As much pressure as there is to repeat as Super Bowl champions, the player on the Bucs roster that might have the most pressure going into this season is O.J. Howard.

The Bucs’ fifth-year tight end had a very serious Achilles injury that cost him his entire season after the first four games. He was there the whole time during the year as the Bucs won Super Bowl LV, but it has to be tough to miss out on all the pomp and circumstance of playing in that game.

Howard not only comes into 2021 off of a major injury, but he’s in a contract season with no guarantee that he’ll be in Tampa Bay next year. Looking around the roster, Howard needs to have big season more than the Bucs need him to.

After a shaky performance in Week 2 of the preseason cast some doubt, Howard bounced back with a solid game in the finale.

In the Bucs’ 31-29 thrilling season opening win over Dallas, Howard wasn’t able to put his stamp on the game as he didn’t have a reception or even a target. It would’ve been tough to considering he played just six snaps on offense, which was nine percent of the total offensive output. Third-string tight end Cam Brate got in on 12 more plays than Howard did.

Bucs TE O.J. Howard

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

Seemingly, the Bucs are still easing Howard in. Maybe he needed to knock off some rust, but by his teammate’s views, Howard was shaping into form just at the right time.

“He has come off a very serious injury and he’s been doing everything,” said fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski. “I’ve been seeing him all offseason from the very beginning. He’s been working his tail off and he looks really good. I love working out there with O.J., love lining up next to him. He’s just a freak of an athlete, I mean, he can run super fast, get out of breaks really fast and he’s a very reliable blocker. I like when he’s next to me when we got to double team and go up to the next level. O.J., he’s the man. It’s great to see him back out there with all the hard work that he put in to come back from such an injury.”

The Bucs brought back all the starters to their roster, which means the continuity is in place on offense. The rest of Tampa Bay’s skill players have worked a whole season building chemistry with Tom Brady. Howard needed to keep up in that regard as well.

“O.J. has worked really hard to put himself in the position he is in,” Brady said. “I think he’s prepared to have a great season. He has worked really hard through training camp, been available to the team – [he’s] a very hard worker and doing all the right things. [I’m] really happy to have him back out there.”

It’s one thing to worry about playing in a contract year, but it’s another to make it all the way back after going through what he went through. Howard mentioned that the toughest part of returning wasn’t anything physical.

“I would just say mentally more than anything,” Howard said. “Really not physical, just trying to stay focused and trust the team that I have – the rehab doctors that I have and the training staff here – that we were going to get back to where I want to be. It was a slow process. It was long, but it worked out. That was the hardest thing just staying focused on that and knowing that everything would be okay.”

Share On Socials

About the Author: Matt Matera

Subscribe
Notify of
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
drdneast
drdneast
9 months ago

Hope the season works out for him for everyone’s sake.

Horse
Horse
9 months ago

I hope the best for OJ; he has a long road ahead of him, but he is on the right road to move forward. We all need to be patient with his recovery. We are not in his shoes.

bucballer
bucballer
9 months ago

Howard needs to start performing or he will under perform his contract, much less earn an even more extravagant contract for more money. Potential can only take u so far. At some point he will need to begin to ball out or he will be traded or not offered a second contract. It’s a what have u done for me lately business. And in his case he hasn’t done much! I’m just saying…

fredster
fredster
9 months ago

How indeed. Short answer he likely won’t. Lol. Tons potential, too many injuries. He was a drop machine in pre season. Don’t need another 3-4 turnover game if he’s not ready sit him. He screwed Winston lot times tipping balls to defenders too.

drdneast
drdneast
Reply to  fredster
9 months ago

He tipped two, in the scheme of Winston’s INT’s, that was an ice cube on a glacier.

scubog
scubog
Reply to  drdneast
9 months ago

“Ice cube on a glacier” describes it perfectly. Never heard that one before. There are few players with the physical skills O.J. Howard possesses. He really stood out to me in college and I was thrilled when he was drafted. Sadly, thus far, his career has been relatively mediocre. I’m hoping he starts to have a greater role in the offensive game plan since he can be such a match-up nightmare for a defense.

Dman
Dman
9 months ago

Bucs are working OJ’s return as a gradual process. Let’s see where he is after game 5. He’s a gifted athlete that’s never played to his potential. Let’s see whether he’s worth the next contract.

Captain Sly
Captain Sly
Reply to  Dman
9 months ago

Absolutely correct Dman! The Bucs care more about his long term health than his pending contract negotiations. Whether we like it or not OJ’s next contract falls down between RoJo & Alex Cappa’s. Current pecking order is Chris Godwin, Carlton Davis, Jordan Whitehead and that’s likely not to change no matter what OJ does. There’s only so much $ to pay an injury prone TE. Cheers

NaplesFan2.0
NaplesFan2.0
Reply to  Captain Sly
9 months ago

I would amend your contract pecking order Cap. Godwin, Davis, JPP and then Whitehead

76bucsfan46
76bucsfan46
9 months ago

I pray that OJ can be past the injuries and finally reach his potential. Have a blessed season OJ.