Hamstring injury limits Chris Godwin’s comeback game to a cameo

The Bucs veteran, coming back from torn ligaments in his knee, has three catches in his first game since being injured.
Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin, who tore ligaments in his right knee back in December, gains yardage after catching a pass in the first half Sunday.
Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin, who tore ligaments in his right knee back in December, gains yardage after catching a pass in the first half Sunday. [ MICHAEL AINSWORTH | AP ]
Published Sept. 12, 2022|Updated Sept. 12, 2022

ARLINGTON, Texas — The highly anticipated return had all the makings of poignance and inspiration.

If only brevity hadn’t intervened.

Eight months after surgery to mend a pair of torn knee ligaments, Chris Godwin seemed poised to deliver a comeback performance for Bucs lore. Uncertain as recently as Thursday as to whether he would play in the season opener, the team’s veteran purveyor of tough catches and blue-collar blocks vanquished the suspense immediately Sunday night.

On the first offensive play from scrimmage (following a false start), Godwin took a short Tom Brady throw to the left, dashed through a seam for 24 yards and even took a little upper-body contact before being shoved out of bounds.

“I think it was big for his confidence,” coach Todd Bowles said. “He started smiling and you could see it right there, he was ready to go and I was happy with that.”

With that, one of the most valiant stories of 2022 was underway.

Until an injury rendered it underwhelming.

Godwin had two more short receptions before limping off the field late in the first half with a hamstring ailment. He was headed for treatment and declined to speak with reporters at length in the locker room afterward, but indicated the injury isn’t serious.

“It’s always good to be back out there with your guys,” he said.

He hadn’t experienced such onfield interaction since Dec. 19, 2021, when he was struck in the right knee after catching a pass over the middle in a home loss to the Saints. The ensuing nine-month odyssey included surgery and strength training, monotony and mental obstacles, not to mention the normal trepidation naturally preceding the first live contact in an NFL game.

Hence the reason Sunday represented a triumph despite a meager stat line: three targets, three catches, 35 yards in the Bucs’ 19-3 victory.

“I loved it,” veteran inside linebacker Lavonte David said.

“To get the catch and break a couple of yards, it was great to see. Me and Chris are always in constant contact. I watched the way he worked, man, and it was very great to see. I’m glad to have him back. He did everything they asked him to do, stuck to the plan and was able to get back, and we won.”

If only the feel-good moment had stretched a little deeper into the Texas evening. For Godwin and his family (including wife Mariah, seen embracing him before kickoff), this was a night destined to yank the heartstrings.

If not for that pesky hamstring.

“The good thing is, it wasn’t his knee, so I’m happy about that,” Bowles said. “And he was playing free and playing normal, so hopefully he can get back and continue the things that he started.”

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Contact Joey Knight at Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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