PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — Sammy Watkins’ surgically repaired left foot finally feels fine. And the Buffalo Bills receiver has no concerns about his future.
So long, of course, the oft-injured starter can stay healthy, Watkins said after the Bills opened training camp on Thursday evening.
“I have nothing to prove. I know what I’m capable of doing,” Watkins said. “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’ll be all right.”
The comments were Watkins’ first to reporters since cleaning out his locker after last season.
Much has happened since.
Watkins had surgery on his foot in January to repair an injury he aggravated in September and led to him missing eight games. It was the second operation for Watkins, who missed a majority of last offseason after having two screws inserted into his foot to repair a stress fracture.
The injuries have left his future in Buffalo uncertain beyond this season. He’s now entering the final year of his contract after the Bills elected against picking up a fifth-year option in May.
Watkins said he understood the reasoning behind the team’s decision and didn’t take it personally.
“I don’t really look at the contract or the money. That’s not what drives me,” he said.
Remaining in Buffalo is also part of Watkins’ plan.
“You don’t want to change teams,” he said. “My job is to stay around here forever.”
Staying healthy has been Watkins’ biggest challenge since Buffalo traded up five spots in the 2014 draft to select him fourth overall. Though he’s only missed 11 of a possible 48 games, Watkins has been slowed by an assortment of injuries since hurting his ribs in a preseason game during his rookie year.
Watkins resists the notion that he’s injury prone.
“Everybody’s got their opinion,” he said. “We play a dangerous game in the NFL. Injuries are going to happen.”
The Bills are gradually easing Watkins back into practice in a process that began during a mandatory minicamp in mid-June.
On Thursday, Watkins had limited time practicing with the starters. His best catch came over the middle, when Watkins turned back for the ball, made the catch and went to the ground.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was pleased to have Watkins back on the field so the two could work on their timing.
“Of course he’s an explosive playmaker, one of the best in the league, and having us on the same page definitely brings a lot of positives to our offense,” Taylor said. “It was a confidence-booster for me, a confidence-booster for him.”
The decision to not pick up Watkins’ option was made by new coach Sean McDermott, and a few weeks before general manager Brandon Beane was hired.
Beane is impressed by what he’s seen from Watkins, and taking a wait-and-see approach to contract talks.
“I’m looking forward to watching him, and we’ll let it play out,” Beane said. “My saying’s going to be, contracts will get done when they’re supposed to get done.”
While Watkins’ foot is pain-free, he needs to work on getting back into game shape because he was unable to work out fully while rehabbing his foot. He also has to learn a new offense being introduced by new coordinator Rick Dennison and become accustomed to a new group of receivers.
None of that concerns Watkins, who said he’s motivated to prove what he’s capable of now that he’s healthy.
“I’m going to put everything on the line,” he said. “I’m going to go out there, have fun and be an entertainer, scoring touchdowns, laughing, just having fun with the team.”
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