Amobi Okoye doesn’t know what the future holds, but he knows his odds of resuming an NFL career are better than they were.
The defensive tackle practiced Thursday, his first practice in almost two years. It was a huge step forward in his return from a potentially deadly brain condition that had him in a coma for three months last year.
“When you went through what I went through, you never know what is going to happen later,” Okoye said. “I’m just fortunate and blessed to be where I am now.”
Okoye remains a long way from playing again, though. The Cowboys have 21 days to place him on the active roster, release him or keep him on the reserve/non-football illness list.
Okoye expressed joy just to be where he is and said he wouldn’t be disappointed if his return to game action has to wait another year. He last played with the Chicago Bears in 2012.
“I have already sat out a year,” Okoye said. “What is another year? I’m still young. I’m only 27.”
He’s also healthy and playing football again.
Okoye survived anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a brain condition that causes memory issues and seizures. It left him with a 145-day memory gap.
“The journey back has been real tough, just from the fact that you might not get to do what you do anymore,” Okoye said. “Being able to do it now is just priceless. I could hardly sleep [Wednesday] night, anticipating what it was going to feel like. Getting that first practice out of the way is good.”
Okoye, a former first-round pick of the Houston Texans, weighs 300 pounds. He has a long way to go before he gets in football shape.
“He’s worked very hard behind the scenes to get himself ready to go and hasn’t played football in awhile,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We understand that and respect the challenges of the game, but he’s worked very hard in the weight room and done some work on his own on the field. …The expectations are for him to try his best today and then build on some of the progress he’s made.”
Bruce Carter expects to play Monday night after missing the past three games with a right quadriceps strain.
“I think as the week goes on and me running around and being able to open up a little bit more each day, I think I’ll be fine for Monday night,” Carter said Thursday.
The starting outside linebacker practiced Thursday for the first time since he was injured chasing New Orleans’ Khiry Robinson in a Sept. 28 game. He was limited in practice.
Tony Romo (back) did not practice, keeping with the same schedule he has maintained the past few weeks.
Defensive end Jack Crawford (calf), right tackle Doug Free (foot) and safety Jakar Hamilton (personal) also missed Thursday’s practice.
Defensive end Anthony Spencer (knee/foot) was limited. Receiver Dez Bryant (shoulder) and tackle Jermey Parnell (chest) were full participants.
Rookie linebackers Anthony Hitchens and Keith Smith weren’t following the orders of the veteran linebackers. Justin Durant finally had enough, ordering them to decorate the linebackers’ room for Halloween.
“That was from me,” Durant said. “We were letting the rookies get away with murder. They’ve been having a real easy year, just as far as they don’t have our candy on time. They don’t have our waters in the refrigerator and stuff like that, so let’s take it up a notch and let them decorate for Halloween.”
The rookies got high marks for their efforts at decorating, adding orange tablecloths, spider webs and goblins to the room.
“I was pleasantly surprised, because Hitchens likes to take the easy way out,” Durant said. “He doesn’t know how to follow lists from Walmart and stuff like that, so to see him actually come through and do something more than was expected, I was shocked. I’m happy to see it.”
Now, the rookies are expected to decorate for every holiday — Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.
“I think we’ve got them in line a little bit,” Durant said. “[Hitchens] messed up my order on the plane, so he just had a whole lot of bad marks on his résumé. .I was like, ‘Come on, man. Just decorate the room.’ All holidays will be decorated now, including New Year’s.”