Texans' Tank Dell back practicing after offseason shooting

When the Texans broke the huddle Tuesday morning, wide receiver Tank Dell was running around the practice field with a smile on his face.

Dell has made a full and speedy recovery with no restrictions on his activity after suffering a gunshot flesh wound that traveled through the back of his leg through the front of his leg as an innocent bystander and victim in a mass Florida shooting this offseason. Dell joined his teammates for an organized team activity, catching passes from his friend, Pro Bowl quarterback C.J. Stroud, including a post pass over the middle.

There were no signs of the incident hampering his mobility or his enthusiasm.

Dell caught a series of passes, creating separation routinely and securing the football in stride in traffic.

“Yeah, I’m happy for Tank to get back out there,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. “Obviously, we know he went through a very tragic situation. We’re just happy that he’s here, happy that he’s back out doing what he loves doing, and that’s playing football. So, it’s fun to see him running around and being the same player he’s been before, just making plays and being a dynamic player for us. So, everyone is excited to see Tank back.”

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.

“It’s always good to see Tank back out there,” Texans safety Jalen Pitre said. “We see the work that he’s put in and all that he’s been through. It’s always inspiring to see somebody fight back and win, because he’s a true competitor and a guy that makes our team better.”

Dell and his trainer, Delfonte Diamond, posted videos of him running routes and performing drills at the University of Houston indoor training facility Saturday.

Earlier this week, Diamond said Dell had a clear message for him as they resumed their offseason workouts: ‘It’s time to go. I’m ready to go.’

During the workout videos, Dell’s explosiveness was on display.

“Oh man, Tank looked good,” Diamond told KPRC 2. “It’s the real deal. He ain’t lost a step. Even though that stuff happened, three is ready to go.”

Diamond said that Dell is his usual exuberant, hard-working self.

“Oh yeah, his mental is good,” Diamond said. “Big smile. He gave me a hug. He told me he loved me. He said, ‘It’s time to work.’ His spirits are in a good place.”

Dell was quickly released from the hospital after being shot, traveling back to Houston and has been making a sound recovery as he works to get back on the field.

The resiliency that Dell has shown is remarkable, even to Diamond.

“Tough ain’t the word,” Diamond said. “If there’s a word past tough, that’s Tank. He responds to everything. That’s a real good trait.

“He is in love with the game. He’s always telling me, ‘I don’t care what’s thrown my way, I’m always going to respond and come back even harder.’ That’s his motto.”

In the wake of Dell recently suffering a gunshot as an innocent bystander during a mass shooting in Florida, the Texans are relieved and grateful that his injuries were relatively minor and that he is expected to make a full recovery.

Dell is both “very lucky” to be alive and to have avoided structural damage to his leg, per sources, as he was in the middle of a crossfire in Sanford, Fla., between two shooters with one 16-year-old suspect was arrested and in custody,

“It’s frightening,” Texans principal owner Cal McNair said during the team’s annual charity golf tournament. “You just try not to get into those situations, and sometimes it happens.

“We’re just grateful that I think no one was seriously hurt, and it looks like Tank is making a full recovery. I saw him in the office the other and he looked good, in good spirits. So, he’ll have to rehab and get back to where he was.”

“I talked to Tank, we had a good conversation,” Ryans said. “I’ve talked to him several times and Tank will be fine.”

Both Ryans and the McNair family said that their conversations with Dell about the incident will remain private ones.

“That’s kind of between us and Tank,” Texans foundation vice president Hannah McNair said. “That’s a hard situation to

Dell is healing up quickly and is considered likely to be cleared for physical activity at some point this spring and is expected to make a full recovery in advance of training camp in July, per sources.

Dell was released from the hospital one day after the incident and traveled back to Houston after being shot last during an altercation he wasn’t a part of at Cabana Live. Ten people, including Dell, a former University of Houston standout, suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Most of the victims, including Dell, sustained leg injuries, according to Seminole County law enforcement officials.

Dell posted a photograph of himself on Instagram recently wearing the Texans’ new red uniform with a caption: ‘God I thank you’ along with a praying hands emoji.

Since the incident,, Dell has been at the Texans’ training facility to meet with team officials, including Ryans.

“We have been made aware that Tank Dell was a victim of a shooting in Sanford, Fla., last night,” the Texans said in a statement last weekend. “He sustained a minor wound, but has been released from the hospital and he is in good spirits. We are in contact with him and his family and will provide more updates when appropriate, but we ask that you please respect his privacy at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved in the incident.”

Dell was in Florida to visit his mother in his hometown of Daytona Beach.

The dynamic wide receiver previously made a full and speedy recovery from a broken fibula that interrupted a strong rookie season.

“Tank is a great person, a great player, came from Hannah’s school, she’s a proud Cougar,” Cal McNair said when asked about the former third-round draft pick. “It’s good for the city,”

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 in April. “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.”

“Tank is back and he’s starting to get in with our guys here with the offseason programs,” Ryans said on April 15 at NRG Stadium. “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,” trainer Justin 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.”

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.

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.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

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