PITTSFORD — For Sammy Watkins, the “foot issue” is a non-issue. He says it isn’t something that consumes his every thought or provides any sort of obstacle or distraction whatsoever.
To underscore how little an issue the foot is, the wide receiver not only took part fully in team drills during the Buffalo Bills’ first practice of training camp Thursday night, but he also went to the ground hard on a contested catch over the middle.
“That’s when I was like, ‘I’m healthy, I can go out here and compete and let things go,'” Watkins told reporters after practice at St. John Fisher College. “Just run routes and be confident in my routes and just go out there and catch balls.”
Watkins said the pain from the fractured bone in his left foot went away right after he underwent a second surgery on it in January. He doesn’t show the least bit of concern that he could develop any additional problems with it.
As far as he’s concerned, camp is just about getting back to work with his teammates, learning a new offense, and doing all he can be as productive as possible.
Still, Coach Sean McDermott said before Thursday night’s practice that the team would “manage” Watkins’ reps during camp, although Watkins said that was less about being cautious than it was about his need to “get in shape.”
McDermott said the training, conditioning and coaching staffs collaborated on a plan with a variety of how much work the receiver will do on the field, a similar approach to what the Bills did during their mandatory minicamp that closed out offseason workouts.
“We’ve put together … a rep count that will build up and, at times, come down a little bit, just based off of the plan from the outset,” McDermott said. “But we’ve got to be flexible with that and see how he feels.”
As far as Watkins is concerned, the foot feels fine. He says he isn’t dealing with any sort of pain and that he isn’t doing anything special with the medical staff to treat the foot between practices.
“I’m just getting in shape,” Watkins said. “I think that’s the most” important “part, just getting back out there playing football with the guys and competing. Other than that, I’m fine.”
Nevertheless, the Bills’ brass clearly is mindful of being careful of preventing Watkins from doing anything to cause him to re-injure the foot.
“I think you just don’t want to overdo it,” General Manager Brandon Beane said. “I think we want to build him back up. We know the type of player Sammy is and he’s a great young man. And I think we just want to build him up to” where “we know he’s comfortable with a full slate like he would normally be.”
Speaking for the first time since the Bills decided not to pick up the fifth-year option of his rookie contract, Watkins said he wasn’t upset with the move.
“I’m not concerned about that,” he said. “That’s the coach and the owner. My job is to go out there and earn it and play and stay healthy. And that’s my goal this year.”
Training camp countdown: 5. Will Sammy Watkins be ready to go?
The Bills continue to look to add experienced depth to their receiving corps, which, at the moment, has Watkins in the No. 1 spot and rookie Zay Jones the top candidate to be No. 2.
Monday, they hosted free-agent receiver Anquan Boldin, who is a 15-year pro. McDermott and Beane said it was “a good visit,” but Boldin left One Bills Drive without a contract and Beane noted that Boldin has options to consider besides signing with the Bills.
“We’re always going to look to add good football players, and no different in this case,” the coach said. “Whether it’s the wide receiver position, which we’re confident in what we have at the position, that doesn’t stop us from continuously looking to add, whether it’s that position or another position. That’s how you build a competitive roster and the competition that we want to see and, quite frankly, the fans want to see out here on a daily basis.
“It was a good visit and we’re going through that process. Those decisions normally take time on both ends, so we’re going through the process and we’ll just see how it plays out.”