‘He looks great .. dynamic player for us, such an inspiration,’ Texans upbeat about speedy recovery of Tank Dell

Texans wide receiver has made full recovery from broken fibula

Tank Dell (Justin Allen)

HOUSTON – Tank Dell took off on a fly route, sprinting with impressive acceleration after a stutter step to bolt into his route.

It was obvious that the Texans’ dynamic wide receiver has made a full and speedy recovery from a broken fibula that interrupted a strong rookie season.

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Dell has been participating in the Texans’ offseason conditioning program, participating in extra throwing sessions with Pro Bowl quarterback C.J. Stroud and extra training sessions with NFL trainer Justin Allen and private coach Delfonte Diamond.

“He looks great,” Stroud said. “He’s gotten a lot better. Mentally, I think for both of us, really all of the rookies coming into Year 2, everything is starting to slow down, and the wheels aren’t turning so much up in your head. You’re starting to play ball. Being able to throw with him in L.A. was really big.”

Dell recently stood on a stabilization ball, maintaining his balance while handing an exercise ball to Allen.

And he stepped on and off an elevated surface while holding a kettle bell in each hand.

The progress of the Texans’ standout wide receiver is obvious. Whether it’s the sprints and routes he’s been running with Diamond or his strengthening and flexibility work with Allen, Dell is far ahead of schedule and is expected to make a full recovery for organized team activities this spring.

“Oh man, he’s good,” Allen told KPRC 2. “He’s feeling good. He’s getting back to where he left off. We’ve been working on balance, stability, explosive movements that he’s used to doing. He looks good. We do exercises, band work, stability work, isometric holds, a bunch of depth drops to get him used to absorbing force and a lot of core work involving stability.”

Dell has also been planting, running and cutting at a high speed, and showing no signs of discomfort months after undergoing surgery for a broken fibula.

“Most definitely, I don’t think he missed a beat,” Allen said. “He looked like the Tank Dell we all know. He has the right mindset. He’s looking to fill the same shoes and expand his role. For me, it’s all about his mindset.”

Dell has been lifting weights, but the goal isn’t for him to get any bigger than his 5-foot-8, 165-pound frame.

“I think you have to know your body,” Allen said. “He knows who he is. He’s not going to be a 210-pound wide receiver. He’s going to be the explosive, twitchy guy and stay in that range. He’s stronger than he looks. We do hit the weights. We do push the weights and it translates.

“I think people would be surprised than he lifts more than he should for his size and how he moves weight around. I don’t think he believes he’s not as big as others. I’ve watched him work out and how he lifts, and his mindset is a vet mindset. He does the little things. Nothing is too small. Nothing is too big. He’s eager to learn. He’s eager to grow.”

Now, the former University of Houston standout is making a speedy recovery as he diligently rehabilitates his leg with a goal of being back on the practice field with his teammates for organized team activities this spring.

Dell was on track for 73 catches, 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns when he got hurt. Dell broke tight end Owen Daniels’ rookie franchise record for touchdown catches.

Four of the Texans’ catches of at least 20 yards or more came on Dell touchdown receptions. That’s the third-highest mark in the league for any receiver with touchdowns of at least 20 yards, at the time of his injury.

“Tank is back and he’s starting to get in with our guys here with the offseason programs,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. “So, I’m excited to have Tank back. That was a devastating loss for us last year, losing him. He’s such a dynamic player for us, such an inspiration for myself, a lot of our team. So, I’m excited to see Tank back working with our guys, and excited to see him make that same jump I talked about from Year One to Year Two.”

Perhaps Dell could become a Pro Bowl selection one day.

“I think so, too,” Allen said. “I think the injury cut him short, but God has a plan. I’m excited to see what he does Year 2 and he will reap all the benefits. One thing I like working with him is his attitude. You can’t teach it. Very few players have that type of talent with his mindset and humble eagerness.”

“To be honest with you, he hasn’t lost a beat,” Diamond told KPRC 2. “He looks 10 times faster. Yes sir, he’s a special breed. He’s moving like he’s always been doing. He ran full speed.”

Dell previously told KPRC he would be ready for organized team activities in the spring.

“He’ll be more than ready for the time OTAs jump off,” Diamond said. “He’s way ahead of schedule. I can’t wait to see No. 3 put that helmet back on. That first year was the teaser. He’s fixing to up the price.”

Watching his good friend, Stroud, put on a show at the Pro Bowl Games only provided more motivational fuel for Dell to get back on the field catching passes from the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

“Yeah, definitely by the time they come back, I’m going to hit the ground running,” Dell told KPRC 2 during the Tristar Productions autograph show at NRG Arena. “I’m going to be ready. I’m just waiting on 7 and those guys to come back from enjoying their time off and we’ll get back to work.

“The offseason has been good, just rehab every day, Monday through Friday, Saturdays on my own. Trying to get one percent better, so, once we do come back for OTAs, I’m ready to go.”

Dell got hurt in the 11th game of the season while blocking on a red-zone run as bodies awkwardly crumpled his leg in a scrum.

Although the season ended prematurely and Dell could have provided a boost to the AFC South champions, the Florida native still set a franchise rookie record with seven touchdown catches. He finished with 47 receptions for 709 yards.

It was an encouraging workout for Dell with Diamond.

“It’s his first day back, we just worked on a lot of plyometrics to get the ankle back right, nothing too major,” Diamond said. “We don’t want to overdo it. He was silent stretching and ready to work. Wed did single leg explosive work to make sure the ankle is where he needed it to be. Ankle looked stable. Everything was smooth.”

Dell put on a show as a rookie, delivering a series of dynamic performances in a potent passing connection with Stroud.

Although relatively undersized at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, Dell excelled through a combination of crisp route running skills, body control and speed.

Now, Dell is working on achieving another quality: patience.

“I just feel that was a test run for me,” Dell said. “I had a lot more to display, but God puts you through things for a reason. So I just kept my head up. I know the years to come are going to be special here. It’s going to be good.”

The Texans, one year removed from a 3-13-1 season under former coach Lovie Smith, finished 11-8 under coach DeMeco Ryans and won the division title for the first time since the 2019 season. They won a playoff game over the Cleveland Browns before falling in the AFC divisional round to the Baltimore Ravens.

“It’s been great seeing the guys accomplish so much,” Dell said. “So many people sold us short this year. We wanted more, but that’s just a steppingstone, a starting point, to what we’re going to be in the future.”

When Dell got hurt, he was in the hospital to undergo surgery to repair the damage to his leg. During that time of his convalescence, he was visited or got messages from multiple teammates.

“Tank is my brother,” Stroud said. “I don’t think blood can make us any closer. I think it shows on the field, and we’re going to build on that. It happens naturally. We’re boys. You don’t force stuff with your boy. We’re both tremendously excited to keep this going and work hard to be great.”

Dell has an infectious personality and a love for the game. He’s wide open on his routes because of his ability to convincingly sell a route.

Now, it’s time for a comeback.

“God gives his strongest soldiers the toughest battles, so it made me grow a lot and made me sit back and really dedicate my whole life to playing football,” Dell said. “It showed me how much I need this sport. This is what keeps me going. This is my blessing in life, I feel like, just to be out here and put smiles on other people’s faces. The fans, the coaches, my teammates.”

The bond that Dell and Stroud built together is a strong one.

They’re counting on each other to manufacture an even better season together after engineering a turnaround last year.

“That came to fruition, so we’re just trying to keep going,” Dell said. “Everybody knows the end goal is the Super Bowl. So from this day forward, it’s what we’re working toward.”

Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com.

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