It’s been quite a year for Bucs wide receiver Chris Godwin as he made a triumphant return from a torn ACL injury suffered on December 19, 2021 in a 9-0 loss to the Saints. Godwin worked diligently on his rehab to return to action against the season opener in Dallas, where he caught three passes for 35 yards before suffering a hamstring injury that would keep him out of the next two games.
Godwin returned to action in Week 4 in a 41–31 loss to Kansas City and resumed his road to recovery. Three months later, Godwin miraculously closes in on the 1,000 yards mark and the Bucs’ single-season receptions record.
Heading into the season finale in Atlanta in Week 18, Godwin has 98 catches for 968 yards and three touchdowns thanks to a nine-catch day against the Panthers. Godwin atoned for an early fumble in the game with a season-high 120 receiving yards and caught a two-point conversion pass in the 30–24 win that clinched the NFC South title for the Bucs for the second straight year.
“It felt good to make a lot of plays that we know we can make,” said Godwin. “I still don’t think we’ve lived up to our expectations, so I’m scared if we do. Again, this is a big step in the right direction. It’s something we missed, and we really need to lean into this and build on that to have a nice play-off run.”
Godwin is approaching a Bucs single season record
Godwin is just 32 yards away from his third career 1,000m season. He had 98 catches for 1,138 yards last year before tearing his ACL, and produced a career-best 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns on 86 catches during his lone season as a Pro Bowler in 2019.
Godwin is also nine catches away from setting a new Bucs single-season reception record. Former Tampa Bay receiver Keyshawn Johnson caught 106 passes in 2001.
Start this year Tampa Bay’s 16-13 victory over the Rams at week 9, Godwin passed Mark Carrier for the second-most receiving yards in franchise history. At 5,611 yards, Godwin is now behind only Mike Evans (10,425 yards) in Bucs history. Godwin also recently became the second best receiver in Bucs history with 440 receptions, surpassing James Wilder’s record of 430 catches. Evans leads the franchise with 683 catches.
Bucs Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich has been amazed at Godwin’s successful comeback this season.
‘I don’t know how he [does] it — I really don’t,” said Leftwich. “The best feeling I had all year was the first game in Dallas – that’s why that game was called – to see him in that game. I wanted to get it out of the way and it took precedence [24 yards] just to show who he is as a player. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life, actually. Going into Dallas, he was in the starting lineup – that was unreal.
“That shows how much work he puts into it – I wanted to reward him for that. It was good for us as a team to see him get that because what it did for us… once he got up, the season could start. Like I said, this man is like our bloodline. He does a lot for us and we also like his approach to football.”
While Godwin still lacks the explosiveness he had prior to his knee injury, evidenced by his career-low 9.9-yard average, that is expected to return next year after an off-season rest. Godwin will just be thankful he doesn’t have to spend the upcoming offseason rehabbing from an injury.
Instead, he celebrates the Bucs’ NFC South championship, a return to the playoffs for a third straight season and arguably winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. He would definitely get Leftwich’s vote.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever seen anyone do it so quickly and be part of all the games and still get better every day,” Leftwich said.
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