| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Lions’ T.J. Hockenson wishes he could actually play in a Pro Bowl
Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson speaks to the media on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020.
Detroit Lions, Wochit
Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson dealt with a lot during as a rookie in 2019.
He suffered a concussion. He had a gruesome ankle injury that resulted in torn ligaments. And, as it turns out, he said Tuesday he also had a broken leg.
Humpty Dumpty and Monty Python’s Black Knight weren’t this banged up.
That’s why Hockenson spent much of his Tuesday news conference thanking his teammates, trainers and physical therapists for helping put him back together for a second season that resulted in his first Pro Bowl selection.
LIONS COACH STOCK WATCH: Two hot college names headed in different directions
STAFFORD STILL GOING: The QB is ailing, but the Lions have no plans to shut him down
“It was definitely a tough situation and just being able to rehab from that and having some great physical therapists that helped me along the way,” he said. “Coming back from that and then being able to go down and still have an offseason it truly means a lot to all the people that voted and obviously the city of Detroit, just being able to play for this city obviously means a lot.
“Truly something like this it’s not just one person, I think a lot of people go into it. I think I’m just really grateful.”
Hockenson’s Pro Bowl selection is a little more significant because of the Lions’ recent struggles to draft and develop players at the position. He’s the first Lions tight end selected to the Pro Bowl since David Sloan in 1999.
Hockenson, the Lions’ first-round pick in 2019, leads all NFC tight ends with 675 yards receiving and his 60 receptions are second behind former teammate Logan Thomas (now with the Washington Football Team). With two games left, he’s closing in on Brandon Pettigrew’s franchise single-season record of 777 receiving yards for a tight end, set in 2011.
“(I) couldn’t be happier for a guy that really went through a tough offseason with the injury that he had at the end of the year,” interim head coach Darrell Bevell said Tuesday. “And then all that work that you have to do, all the stuff that I’m sure he had to live up to, to be able to come back and put the year together that he had and be able to be recognized for that. I think it speaks for him.”
The key for Hockenson’s development was his offseason. He worked out with his friend (and former Iowa teammate) George Kittle, a Pro Bowl tight end with the San Francisco 49ers. Lions coaches made sure he stayed involved mentally during his recovery and helped him commit to the rigors of preparing like a professional for meetings, practices and walkthroughs.
“But there was a lot of guys in the locker room,” Hockenson said, “that just laid it out there: ‘As long as you work hard and as long as you do what your trainers tell you and what everyone’s telling you, you’ll be able to come back.’
“And that really meant a lot. A lot of guys really had my back during the offseason, texting me just trying to make sure that things were going well, everything was going well. Ended up having to do all that and then being able to come back and … not only just being able to play but being able to play at such a high level obviously means a lot. There’s not a lot of better guys I could ask for in that locker room.”
This offseason could bring a lot of change for Hockenson, as the team is hiring a general manager, a head coach and likely almost an entirely new coaching staff. Bevell has guided Hockenson during his first two seasons and outlined areas in which he could improve in his third year.
“Like I’ve told you before, the guy’s a tireless worker,” Bevell said. “So we just need to continue to have those incremental gains.
“I think the big thing for him would be to continue to work on the run game, just hand placement and finishing the run game. Then continue to add to his repertoire that he has. When he’s running routes, the little nuances to shake free, to get cleaner, maybe a new release. Just those kinds of things to continue to make sure that your game gets better and better.”
Contact Carlos Monarrez at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.