After 13+ months of rehabilitation following an Achilles tear, Detroit Lions edge rusher Romeo Okwara has started practicing, and the team has initiated his 21-day evaluation clock.
In Week 4 of the 2021 season, Okwara tore his Achilles and was lost for the year. A study of medical surveys we did at Pride of Detroit following the injury suggested a long recovery for the talented edge rusher. In the studies examined, they noted that the average mean of recovery was around 11.9 months, but acknowledged that the bigger the player, the longer the recovery typically took. So while Jeff Okudah saw a quick turnaround from the same injury, the bigger-bodied Okwara took a bit longer than average to get back to health.
Over the next 21 days, the Lions will get a chance to see how Okwara’s body holds up under NFL practices. During that time, he will remain on the reserve/PUP list and will not count against the Lions 53-man roster. When the Lions determine he is healthy enough to return to game action—which could be at any time—they will activate him to the active roster, thus making him eligible to play in games.
In 2021, Okwara was the team’s starting defensive end and arguably one of, if not their best defensive player. But since his injury, the Lions have invested two top-50 draft picks in Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal—who are both starting—as well as Charles Harris, who stepped in to replace Okwara as a starter last season.
Despite the added talent, pass rushing is still a work in progress for the Lions, and Okwara could potentially give the unit a nice-sized boost. I say “potentially” because returning from an Achilles injury can often prove difficult, and players—especially defensive linemen—tend to have a subdued impact in their first season back in action. Still, even if Okwara is only returning in a pass-rushing role, he has a very valuable skill set that should certainly help.
While Okwara could technically return for this weekend’s game against the New York Giants, the Lions are expected to take things slow with him. Then, with the short week up next due to their game on Thanksgiving, a return in Week 13 against the Jacksonville Jaguars seems like a realistic game to target for a potential return.