Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson's rookie season was cut short last year due to injury.
It was a tough road back for Hockenson this offseason, and he said Tuesday a lot of people helped him get back both physically and mentally. All that work paid off, as Hockenson was named to his first Pro Bowl Monday evening.
"Obviously, the beginning of last offseason was tough," Hockenson said. "Just breaking my leg and tearing a few ligaments in my ankle, it was definitely a tough situation. Just being able to rehab from that and having some great physical therapists that helped me along the way.
"Truly, something like this is not just one person. A lot of people go into it. I think I'm just really grateful."
Hockenson, the No. 8 pick of the 2019 NFL draft, is in the midst of a breakout second season.
He has 60 receptions for 675 yards and six touchdowns with two games to play on the year. He's third behind only Kansas City's Travis Kelce and Las Vegas' Darren Waller in receptions and receiving yards among NFL tight ends. His six touchdowns are fifth most.
Kelce, Waller and Hockenson are the only tight ends in the NFL this season with 50-plus receptions and six-plus touchdowns.
Hockenson said he's a little bummed there won't actually be a Pro Bowl game due to COVID-19. He said he would have liked to hang out with the game's top players, but not being there physically in Orlando doesn't diminish what it took Hockenson to get to this point and the terrific season he's had.
"Couldn't be happier for a guy that really went through a tough offseason with the injury that he had at the end of the year and all that work that you have to do and all the stuff I'm sure he felt he had to live up to," Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell said of Hockenson's NFC Pro Bowl nod.
"To be able to come back and put the year together he has, and to be able to be recognized for that, I think it speaks for him and obviously the coaches that work with those guys as well. All those guys did a great job."
Hockenson joins center Frank Ragnow and punter Jack Fox as Pro Bowlers for the Lions in the NFC.
Speaking of Ragnow, Bevell had a good story about breaking the news to the third-year center that he made the Pro Bowl.
"That was a fun call to make," Bevell said Tuesday. "He can't talk (due to vocal cord damage suffered Week 14). I called him on FaceTime and the second he answered I'm like, 'Don't say anything. I just have to talk to you.' It was fun. It was really a fun conversation, obviously one-sided because he couldn't say much, but his face lit up and it was really exciting."
Ragnow, who missed his first game of the season last week in Tennessee because of the injury, is scheduled to see the specialist on Thursday. Bevell said he'll know more then about Ragnow's availability for Saturday's game at Ford Field against Tampa Bay.
ADJUSTING ON THE FLY
The Lions were scheduled to have a walkthrough practice Tuesday, but that was cancelled and the Lions were forced to operate virtually Tuesday because of two positive COVID-19 tests within the organization.
"Earlier this morning, we were informed of two positive COVID-19 tests within our organization," the team said in a released statement. "As a precaution, the team practice facility is currently closed and our players and coaches are conducting meetings remotely today. As we adhere to our Intensive Protocols and conduct contact tracing, we will continue to communicate closely with the NFL and its medical staff and gather more information."
The global pandemic has taught us all how to adapt, and NFL players and coaches are no different. Now into Week 16 of the regular season, Bevell said being flexible is a lot easier than it was earlier in the year.
"The changes, the twists and turns that have been thrown our way during this 2020, I think everyone is dealing with that," Bevell said. "Fortunately, through the offseason and through the things we're doing during the season, we've been able to get pretty in-depth with the Zoom meetings and how to handle all the information we need to pass back and forth to the players and coaches. I think we're in a good spot with it."