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Pinpointing when Sammy Watkins should return from injury

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Receivers Julian Edelman and Dez Bryant suffered a broken bone in their foot during the 2015 season. Let’s examine their rehab timelines to help determine when Sammy Watkins should return to the field.

Sammy Watkins has a broken foot and despite varying reports about when he can return, the Bills star receiver made interesting comments during a recent interview.

Watkins said this to TSN.ca and was quoted in a June 19 article:

For training camp, I think I’ll definitely be available. I might sit out two or three days. It’s all about how I feel within those days. The goal is to come back and be prepared for training camp.

However, this was his follow up:

Basically we are just taking it slow. doing the little things now as far as cutting and moving around; the basics. There’s really no timetable. It’s really when I feel healthy, when I am healthy. The important part is getting on the field and staying healthy. So, basically my whole summer will be staying in Buffalo getting better.

Watkins would be smarter to take the super patient route than hurry back into action. Two prominent wideouts — Julian Edelman and Dez Bryant — should serve as a cautionary reminder.

Let’s examine their timelines to use as references.

Last year, Edelman suffered a Jones’ fracture in his left foot on November 15 against the Giants. He practiced less than a month after his surgery but didn’t see game action until the Patriots’ divisional round win against the Chiefs on January 16. He also played in New England’s AFC title game loss to the Broncos.

On May 11, Adam Schefter reported Edelman “recently underwent left foot surgery.”

At this juncture, according to CSN New England, its sources have “expressed confidence” that the wideout will be ready for training camp.

In summary, Edelman missed two months after the initial break, played in a pair of games, was forced to have a second surgery in early May and should be ready for training camp.

Though his broken foot occurred a few months earlier, Cowboys’ star wideout Dez Bryant followed a similar timeline to that of Edelman.

Bryant broke his foot in the Cowboys’ Week 1 victory over the Giants on September 13 and had surgery the next day.

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

He returned on November 1 against the Seahawks and played eight consecutive games until he was ruled inactive for Dallas’ trip to Buffalo to face the Bills on December 27. Bryant didn’t play in the season finale the following week, either.

On January 6, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Bryant was having a second surgery on his foot.

Three weeks later, Charean Williams of the Star-Telegram published an article with this telling quote from the veteran receiver:

After I broke my foot and tried to come back, I knew I wasn’t [right],” Bryant said. “But at the same time, I knew what was at stake. I thought I could potentially perform at a high level despite dealing with this foot. It turned out very unfortunate.

On June 1, Rapoport sent this tweet:

Two weeks later, James Palmer of NFL Network reported Bryant said “he'll be 100% cleared & ready at start of training camp.”

Bryant was back on the field less than two months after his first break. He too had a second surgery and it took a whopping five months for him to be cleared for football drills.

Obviously, the more rest, the better when nursing any injury. But it’s important to keep the rehab timelines of Edelman and Bryant in mind when considering the earliest Watkins should return to the field for the Bills.

Ty Dunne of the Buffalo News first reported the news of Watkins’ broken foot on May 16, and, in an article on the topic, wrote sources told him the surgery was completed “about a month” before that.

(It’s worth noting, that same day, Rapoport reported Watkins’ suffered a “small broken bone.”)

Assuming the surgery took place on, say, April 22, Watkins will have been just over three months removed from the procedure when training camp begins on July 30.

Every injury is different, but Edelman and Bryant probably returned too quickly two months after their injuries and both had to undergo a second surgery.

In one of my first Rumblings articles, I stated I don’t think Watkins needs to take a snap until the regular season.

If Bills coaches want Watkins on the field in an exhibition game as a tune up for the regular season, they could circle August 26’s preseason game against the Redskins. Playing in the “dress rehearsal” preseason outing may not be insanely dangerous, however, Washington’s FedEx Field is notorious for being one of the worst playing surfaces in the NFL.

The Bills need to be intelligent with Watkins, who has certainly proven himself in his first two years as a pro. Keeping him sidelined until close to five months post-surgery — more than double the amount of time Edelman and Bryant sat out — makes the most sense.