Packers rookie receiver Christian Watson takes small steps in recovery

 

GREEN BAY — Christian Watson didn’t want to take off his jersey. The Green Bay Packers rookie receiver has been recovering from a right knee scope, has been slowly folded into team drills during training camp and hasn’t played in either of the preseason games.

Watson has had little opportunity to fully suit up, so on Friday night, when he dressed strictly for warm-ups ahead of the Packers preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, the second-rounder out of North Dakota State couldn’t bring himself to return to street clothes for the game.

“It felt really good,” he said after practice Sunday, adding that head coach Matt LaFleur told him he was welcome to keep the jersey on for as long as he wanted Friday night.

“He was like, ‘No you look good, leave it on’ … even if he didn’t tell me to leave it on, I probably would have left it on anyway; it felt really good. It’s better than street clothes.”

Watson has been forced to take things slowly the past month. The knee scope to address tightness after OTAs and mandatory minicamp has sidelined the Packers’ highest drafted offensive player, relegating him to mental reps and jog-throughs for the majority of camp. He’s taken the time to pick quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ brain, attempting to get ahead of the curve that rookies face on the mental side of the game.

“I definitely think, even if I had been out there (playing), I think there’s still a lot of questions that I would have for (Rodgers), for sure,” Watson said. “But, I mean, I think that’s just kind of like a personal thing for me. It’s just wanting to know the whys and the ins and outs of things. And just knowing what he’s communicating pre-snap, because there’s a lot of communication, pre-snap that he does and stuff that he wants to change and stuff that he sees.”

But, as LaFleur is fond of saying, there’s no substitute for live reps. Watson has received more in practice of late, with Rodgers often targeting the rookie in an accelerated attempt to make up for lost snaps. The Packers have moved Watson around in the various receiver positions, favoring him in motion and then targeted over the middle.

Still, despite his increased snaps on Ray Nitschke Field and his excitement over finally donning a full Packers uniform, Watson said there was no chance he was going to play Friday night against the Saints.

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“It was definitely safer for me to kind of sit back and work my way into things,” he said. “I hadn’t taken any team reps up until that point. So just kind of working back into things slowly and being smart with it.”

As to whether he’ll be ready for Thursday against the Kansas City Chiefs, in the Packers’ final preseason game, that remains to be seen. Watson is adopting a thoughtful mindset, even if he does it in full uniform.

“I wanted to be able to experience the entirety of my rookie training camp and the preseason everything. But I mean, it is what it is at this point,” he said.

“Just making sure I’m perfectly healthy for the 20-plus games that we’re gonna play this season. So I mean, that’s really all I’m looking forward to. I’m not gonna worry about stuff I can’t control, whether I’m playing the preseason or not.”

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