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Campbell confirms season-ending Achilles injury for Okudah

Cornerback Jeff Okudah suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in Sunday's season-opening loss to San Francisco, and his 2021 season is over before it ever really got going.

The No. 3 overall pick last year suffered the injury on a non-contact play in the fourth quarter. He immediately clutched at the back of his leg while on the ground, and head coach Dan Campbell said after the game the team feared it could be an Achilles injury.

It turns out that is the case, and it's terrible news for Okudah, 22, who had a terrific training camp and was emerging as a leader for Detroit's secondary.

Now for the second straight season, Okudah will find himself on season-ending injured reserve and spend another season and offseason rehabbing an injury. Last year, Okudah landed on IR with a core muscle injury that required season-ending surgery last December.

"He really improved a ton from spring until now and I hate it for him first, and for us as a team because he was really coming around," Campbell said Monday. "That's one of those things that we have to adapt to and it is what it is and now we have to move on."

An Achilles injury is one of the tougher injuries to come back from for a player who relies on speed and change of direction, but knowing the way Okudah attacked his rehab last year and came back better for it, the hope is he'll do the same with this latest setback.

"What are you going to do to prepare yourself for next year?" Campbell said of the message he'll have for Okudah. "That's going to be my whole conversation with him. 'Your whole focus is going to be on 2022, and how do I get back from this?'

"We'll have the surgery and then everything has to be about the rehab again, because there's no other way to treat it. There's no other way to react about it. It's the only way he's going to get better."

Amani Oruwariye now becomes Detroit's top cornerback, and the team will look to rookies Ifeatu Melifonwu, Bobby Price and Jerry Jacobs to play bigger roles in the secondary moving forward. Campbell said it's likely Melifonwu is the next man up, but he didn't rule out adding a veteran as well.

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