The 2017 season was not what DE Romeo Okwara hoped it would be:
2017 was shaping up to be a breakout season for Romeo Okwara.
An undrafted rookie a year earlier, Okwara finished his first NFL season on a high note. The defensive end took on a much bigger role after Jason Pierre-Paul underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury and had 25 total tackles, 12 solo, and a sack during the Giants December playoff push.
That taste of NFL success motivated the Notre Dame alum during his first offseason. Okwara trained with a former NAVY Seal in Las Vegas four times a week for six weeks in preparation for his second year in the league.
But 2017 took a detour that Okwara didn't see coming.
After playing in the Giants first five games, the Nigerian-born Okwara sprained his knee in practice on October 12th. Okwara was inactive for the team's following game, at Denver, and was placed on injured reserve on October 18th.
"That was definitely a damper for me," Okwara said. "I'm not used to missing time. I've never missed time ever in my life."
It wasn't the end of the road for the second-year pro. On November 29th, the Giants changed his status from reserve/injured to reserve injured; designated for return, which opened the door for a possible return to the field. Okwara did just that. The Giants activated Okwara on December 19th with two games left on the schedule, and he suited up for the regular-season finale, a home win over Washington in Week 17.
"It was definitely a down year for us but we learned a lot of things," Okwara said. "We went through a lot of ups and downs but it was definitely great to finish on a win. That's going to add some fuel to us when we train this offseason and hopefully come back next year very strong."
Okwara's 2017 stat line looks lean – six games played with three total tackles and no sacks. But he says the time off the field sharpened his mental game.
"I'm out here around the guys in the facility so I see them work and that just makes me want to get on the field back with them even more," Okwara said. "That's how I kind of stayed there mentally."
As another offseason gets underway, the photography and music fanatic is focused on making sure 2018 isn't a repeat of 2017.
"Just come back faster and stronger and being able to work on a lot of things I wasn't able to do this year and just improve from there."