Victor Ochi rehabbing shoulder, eyeing another NFL shot
The jerseys hung prominently on the wall at Professional Athletic Performance Center in Garden City.
Stephen Bowen. Marques Colston. Stephen Boyd. Vincent Rey. All had or are having productive NFL careers, and their framed, autographed jerseys stood among dozens of other athletes who have at one point or another needed to rehab an injury.
Victor Ochi sees his jersey up there. No one else can, yet.
The Valley Stream native remains confident he’ll have just as solid an NFL career as those who passed through before him — even if it already has had its fair share of twists and turns.
“There’s not really a doubt in my mind that I can play in the NFL,” Ochi said Thursday after rehabbing a deep bruise in his right rotator cuff.
Last weekend was a whirlwind for Ochi, who went from being a Raven to not being a Raven, then being a Jet, then not being a Jet, then getting his shoulder treated on Long Island.
On Sept. 1, the undrafted edge rusher out of Stony Brook — who had played sparingly in the preseason up until then — recorded his second sack in as many games when he took down then-Saints third-stringer Garrett Grayson. But at some point during the game — Ochi still isn’t exactly sure when — he fell on his shoulder during a play, causing the injury that started all the confusion.
“It all happened too fast,” Ochi said. “All I remember is I went down for a tackle, and I felt a little bang, but I was still able to go the next play . . . Then I started feeling all types of numbness and tingling in my shoulder.”
Two days later, he was waived. The Ravens had a glut of players ahead of Ochi on the depth chart at outside linebacker, but Ochi said he learned quite a bit from his time in Baltimore.
“I started understanding concepts of the defense, how to watch film, how to have a plan and set up when I’m pass-rushing, setting the edge on the run, every little thing,” he said. “The organization was very big about details and technique, and you win half the battle with great technique.”
The Jets, who hosted Ochi for a predraft workout in April and were one of three teams who tried to sign him immediately after the draft, brought him in last Sunday with the intention of signing him to their practice squad. Everything was all set — the Jets announced the signing, set up his locker and assigned him jersey number 49.
Then the physical happened.
The Jets, previously unaware of Ochi’s shoulder injury, were stuck in a dilemma. They couldn’t give a practice-squad spot to someone who wasn’t cleared to practice. But by then, they had already announced that he was part of the practice squad. That led to the Jets’ public-relations department issuing a clarification on Monday that Ochi did not sign with the team.
Throughout all of this, Ochi’s confidence never wavered.
“The more adversity I deal with, the stronger I approach it the next day,” he said. “My mindset is, ‘I’ve got to work a lot harder.’ That’s always been my approach. There’s nothing that’s impossible in life. If you have your mind set up on something, I have to understand that you’re going to come across some obstacles along the way. If not, there’ll be no joy in having success.”
Because it was just a bruise with no structural damage, Ochi doesn’t face too long of a recovery timetable and could be back sooner rather than later. He went through his rehab session on Thursday, working with trainers Tim Mauro and Rob Panariello on treatment methods ranging from massaging the rotator cuff to physical therapy.
Ochi said the Jets still are interested in bringing him in once his shoulder is ready. Several other teams also have shown interest in signing him, a source said.
“They said as soon as I was done rehabbing, we could talk business after that,” Ochi said of the Jets. “So right now I’m just taking care of my shoulder.”