Despite the long documented trials and tribulations of Sammy Watkins’ surgically repaired left foot, the Bills wide receiver took part fully in team drills for the first day of training camp on Thursday at St. John Fisher College.
Even better news, Watkins felt no ill effects from a contested catch over the middle during those drills.
“That’s when I was like ‘I’m healthy. I can go out there and compete and let things go,'” said Watkins after practice. “I don’t want to hear no more about the foot. The foot is fine. I’m healed and I’m trying to get past that.”
Since playing a full 16 games in his rookie season, Watkins has appeared in 21 of 32 games over the last two seasons. In January, the Bills announced a second foot surgery for Watkins left foot.
“We play a dangerous game in the NFL. Injuries are going to happen,” said Watkins. “I had a foot injury. I’m a wide receiver. Your feet, your toes get beat up. Things are going to happen that are out of my control. My job is to stay healthy, go out there, play full speed, and have fun.”
Bills head coach Sean McDermott told the media before practice that the team plans on building up Watkins workload as the regular season approaches.
“We’ve put together… a rep count that will build up and at times come down a little bit based off of the plan from the outset,” said McDermott. “We’ve got to be flexible with that and see how he feels.”
The rep count was worked on in tandem with the Bills’ front office.
“You just don’t want to overdo it,” said General Manager Brandon Beane. “I think we want to build him back up. We know the type of player that Sammy is and he’s a great young man. We just want to build him up to where we know he’s comfortable with a full slate like he would normally be.”
Health likely played into the decision for previous GM Doug Whaley to not exercise the 5th-year player option on Watkins’ contract. The 4th-year wideout says he’s not concerned with his contract status at the moment.
“I’m motivated myself. I’m not looking at the contract or the money. That’s not what drives me,” said Watkins. “Being on the field, being healthy, catching balls, touchdowns, winning, playoffs, trying to make it to the playoffs, earn it. That’s the objective.”
Watkins added that he understands a big contract could be out there with a highly productive season in 2017.
“I’ve got to go out there and earn it,” said Watkins. “I want to earn it. I don’t want anything to be handed to me. My job is to go out there and earn it, like I have all my life.”