KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Last summer, Sammy Watkins arrived to St. Joseph a new man.
As he walked up to his dorm for training camp on the campus of Missouri Western State University, the newly acquired wide receiver wasn’t recognizable. Gone were his famous dreads replaced by a new attitude to welcome in what he called a fresh start.
Once a first round pick, now with a contract worthy of a No. 1 wide receiver, he’s taking a new role with the Chiefs.
“Lead and try to do all the right things so the young guys can look to me and say, ‘This guy does everything right, he finishes the reps, uplifts everyone, brings energy to practice every day,’” Watkins said. “That’s my focus now.”
His attitude has been recognized by the team’s other leaders, including reigning MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
During the first week of OTAs at the team’s facility, Watkins recalls Mahomes egging him on for not coming in first in every conditioning drill.
“Next day, I came in first about every time,” Watkins said. “He looked at me like, yeah, and I looked back and said, ‘Yeah, I’m on it, bro.’”
Watkins’ personality is different from other No. 1 wideouts across the league. From his tweets about his theories of earth and life on it to his reserved nature, he’s always prioritized showing up and playing.
Learning to be the guy who steps up for a wide receiver room without plenty of uncertainty doesn’t come as easy as taking on a secondary for big chunks of yardage after the catch.
“I’m a quiet guy, kind of humble,” Watkins said. “I’d sit back and observe. I have to push past that, to be a leader and speak up. I have to do the right things on and off the field.”
Watkins played in 10 games last year, battling another foot injury before averaging nearly 18 yards per reception in the playoffs.
He surpassed 500 yards with three touchdowns, far from his 1,000-yard production he had as a second-year pro.
That might be the form the Chiefs need to repeat the 2018 success. With questions surrounding Tyreek Hill’s future with the team, and unproven commodities right behind him on the depth chart, and a roster decision paired with a second-round rookie breathing down his neck, Watkins isn’t waiting any longer to act.
“As a young guy, you just freaking eat everything, hamburgers, everything,” Watkins said. “As I get older, my weight fluctuates up and down. I’m really trying to have balanced meal plan. Get the right rest come here every day and put all my energy, my soul and my spirit into what I do.”
Continuing to build chemistry with the NFL’s top up-and-coming passer doesn’t hurt, either.
“Their chemistry is good,” head coach Andy Reid said about the relationship between Watkins and Mahomes. “For both of them, everything is a little bit easier, their verbiage, sorting things out. For Sammy the routes are more familiar, he kind of knows how to set them up.
“(Watkins) has worked very hard this off season. He looks tremendous right now.”
Jones, Kelce among
As many players do when in search of a new deal, Chris Jones is taking his time to return from Miami to Kansas City.
The defensive lineman coming off a 15.5-sack season, due just $1.2 million next season, was not at the first week of OTAs in Kansas City.
Reid has in the past gone the route of insisting this period is ‘voluntary.’ He opted for another direction Thursday and said he hasn’t spoken with Jones.
“I don’t know that, I don’t how they’re talking. I haven’t talked to him. We just go.
“If you’re here, you get better. If you’re not, you don’t.”
Tight end Travis Kelce (ankle) and offensive lineman Cam Erving (shoulder) didn’t practice after undergoing offseason surgery.
Anthony Hitchens was not with the team after his wife’s recent birth with their child.