Lions Rookie Hendon Hooker Returns to Practice — ‘Feels Good To Be a Baller Again’

It's been 375 days since Hendon Hooker strapped on shoulder pads for practice, but the Lions' rookie quarterback was finally able to on Wednesday.

It’s been a long time since Hendon Hooker has strapped on shoulder pads. A whopping 375 days, to be precise. That reality made Wednesday’s return to the field all the more important to Hooker as he participated in his first practice as a member of the Detroit Lions.

Hendon Hooker Excited After Long-Awaited Return

Getting back out on the practice field was a milestone moment for Hooker, who suffered a torn ACL during a Nov. 19, 2022 game against South Carolina while he was still playing quarterback at the University of Tennessee.

Before the devastating injury ended his season, Hooker was among the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to the most outstanding player in college football annually. He had tallied 3,135 passing yards and 27 touchdowns with just two interceptions on the year before the injury.

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Hooker saw his stock dip as a result, falling to the Lions with the 68th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft after previously being projected to be selected within the first two rounds.

The ailment also started a lengthy recovery process for him just to be ready to make his first practice with Detroit.

The rookie quarterback was unable to wear shoulder pads at any point until Wednesday due to being placed on the NFL’s non-football injury list, a designation that was finally lifted Wednesday when his 21-day practice window opened.

“It was a blast just to get out there with the guys and compete,” Hooker said. “It’s been a year since I put on shoulder pads. So, throwing with my shoulder pads, I have to get accustomed to again.”

Now, Detroit has three weeks to determine whether it will elevate Hooker to the 53-man roster or rule him out for the remainder of the year.

It appears unlikely that Hooker will play at all this season given Jared Goff’s success as the starting quarterback and options behind him such as backup Teddy Bridgewater or even practice squad member David Blough in the event of an injury.

Still, getting Hooker out on the practice field for the first time Wednesday was an exciting moment for Lions head coach Dan Campbell.

“To be able to actually do individual work with him, have him take a snap — that’s why it’s big,” Campbell said. “I mean it’d be nice to just do some of those things with him.”

Hooker is keeping his expectations tempered for the remainder of the season given all of those factors and the idea that Detroit will likely be cautious with him regardless given his recent injury history.

Still, he relished the chance to strap the pads on once again and get back on the field Wednesday.

“Just want to get better every day, 1%,” Hooker said. “Continue to stay in my playbook, continue to ask questions, and get better. It was fun just to get out there and run through the plays, communicate with the guys, and just ask them what they are seeing on the field.

“It just feels good to be a baller again.”

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