Cornerback Jeff Okudah is getting ready for his first NFL game experience Sunday in Green Bay.
The No. 3 overall selection by the Lions in this year’s NFL Draft is expected to make his NFL debut this week after sitting out the regular-season opener last week because of a hamstring injury. Okudah’s been a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday, and he’s certainly trending in the right direction to be available for the Lions Sunday.
It would be Okudah’s first professional football game. He’s never even been to an NFL game as a fan. He watched last week’s loss to the Bears on TV at home.
Okudah will get quite the first NFL experience, too: Iconic Lambeau Field and the historic Green Bay Packers franchise with quarterback Aaron Rodgers throwing to one of the top wide receivers in the game in Davante Adams.
Welcome to the NFL.
“I’m really excited for Sunday’s matchup,” Okudah said in a Zoom call after practice Thursday. “I think as a cornerback, I would hope you welcome any challenge, no matter how big it is how small it is you approach it the same. I think that on Sunday I’m going to be really excited going to my first NFL game.”
Okudah certainly has a tough task ahead of him against the Packers. Veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant missed practice again Thursday with a hamstring injury, putting his availability for Sunday in question. That could mean the Lions are looking at second-year cornerback Amani Oruwariye and Okudah to man the outside corner spots against a Packers offense that generated 522 total yards and 364 passing yards in a Week 1 victory in Minnesota. Rodgers threw 4 touchdowns. Adams caught 14 passes for 156 yards and two scores.
“I think any young corner, when they’re playing great receivers, first and foremost is making sure you trust your technique and not go outside the things that you’ve been practicing, the things that you know that you do well, and just make sure that you’re fundamentally sound from that standpoint,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said Thursday, when asked about young cornerbacks going against great veteran receivers like Adams.
“Make sure that we do a good job with our leverage, and we understand the coverage concepts that we’re playing and where the help is. Certainly with a really good receiver, you’re going to have to use that help to the best of your ability, and just to be consistent with what we do. Don’t try to go outside of that because then it just becomes really hard to fix on gameday.”
Okudah on preparing to return to the field Okudah has reached out to veterans he respects around the league and former teammates at Ohio State to get an idea of what to expect in his first game. He’s also been in the ear of rookie teammates asking them about last week.
“For me, I always have to make sure I never get too high or too low,” Okudah said. “Just always stay level and I think that’s been really helpful keeping my mind at ease for this game on Sunday.”