Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins broke a small bone in his foot, multiple team sources tell The Buffalo News, and had surgery about a month ago.
While the Bills are hopeful that Watkins will be ready for training camp, it's another blow to a team that just announced first-round pick Shaq Lawson would need shoulder surgery. The third-year wide receiver broke the bone in his foot, sources say, and had a screw inserted about a month ago. Injuries have dogged Watkins' promising NFL career to date and now he'll need to overcome another one. When the break occurred is unknown, though another source indicated that Watkins played through stress fractures last season.
Once Watkins turned a corner in 2015, he averaged 100 yards per game with seven touchdowns his final nine contests. The Bills' passing game ran through the former fourth overall pick, who asked for the ball, got the ball and delivered with a slew of big plays. In addition to this, Watkins asserted himself as one of the leaders on the team, saying "We need to forget about anybody’s feelings, we need to call people out," following an embarrassing loss to the Washington Redskins.
After the 8-8 season concluded, Watkins repeated that he wanted to take on the responsibility of being a leader on a team that desperately needed it.
For now, though, he'll be on the sideline when OTA's begin next week. Buffalo hopes the injury won't keep Watkins from missing any games and Watkins himself took to Twitter to quell any concerns by tweeting, "To all my fans I'm doing great, can't believe everything you hear. Thanks for checking on me gotta love you guys. #BUFFLOVE." Watkins, wearing black socks, also tweeted a photo of his feet, "I'm ashy but I'm good lol."
A fan tweeted at Watkins to ask if he would be ready for the preseason. "Of course," Watkins tweeted.
Expect the Bills to proceed with caution into camp at St. John Fisher College. The key for the Bills now? Not rushing him back. Such an injury is known to linger on, and on, if you do so. Possibly, Watkins suffered a Jones fracture, a fracture of the meta-diaphyseal junction of the fifth metatarsal. That's what shelved Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant one season, as well as fellow wide receivers Michael Crabtree and DeVante Parker.
For a player dependent on speed, cutting, using his foot to plant and toast cornerbacks, rest is paramount. Count on Watkins being on the elliptical machine at One Bills Drive instead of the field for a while.
He's been through the rehab process before. Last off-season, Watkins underwent hip surgery before then injuring his calf and ankle in the regular season.
Whenever healthy, he's been dominant. Watkins burnt both single and double coverage with quarterback Tyrod Taylor suddenly taking more shots downfield. For the season, the Clemson product averaged 17.4 yards per reception. Speaking up paid off. After calling for "10 targets" per game, he became a focal point and the Bills combined the NFL's No. 1-ranked rushing attack with the deep-threat passing game. There's no denying the talent, but injuries continue to haunt arguably the Bills' No. 1 offensive weapon.
As a rookie in 2014, Watkins also battled rib and hip issues. He sat out off-season activities after hip surgery and is expected to do the same now after foot surgery.
The Bills cannot afford to have him miss games. Beyond Watkins at wide receiver, the Bills return starter Robert Woods, drafted Kolby Listenbee in the sixth round and have a host of other veterans cut by other teams vying for roster spots. A healthy Watkins is needed to make this offense go.