It’s All Mental

June 9th, 2017

O.J. Howard details his rise

Joe has to qualify what he is about to type.

It is underwear football season. Underwear football is not football. On occasions, winning Bucs coach Dirk Koetter calls it “touch football.”

It is dudes running around in shorts and jerseys wearing helmets (and Joe assumes, jock straps, as well). Think mostly 7-on-7 flag football leagues.

So caution when reading the following:

Early in underwear football, first round pick O.J. Howard hasn’t really stuck out. That was, until yesterday. Howard seemed to be flying all over the place, catching just about everything, especially in traffic.

So Joe caught up with him after underwear football practice and asked if the way he practiced yesterday was just part of him becoming comfortable with his new surroundings.

That’s part of it, Howard noted.

Physically, Howard seems to be as good as any Buccaneer practicing. And Howard told Joe he is having no issue at all hanging with NFL players. But it is the mental part of the game that he’s starting to grasp, which indirectly showed up in practice yesterday.

“Oh, man, you just have to stay in the playbook every day,” Howard said. “You have to come out here with the mentality to compete.”

Learning the NFL isn’t just about the playbook. Howard noticed Bucs corners (led by veteran Brent Grimes) can read his body language and instantly know what route he’s going to run. In baseball terms, it’s known as tipping pitches. Howard said he is learning how not to tip off corners.

“They can catch on to any little tip,” Howard said. “You can give away anything.”

Howard said it’s not unlike poker.

“Exactly! You have to sell your bluffs.”

Oh, and it’s not just reading tips. Bucs corners have been disguising coverages on Howard to throw him off and that is another thing he is working to master.

“They are good at disguising, especially blitzes and Cover-2,” Howard said. “They do a great job of that. That’s why you have to confirm the coverage at the end of the snap. You have to do a pre-snap read and a post-snap read. So you have to do all of that and still run your route. So you have to do a lot.

“It’s more of a physical jump from high school to college. College to the pros? It’s more of a mental jump.”

Again, Joe must point out it was underwear football and it’s still June. But it seems all the mental processes thrown at Howard are being grasped. That may be why yesterday, for the first time Joe noticed, Howard looked every bit the part of a first-round pick.

22 Responses to “It’s All Mental”

  1. Ben the Ga Buc Says:

    Excited to see the young man is starting to get it. Super important stuff he’s learning.

  2. USFBUC Says:

    Good news to hear. Hopefully he will start to develop a chemistry with Winston and we will have two solid TEs for Winston to throw to. That combined with our revamped WR core and we will actually be able handle an injury or two.

  3. The Buc Realist Says:


    I hope you were able to hear the Bucs segment on NFL radio on sirius/xm!!! Anthony Becht did a segment and was talking about the exact same thing about OJH!!!!!

    They were really, really high on the Bucs!!!!!! And basically laid out why dominik cannot get a call back from even the cfl!!!!!!!!!!

    Go Bucs!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Defense Rules Says:

    As complex as the mental transition is for positions like TE & WR, I can’t even imagine how much more difficult it must have been for Jameis or any rookie QB. Actually, could probably say the same thing about the complexity of Marpet’s move to center. Great article by the way Joe … really glad to hear that OJ’s turning into the beast we all anticipated that he’d become.

  5. tmaxcon Says:

    OJ is going to do just fine. It’s the holdovers that will derail the bucs. the career losers that have either never won or don’t know how to win the gmc’s, martins, dotsons and even maybe Lvd if he comes out slow again.

  6. jmoneyisback Says:

    Means nothing. This is how his college career went…do nothing for the majority of the season. Show up for 2 games a year.

  7. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Thought this article was positive but then there’s tmax’s daily whine and expert analysis by jmoney to sh1t on this team

  8. LargoBuc Says:

    Thecoverages they run at this level are so complex, even compared to the mighty SEC. Thats why every rep at every practice is so vital for these young players.

  9. Bucsfanman Says:

    It’s a learning curve that I would expect from a rookie. Hopefully, he’ll continue to grow the mental game.

  10. HarlemBuc Says:

    Great article! More like this please!

  11. Pickgrin Says:

    Howard scored relatively high on the Wonderlic test (27). Time to put that good brain to good use young man. OJ’s physical skills are all there big time as with any top 10 talent – but its the willingness and capacity to study hard and work hard on the mental aspects of the game that separate highly drafted players like Jameis Winston (same score- 27) from players like CB Morris Claiborne (Wonderlic score – 4) who as the #6 overall pick has had a very disappointing career.

    Wondelic score is by no means a definitive or even accurate way to predict one’s learning and retaining capacity – nor one’s likely hood of “success” in the NFL – but its an indicator for sure and one more box to check.

    OJ Howard checks ALL the boxes.

    BTW – speaking of Wonderlic scores – if there are Bucs fans who are unaware of this little tidbit then you will find it interesting to note that there is a player on the Bucs roster currently – who scored the 3rd highest Wonderlic score ever recorded by an NFL prospect…

    that would be Harvard grad and shiny new back-up QB Ryan Fitzpatrick with a Wonderlic test score of 48.

  12. Joe Says:

    hope you were able to hear the Bucs segment on NFL radio on sirius/xm!!!


  13. Joe Says:

    Thanks for the kind words guys.

  14. Blake_bucsfan Says:

    This kid is going to really shine once pads come on.

    Most anticipated training camp match-up: O.J. Howard vs. Will Gholston 1 on 1.

  15. Blake_bucsfan Says:


    Dalvin Cook wonderlic score: 11

  16. RustyRhinos Says:

    Took the thoughts right out of my head Lord Cornelius.
    It does grow tiresome. I just skip most of those posts, half read them, some of those comments are thought produced.

    Very excited to see Mr. Howard play on Sundays around here for a long time.

    Go! Bucs!

  17. Pickgrin Says:

    Now, now Blake – Dalvin is up in Minn and should be off our radar. Let it go man.

    I will be very surprised BTW if Dalvin Cook does not gain at least 1200 combined yards this year and go on to have a good NFL career. We shall see.

    That said – I’m glad the way our draft turned out. Much more comfortable getting a talent like McNichols in the 5th than using a high pick on Cook or any RB for that matter.

  18. Blake_bucsfan Says:

    XD Yeah yeah I know dude, just saw you bringing up wonderlic scores and couldn’t resist.

  19. RayJameisStadium Says:

    The coaching done by TE coach Ben Steele on C. Brate was pretty impressive. I’m looking forward to see him take off during the season. Howard seems to have the right attitude.

    Great stuff Joe!!!!

  20. Brian Says:

    tmax, you must be such a pleasure to be around in life. FFS.

  21. BuccoDav Says:

    When will you guys learn not to acknowledge the pessimists?

  22. Dave Says:

    Tmaxcon= Troll