PITTSFORD, NY – Over the last two seasons, Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins has missed as many games do to injury (11) as he has touchdowns. Simply put, injuries have defined the first early years of Watkins’ promising NFL career, to the point where despite his tremendous talent, the Bills opted to not pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. That means Watkins can hit the open market next spring and as he comes to training camp after undergoing a second foot surgery earlier this offseason, he enters the 2017 campaign as perhaps the Bills player with the most to prove.
Don’t tell that to Watkins though. He sees it differently.
“I have nothing to prove,” the 24-year-old asserted. “I know what I’m capable of doing. I’ve made many plays in this league and so on. My job is to go out there and earn it this year and if I’m healthy on the field and I’m out there playing with the guys, I’m going to be alright.”
Watkins – despite having his reps carefully monitored by the Bills training staff throughout camp – was an active participant throughout the first practice on Thursday night, making plays in the passing game, and looking as smooth and healthy as ever. Afterward, Watkins grew slightly annoyed with answering questions about his twice surgically repaired left foot, eventually asserting that it’s fine and he doesn’t want to hear about it anymore.
But one good night at training camp and all the confidence in the world can’t erase the last two, injury riddled seasons from Bills fan’s minds. Or expunge the “injury prone” label that he bears, which happens to be another narrative Watkins doesn’t subscribe to.
“Everybody has their opinion,” he explained. “We play a dangerous game in the NFL. Injuries are going to happen. I had a foot injury. I’m a wide receiver, I mean your feet and your toes get beat up. Things are going to happen – things outside of my control. My job is to stay healthy and go out there and play full speed and have fun.”
In a contract year, “staying healthy” couldn’t be more critical for Watkins if he hopes to maximize his earnings on a second contract. And despite Buffalo opting to expose him to free agency a year sooner than they had to by declining his option – essentially betting on him to fail – Watkins claims he isn’t using the situation as motivation.
“It’s a business,” he stated. “At the end of the day, that’s happening all over the league. My job is to just go out there and literally just make plays and bump my team and be a professional.
“I’m not really looking at the contract or the money. That’s not what drives me. Being on the field, being healthy, catching balls, touchdowns, winning, playoffs, trying to make it to the playoffs and earn it – that’s the objective.”
Whether Watkins will admit it outwardly or not, the 2017 season is a crucial one in regards to his future. For now, even considering all that’s unfolded over the last six months, the Bills top receiver maintains that he wants to be in Buffalo long-term.
“I love Buffalo, he said. “They drafted me first round, fourth pick. My job is to stay here for a while. That’s the goal. You don’t want to change teams. My job is to stay around here forever.”
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