Bucs’ O.J. Howard is back in the end zone, but it’s a new beginning

TAMPA — In some ways, the touchdown was like the toughest trial of his career. Some doubt, great anticipation, a stumble and ultimately triumph.

O.J. Howard came out of his break in the end zone at Lincoln Financial Field and nearly fell on his face in the first quarter Thursday night against the Eagles.

“Man, I had run into a guy and I stumbled after I let go of the guy and I said, ‘I can’t fall. I’ve got to score this one. I’ve got a chance to be open,’” Howard said Tuesday at practice. “And then when I caught my balance, I looked up and saw the ball and I thought the guy was going to tip it, but it went over his head. It was close. It was a close call, but I made it out.”

Officially, it was only a 2-yard touchdown reception from Tom Brady that gave the Bucs a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. But the journey was much longer for Howard.

O.J. Howard (80) gets set to catch a first-quarter touchdown last Thursday against the Eagles. [ RICH SCHULTZ | Associated Press ]

Having ruptured his right Achilles tendon in a Week 4 game against the Chargers last season, Howard battled back and played a key role in the Bucs’ 28-22 win over the Eagles.

He started the past three games at tight end for injured veteran Rob Gronkowski but the Thursday night…

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