Mental game a summer priority for Bucs TE O.J. Howard

By Lindsay Liquori, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Friday, June 30, 2017, 4:19 PM EDT

O.J. Howard learned quickly, the NFL is a whole new ball game.

He’s no longer in Nick Saban’s world, as professional as Alabama might be.

"You know, all the guys in the NFL, they’re really smart," said the 19th overall pick at the 7th annual Sneaker Soiree.  "They pick up on any hint you can give away. So, I think you just have to be on top of your game every day."

Howard was in town for the Tampa Bay Sports Commission's event, while the rest of the Bucs have scattered before training camp. 

The rookie is now back home in Prattville, Alabama, but this is no ordinary summer break.

"My biggest thing is not being prepared," said Howard.  "I’m still working out every day cause I want to go into training camp in great shape and be the best I can be."

Howard’s summer reading list starts and ends with the Buccaneers playbook.

He said he will be studying, especially after he was running to catch up during mini-camp.

"You know, I had more of a mental aspect than physical," said Howard when asked how OTAs and mini-camp went.  "Once I got the playbook down and started playing fast it was very fun.  But, it’s definitely  different game from college."

To help with the transition to the NFL he is leaning on veterans in the tight end room.

"Cam Brate and Luke Stocker," said Howard.  "Those are two guys I’ve been around for a while, so they’re doing a great job of just coaching me up and helping me to be the best I can be."

"He’s done a great job," said Brate.  "He’s always stayed after asking us questions. He’s been a great teammate so far."

He’s also stayed after for extra reps with Jameis Winston.

"Just to be perfect timing," said Howard.  "We’re working on it. We stayed behind to work and we’re gonna be there soon.

But the playoff hype for the Bucs is here now.

“In our tight end room, ‘block out the noise and be in the moment’ that’s what we say every day before we go to practice," said Howard.

Which will start again at One Buc Place in less than a month.

The first day of training camp is July 28th.  For a complete schedule click here.