The Buffalo Bills kicked off training camp at St. John Fisher College on Thursday. All eyes were on Sammy Watkins and his surgically-repaired foot. His 5th-year option was declined this offseason, making him a free agent at the end of the year, and staying healthy will play a factor in whether or not the Bills pursue a contract extension.
"I don't want to hear any more about the foot. The foot is fine,” said Watkins after practice.
Running smooth routes and getting in and out of his cuts without complications was noticeable even to the fans. Still, coaches will watch his reps throughout training camp to make sure his injury is fully behind him.
"We've put together between Shone (Gipson) and our training staff and the coaching staff, 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 prior to practice. "But we have to be flexible with that and see how he feels. That starts tonight."
Watkins told the media that he wanted to be a Buffalo Bill for his entire career and that he “loves Buffalo”. Watkins also explained that there are no ill feelings with the organization for not picking up his option.
"Like [Bills head coach Sean McDermott] said, I have to go out there and earn it," Watkins said of his next contract. "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. I feel good about that."
Bills QB Tyrod Taylor was happy to have Watkins back on the field, though.
The duo will look to reconnect much like the last half of the 2015-2016 season where Watkins caught 7 touchdowns and had 900 yards receiving over the last 9 games of the year.
Watkins initially injured his foot two years ago. He came back too early from his rehab and re-aggravated the injury before having surgery to correct the issue. His final surgery was this past January, which is par for the course on foot problems of this nature. He missed half of the 2016 on injured reserve and even when he was playing, lacked his normal cutting ability and speed.