Bucs rookie Justin Watson making up for lost time at receiver

Back healthy after missing much of summer, rookie from Penn making an impression while adjusting to heat, NFL.
Bucs rookie receiver Justin Watson (17) missed OTA workouts in May but is now back healthy and battling for a roster spot.
Bucs rookie receiver Justin Watson (17) missed OTA workouts in May but is now back healthy and battling for a roster spot. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published Jul. 30, 2018

Justin Watson grew up in Pennsylvania and starred as a receiver at Penn, so the rookie receiver knew he would have a transition to make, practicing in summer heat in Florida.

"One thing that helped, I spent the break down here in Tampa Bay," said Watson, a fifth-round draft pick who left as Penn's career leader in receptions (286), receiving yards (3,777) and touchdowns (33). "It's been great to be back out here."

Watson said he got to work out with Jameis Winston and other Bucs quarterbacks and receivers in the five-week break between the end of mandatory minicamp and the start of training camp last week. To help get adjusted to the warmer climate, he did just about anything outside this summer.

"I was riding around with the windows down in my car, eating my meals outside, just trying to soak up as much humidity and sunlight as I could," he said. "It's definitely different from Pennsylvania."

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Watson missed all of OTAs and minicamp with an undisclosed injury, but smartly made use of the down time to get ahead in learning the Bucs' offense and scheme and terminology for special teams as well.

"Being injured gave me a good opportunity to dive into the playbook," he said. "I've been trying to learn  gunner, PP (personal protector) on punt, the whole front line on kickoffs, really just trying to make myself where the more you can do, the better."

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter had made a point to say at the end of minicamp that the injury had set him back in a close competition for the last receiver jobs on the roster: "He's going to have a lot of catching up to do come fall camp," the coach said.

But on Sunday, in the first full-pads workout for the team, he made several catches and made a good impression on Koetter.

"Today was his best day. He got some chances," Koetter said. "When you're a wide receiver, you've got to get chances. Sometimes you could be out here all day and not get any balls thrown to you. He showed up today. He's got a fight on his hands because it's a deep position."

If the top four receiver jobs are set with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries, then Watson is battling for one or two remaining jobs, against the likes of Freddie Martino and Bobo Wilson, among others.

"The biggest thing is showing that I'm ready and willing to do whatever it takes to help this team win games," Watson said. "Whether it's on special teams or being that fifth wide receiver and making plays when Mike needs a blow or whoever it is, any way that I can, I'm going to help this team win games this year."