,” he said. “I think that I’ve learned a lot of invaluable lessons throughout this whole experience and I’m really excited to see what these last seven games that we’re guaranteed to have have in store for me and the secondary.”

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It helps, Okudah said, that he has gotten plenty of support from his teammates along the way.

“I would say that through the guidance of some of the older guys in the secondary kind of talking about things that happened their rookie year it’s starting to come,” he said. “I guess I started to see it’s OK to have this mess-up here, it’s OK to learn and it’s OK to do this. But it’s all about the get-back and how you respond to it.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez at and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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