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Lions rookie QB Hendon Hooker reacts to 1st NFL practice: ‘It was a blast’

Detroit Lions’ third-round pick Hendon Hooker had his first NFL practice on Wednesday and described his excitement and eagerness to get out there.

NFLPA Rookie Premiere Portrait Session Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

It has been over a year since Detroit Lions rookie quarterback Hendon Hooker has thrown a pass with shoulder pads on. Since suffering a torn ACL as a Tennessee Volunteer last November—in the midst of a potential Heisman run—he has been furiously rehabbing. But when the Lions placed him on the Non-Football Injury list, it came with a laundry list of rules of what he can and cannot do until he comes back from injury. Most notably: no throwing with shoulder pads on.

On Wednesday, all of that was lifted. The Lions returned him to practice, starting a 21-day clock in which he’ll either eventually land on Detroit’s 53-man roster or fall back to the NFI list and end his season. He gets to practice with no restrictions.

“It was a blast. It was a blast,” Hooker said after practice. “Just to get back out there with the guys, compete. That’s what it’s about; competing and winning ball games.”

The return required some adjustment for Hooker. He had to get used to throwing with pads again, he took his first snaps under center—something he did rarely in the shotgun-heavy Volunteers defense—and he had to try and calm himself down from the excitement of returning to the field.

“I couldn’t sleep. I was too excited,” Hooker said. “Just trying to calm myself. Everybody around me was very excited, so I was just trying to be the calming piece.”

The journey to this moment was long for Hooker, but it came with some help. Assistant quarterbacks coach J.T. Barrett (torn ACL) and backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (ACL, dislocated knee) have gone through the arduous process of injury rehab, and their guidance proved invaluable to Hooker.

“(Barrett) knows exactly what I’m going through and he knows exactly the steps it takes to get back your confidence and get back to football things,” Hooker said.

“(Bridgewater) has been a great mentor for me, another guy who’s gone through the stages of being injured to getting back into the rhythm of things,” he continued.

Now on the field, Hooker is hoping to take the next step of development in his young career. Because while he’s been engaged in meetings and watched practice from the sidelines, there’s no experience like actually getting behind the center.

“Before I’m really just going out there blind, trying to go off either what I see or what I know from (play) installs,” Hooker said. “But it’s different when you’re out there moving around and you have actual receivers, not just a standing target. It’s fun just to get out there, run through plays, and communicate with guys, and just asking them what they’re seeing on the field.”

Although it’s been more than a full year since Hooker has played football, he said it didn’t feel like there was that much rust out there on Day 1.

“It just feels good to actually be a baller again.”

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