KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sammy Watkins is having to confront his past this week as he prepares for Monday night's game between his current team, the Kansas City Chiefs, and his former one, the Los Angeles Rams.
Watkins said he would have been happy to stay with the Rams, even though his one season in Los Angeles wasn’t a wild success. That was before he got to free agency and the Chiefs jumped in with a three-year, $48 million offer that made his decision easy.
“Right now, I’m having my best season and best year with Kansas City," Watkins said. "You change teams and you always look at the schedule and what the record could be, and right now I think I’m in one of the best situations. We’re 9-1 with a chance of going to the playoffs and winning games and we’ve been doing it at a high level. I think I’m in the best situation right now.
“I just felt like I had that barrier [earlier in his career]: being traded, being injured, every year trying to stay healthy, just going through a lot of mental things. Now you have that mental clarity and it’s easy to have that being 9-1 and winning games."
Statistically, this isn’t Watkins’ best NFL season, though he could wind up close in one category. Through 10 games, he’s on a pace for 62 catches (his career best is 65), 824 yards (1,047) and five touchdowns (nine). His per-catch average of 13.2 yards is the lowest of his career by almost 2 yards.
He will still do better than he did last season for the Rams. He already has the same number of catches and needs just 79 yards to top his 2017 total of 593.
He joined the Rams in a trade from Buffalo right before the start of the 2017 season, and Los Angeles coach Sean McVay said he didn’t do enough to make Watkins a bigger part of the offense.
“But he made the most of those and he didn’t say anything except for just continuing to go to work," McVay said.
“I had a real appreciation for working with Sammy. I was really impressed with just the caliber of player he is and the willingness to do some of the things he did without the ball."
Of his season with the Rams, Watkins said now, “That kind of prepared me. Maybe that’s the reason that I’m here now. It was a blessing in disguise. I learned how to stay patient and make the best of the opportunity that’s given to me."
Watkins complained at times about not getting the ball enough during his first three NFL seasons when he was with the Bills. But he didn’t complain publicly last season, and hasn't this season, either, despite ample opportunity.
“I’m not too much caught up on stats and stuff like that," Watkins said. “I’ve grown past that.
“It’s football. It changes every week. We’re in different spots every week. With this offense and this team in general, you can’t worry about targets or what the outside world is saying [about] yards and stats. If you look at our record, we’re winning."
While he’s usually not the first option for the Chiefs, Watkins has had some big games. He had 100 yards in Week 2 against the Steelers and 107 yards and two touchdowns in Week 8 against the Broncos.
Whether this is coincidence or not, the Chiefs have had their two lowest-scoring games of the season when Watkins either didn’t play or left the game early. They had 27 points in Week 4 against the Broncos, when Watkins played just 12 snaps because of an injury, and 26 on Sunday against Arizona when he didn’t play because of a foot injury.
Either way, the Chiefs are happy to have Watkins back.
“Sammy brings another dimension to our offense," quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “He’s so physical with the speed. He’s someone that can really stretch the defense as well as put pressure on them in a lot of different ways.
“It’s hard to replace a guy like Sammy."