Less than nine months after rupturing his Achilles tendon, Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah is back on the football field and looks healthy.
Okudah was a limited participant Thursday in the Lions’ third practice of Organized Team Activites. He took first-team reps at left cornerback during a walk-through period at the start of practice, then spent part of individual drills running sprints around the field.
Lions coach Dan Campbell declined to give a timetable for the return of Okudah and fellow injured defensive players Romeo Okwara and Jerry Jacobs, but Okudah’s rehab schedule suggests he will be ready at least by the start of the regular season.
“We’ll see,” Campbell said. “To be honest with you, it’s hard to put a timeline on that. Let’s see what they look like when we get them in here to camp and see what this next month of recovery does for them and rehab. So make that assessment then.”
Okudah ruptured his left Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of the Lions’ season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers last September.
He has posted workout videos on social media regularly during his rehab, and Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye predicted earlier this month Okudah was headed for a bounce-back year.
“I think mentally probably is the biggest thing right now,” Oruwariye said. “I knew he would get back healthy, but mentally he’s amazing. He’s in great spirits, doing his thing, getting back, getting that Achilles and the whole body right in general. But I think we’re going to be excited just to get him back in the locker room, just his infectious attitude around the guys.”
Okudah had a rough rookie season as the No. 3 pick of the 2020 NFL draft, when he allowed 41 completions on 53 passes thrown in his coverage area, according to Pro Football Reference. Last year, he gave up 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in the three quarters before his injury.
If healthy, Okudah could join Oruwariye in the Lions’ starting secondary, with Mike Hughes, Will Harris and Jacobs among others playing key roles at cornerback.
Jacobs, coming off a torn ACL, watched Thursday’s practice from the sideline, while Okwara, who tore his Achilles last October, was not spotted at the workout.
“I always talk to Jeff about — and all the guys — my motto is just keep going,” Oruwariye said. “I’ve always told him like, ‘Man, you’ve developed so much just from the time I’ve seen you, I can’t wait to see how much develop when you can put a full 16 games together.’ And I think he can’t wait. He’s excited. I think people who try to write people off, they got to just kind of stay in your lane ’cause to me I think, there’s a reason he went No. 3 overall in the draft and the minute he gets on the field I think he can make an immediate impact. It’s just a matter of staying healthy for him. We’re all wishing for that.”
Left tackle Taylor Decker (foot), tight end T.J. Hockenson (illness) and draft picks Jameson Williams (ACL) and James Mitchell (ACL) were among others who did not practice Thursday, and defensive lineman Michael Brockers was not in attendance.
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Brockers also did not take part in voluntary OTAs last spring.
Decker said he sat out for precautionary reasons, resting an injury that was residual from the one that caused him to leave the Lions’ season finale against the Green Bay Packers in January.
“It’s the same area but it’s not the same injury, so we’re just being smart with it,” Campbell said. “He’s good, If he had to play right now, he could play. So we’re just being smart about it.”