Dec 21, 2019; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard (80) reacts during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs TE O.J. Howard to be ready for offseason program

Jan 3, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) warms up before a game against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard will be ready to participate in the team’s offseason program, coach Bruce Arians announced Wednesday.

Howard saw his season come to an abrupt end after sustaining a ruptured Achilles tendon in the Buccaneers’ 38-31 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Oct. 4.

The 26-year-old Howard had 11 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns in four games prior to the injury. He finished his season on injured reserve, marking the third time that he has done so since being selected by Tampa Bay with the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

“He’s really close,” Arians said of Howard. “He’s not running on the grass yet but he’s really close. The last time I checked it was 85 percent body weight running in ‘AlterG’ (treadmill) and (he) looks fantastic. I don’t see any setbacks. If and when we can get together in this offseason program, he’ll be ready to go.”

Howard has reeled in 105 receptions for 1,602 yards and 14 touchdowns in 42 career games.

“What a huge addition to have him back because he was having a great year,” Arians said. “I think, again, the sky’s the limit for what he can do in this offense.”

Tight end Rob Gronkowski’s 45 receptions last season were tied for third on the team. His 623 yards receiving were also third on the Bucs, while his seven touchdowns were even with Chris Godwin for second behind Mike Evans.

–Field Level Media

Dec 15, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard (80) gestures with his hand after the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Report: MRI confirms torn Achilles for Bucs’ Howard

An MRI confirmed a season-ending torn Achilles tendon for Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard, NFL Network reported Tuesday.

The former first-round pick sustained the injury during Sunday’s 38-31 win against the Los Angeles Chargers. He had three receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown before he left the game in the second half.

The 25-year-old Howard is in his fourth season with Tampa Bay, which selected him 19th overall out of Alabama in 2017. He has 105 receptions for 1,602 yards and 14 touchdowns with the Bucs.

On the season, Howard had 11 receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

His absence could increase the importance of veteran Rob Gronkowski in the Tampa Bay passing game. The four-time All-Pro had one catch for 29 yards on Sunday, giving him nine receptions for 88 yards on the season.

Gronkowski, 31, was a limited participant in Monday’s practice due to a shoulder injury and his status is unknown for Thursday night’s game in Chicago against the Bears. Both teams are 3-1.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard (80) catches a touchdown pass over Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Kyzir White (44) in the third quarter of a NFL game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs fear torn Achilles for TE Howard

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard is believed to have suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, head coach Bruce Arians announced after the game.

Howard had three receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown before he left the game in the second half. Tampa Bay went on to win 38-31 as Tom Brady connected with five different players, including Howard, for receiving scores.

The 25-year-old Howard is in his fourth season with Tampa Bay, which selected him in the first round (No. 19 overall) out of Alabama in 2017. He has 105 receptions for 1,602 yards and 14 touchdowns with the Bucs.

The absence of Howard could increase the importance of Rob Gronkowski in the Tampa Bay passing game. Gronkowski had one catch for 29 yards on Sunday, giving him nine receptions for 88 yards on the season.

–Field Level Media