A little more proven than before, Cardinals TE Momah feels good in return from knee injury

Jun 8, 2016, 5:23 AM | Updated: 3:59 pm
Tight end Ifeanyi Momah goes through a drill during Cardinals mini-camp Tuesday, June 7. (Photo by ...
Tight end Ifeanyi Momah goes through a drill during Cardinals mini-camp Tuesday, June 7. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Last year, Ifeanyi Momah was an NFL Vetearns Combine pickup who showed flashes of potential during OTAs and mini-camp before excelling when the pads were on in training camp.

While no one knew how exactly he would fit in with the team’s offense, the converted receiver who was learning to play tight end figured to have a role.

Then, in the week leading up to the Week 1 season opener, he suffered a torn meniscus that landed him on injured reserve and ended his season before it could really even begin.

And just like that, the 6-foot-7, 255-pound player with decent speed and excellent hands became a bit of a forgotten man.

Nowadays Momah, 26, is back on the field, trying to regain the form that had folks dreaming of what kind of weapon he could become. He declared himself 100 percent, and has not missed a single practice.

“I feel good, I feel a little better than I did last year,” Momah said after the Cardinals’ mini-camp practice Tuesday. “(Lost) a little bit of weight, (I’m) a little bit stronger. So, yeah, I’m excited.”

A receiver at Boston College, Momah caught 39 passes for 629 yards and six touchdowns in four college seasons. He spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions, though never saw action in a regular season game for any of the three teams.

His transition to tight end was moving along at a steady pace when he suffered the knee injury, with blocking not surprisingly being the thing he most needed to improve.

While being sidelined throughout the season was not part of his plan, Momah said it was made easier because the team was doing well in its run to the NFC Championship Game. Besides, just because he was not on the field does not mean it was a wasted season.

“Just trying to be in meetings, being in each game, seeing what was going on,” he said. “Just trying to be hands-on as much I could since I wasn’t playing, and that helped.”

In terms of his performance so far this offseason, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Momah is “getting there” with regards to regaining his old form, adding he probably gained a bit too much weight that he didn’t need while he was out.

“But he’s starting to really move around good now,” he said.

Arians said Momah’s injury last season was disappointing because “we thought we had a guy we could maybe find a nice little role for,” though he added it’s not like the tight end was set to see 100 or so balls thrown his way.

Still, players with his size and ability to both run and catch are difficult to find, and while no one is projecting Momah to be the next dominant tight end, he would be a bit of a matchup problem for opponents, especially in the red zone.

All of that is in theory, though, as Momah has still yet to appear in an NFL game, and no matter how good one looks in the offseason, making an impact in games is what really matters.

As the Cardinals get through their final week of practices before taking more than a month off before training camp, Momah said he is taking things day-by-day, trying to make sure he does the right thing on each play in practice.

“As time goes on I build up and just kind of let it all build up and work off of that,” he said. “So I don’t like to look too far into the future; trying to make sure I’m doing the right thing at the right time, and when the games come it will take care of itself.”

For Momah, losing out on the opportunity to finally get into a game last season was as disappointing as you’d expect, but while his injury delayed his career, it did not stop it. The Cardinals re-signed him to a one-year contract in March, and in just a few short years Momah has now gotten a good taste of everything the NFL has to offer, from bouncing around to different teams and trying to impress coaching staffs to playing well and then suffering a season-ending injury.

“That’s football, you kind of get used to it and you kind of have to look at the silver lining as they kept me,” he said. “They told me they’ll wait for me, just make sure I’m healthy. I’m still here, I’m still able to come back and they know what I can do now so it’s an even better situation.

“I try to look at the brighter side than the bad side.”

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