Packers' Christian Watson looks to use offseason to eliminate soft-tissue injury issues

Kassidy Hill
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY − The Green Bay Packers' season ended unceremoniously Sunday, coaches and players walking off the field with a litany of questions to address in the offseason. One of the few areas that seems to have an answer is the future of the wide receiver room. And that is thanks to Christian Watson. 

The rookie second-round draft pick's season swung from the lowest of lows, with injuries sidelining him for training camp and three games and leaving four others early, to the highest of highs, including a four-game streak with eight total touchdowns. He finished with 41 receptions for 611 yards and seven receiving touchdowns, plus seven rushes for 80 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. 

“He gave us a legitimate downfield threat,” coach Matt LaFleur said Monday. “We can be extremely creative in terms of how we can get him the ball, and I think you saw a little bit of that. We tried to, you know, run an (end) around to him. You know, hit him on a couple keeper slides and hit him on a couple of go ball down the field. 

“But I still think there's a lot of room for improvement in his own game. He is an extremely intelligent player and, I've said this before, we can move him anywhere within the formation and know that he's going to go out there and execute to the best of his abilities.” 

As with every player, rookies especially, Watson will head into the offseason with a list of things he wants to improve, starting with technical aspects that can turn him from a potential star to a game-changing star. 

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson runs past Detroit Lions linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez.

“I think there's some things within just his releases and route refinement that we can still, like most young players, you can always improve upon,” LaFleur said. “And that gets me quite excited. I don't think there's anything this guy can’t do. I really, really believe that. If he approaches the offseason the way I think he'll approach it, I think we're gonna see an even better version of him next year.” 

After multiple hamstring injuries that kept Watson sidelined at times this season, the speedy receiver plans to use his offseason to better take care of and learn his body. 

“I think the No. 1 thing for me,” Watson said, “just mentality going forward, it’s just consistency, you know, health wise, especially, but just consistency in my game and all aspects.

“I think my No. 1 goal is just to make sure that I'm doing everything I can from a strength and conditioning standpoint, you know, just getting stronger. Putting my body through the ringer in the offseason, so that when it comes down to the season, everything's easier, everything’s smoother, but just gonna do everything that I can to be as strong as possible.

“And I mean going forward, just taking care of that soft-tissue stuff, making sure that's not something that's going to be a thing going forward.” 

Watson spoke during the season about learning how to use his speed at the correct times, not letting it become a detriment if handled improperly. That can help him eliminate some soft-tissue issues, but it takes time and reps to get there. 

“I just learned throughout the season that, you know, it takes a lot to keep your body in tip-top shape playing at this level,” Watson said. “But I think I was able to kind of get control of it after the hamstrings early in the season. But you got to put a lot of work into your body at this level to stay healthy.” 

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Watson also sustained a hip bruise during the Christmas Day win against the Miami Dolphins. But he told reporters after the regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions that he finished the season relatively healthy and would not need any offseason medical attention. 

With a clean bill of health and room to grow in the Packers offense, Watson can begin preparation for his second NFL season, looking to improve on both. 

“I think I've learned a lot over my rookie year,” Watson said. “I think I learned something honestly like every single day throughout this entire season. I think playing at this level is a learning curve in itself. But I definitely learned a lot. 

“I'm just thankful, blessed for the opportunity to continue to do what I love. And you know I'm thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow and take everything that happened in year one, Just take that next step and be a better player next year.” 

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