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There may have been a six-week dead period for football fans during the course of the month of July, but though the players couldn’t do organized activities together as a team, Bucs rookie tight end, O.J. Howard, says they’ve been hard at work.

“Six weeks off, but it’s really not off,” Howard said. “You have to keep in shape; you have to train and keep the football mindset. Coming back two days early kind of helped get us into that football mindset.”

Howard has been all over the place since draft day. Not only did have have the added rookie mini camp before the team’s regulated OTA week, but he’s also been back-and-forth between Tampa and his home town of Prattville, Alabama, both training and spending some time in the community.

“I started my annual backpack giveaway in my community for all the kids to go back to school. We did supplies, games, did some football drills, just a way to give back to where I grew up and keep school first in all the kid’s lives,” Howard said. “Honestly, without education I don’t think you can go far in life nowadays. A lot kids think that it’s just about sports, but if you don’t make the grades, you won’t be able to play sports. I always just try to keep that in their mind and keep them focused.”

Bucs TE O.J. Howard – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Safe to say it’s been quite the adjustment period for the team’s prized first round pick. But, it hasn’t just been an adjustment to the busier schedule, but also in Howard going from an amateur to a professional in his craft.

Even just in the camp’s OTA practices, Howard says that practicing in the NFL is like practicing for the biggest game of the year in the SEC every day.

“I would say mostly mental, just knowing the little things,” Howard said. “In the NFL, every guy is really, really good. It’s like an Alabama-LSU matchup every day, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s an SEC game for me every day – there’s no non-conference games. Everybody is good. You have to have good technique, and it’s more mental than anything.”

Howard says he’s been getting some hands-on help from the veterans in the tight end room like Cameron Brate and Luke Stocker, and also noted that working with quarterback Jameis Winston is motivating in itself. He even said that, “being around great players makes you become great” in reference to the Bucs starting offense. But, he’s also been getting some help from some of the best at his position who have come before him by studying tape of old.

“I started [studying guys] last year, guys who play now and guys like Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten,” Howard said. “Those are guys who, even when they were older, they were really dominant because of their technique and the way they ran the routes and the little things. I just study guys like that to see what makes them stay in the game so long… For me, there’s a lot of guy who were before my time who were really good. Personally, I like Tony Gonzalez as my No. 1 guy, Winslow is up there in my books and Antonio Gates.”

Howard and the rest of the Buccaneers kick off training camp tomorrow morning at 8:45 a.m. at One Buc Place.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: trevor@pewterreport.com
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4 years ago

Fired up! Go Bucs!

4 years ago

I’m fired up! I am still amazed he made to the Bucs at 19.

4 years ago

Jeesh! This is a big man, and runs like a deer. Glad he’s on my team – almost too good to be true!

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