O.J. Howard appears to be navigating Achilles rehab well. The fifth-year tight end is on track to participate in the Buccaneers’ offseason program, should the NFL proceed with onsite workouts this year.
Howard suffered an Achilles tear in early October of last year, but Bruce Arians confirmed the former first-round pick is close to taking a key step. While Howard should not be expected to be full-go until training camp, the fact that he has resumed running at all represents a positive development for a player who has battled some injury trouble as a pro.
“He’s not running on the grass yet, but he’s really close. The last time I checked (he) was 85% body weight running in ‘AlterG’ and looks fantastic,” Arians said of Howard’s pace on a customized treadmill, via Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com. “I don’t see any setbacks. If and when we can get together in this offseason program, he’ll be ready to go.
“What a huge addition to have him back because he was having a great year. I think, again, the sky’s the limit for what he can do in this offense.”
Howard seemed a better fit for Dirk Koetter‘s offense, posting 565 receiving yards in just 10 games in 2018. After recovering from knee, ankle and foot injuries, Howard did not fare as well in Arians’ first season. The Alabama alum played 14 games but was not the same kind of factor in 2019. He popped up in trade rumors, with the Bucs discussing him in a deal that would have sent then-Washington left tackle Trent Williams to Tampa. But Howard stayed. The Bucs picked up his fifth-year option, and the October injury essentially ensured it would vest. Howard, 26, is due $6M this season.
Tampa Bay re-signed Rob Gronkowski and still has Cameron Brate on its roster. The Bucs also are working on re-signing Antonio Brown. This would make for another crowded pass-catching situation, but Howard remains in the Super Bowl champions’ plans at this point.