Sammy Watkins knows he hasn't lived up to lofty expectations, but rather than run from that narrative, he embraces the chance to change it.
"I told the coaches, 'My back is against the wall,'" the new Green Bay Packers receiver said Wednesday, via the team's official website. "My career hasn't been what I projected it to be."
The Buffalo Bills drafted Watkins with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014. In his first two years in the NFL, the wideout displayed dynamic ability. He netted 982 yards in 16 games as a rookie and 1,047 yards and nine TDs in 13 games in his second season.
But injuries and inconsistency have marred the former first-round pick as he's bounced around the NFL since. Watkins hasn't played a full season slate since his rookie campaign and hasn't earned at least 675 passing yards in any season since 2015.
"That's been the knock on my career -- to stay on the field," he said. "When I'm on the field, I can ball, I can catch balls, I can score and I'm a dominant player. But the key is staying on the field."
After his run with Buffalo ended following three seasons, he spent a year with the Los Angeles Rams, three with the Kansas City Chiefs, and played last season with the Baltimore Ravens before joining Green Bay this offseason.
There have been some flashes of playmaking ability, including a fantastic playoff run with the Chiefs en route to a Super Bowl victory. But Watkins hasn't put it together consistently to become an every-week weapon. Last season in Baltimore, he got off to a good start, nearly netting 100 yards in his first game and compiling 292 yards on 18 catches through five weeks before injuries struck.
The Packers, who used a second-round pick on Christian Watson, but didn't add a big-name veteran after trading Davante Adams and watching Marquez Valdes-Scantling sign in K.C., are counting on Watkins turning back the clock.
"I don't think his game has fallen off at all since we were together in 2017," coach Matt LaFleur said of their time together in L.A. "A little bit has been maybe a lack of opportunity, but he's going to be a big part of our offense."
With Aaron Rodgers preferring working with veterans rather than breaking in young mustangs, Watkins has a chance to play a significant role on a playoff team.
"I think it's important to get guys who have a lot to play for, and I think Sammy has the opportunity to continue and travel down a new path in his career," Rodgers said. "There's definitely going to be opportunities for him to make plays for us in this offense. I love the disposition, I really enjoy the person, and I think he has everything right in front of him to have as productive a year as he wants to."
The 28-year-old Watkins knows his NFL window is closing if he doesn't take advantage of his opportunity in Green Bay.
"To get that call definitely changed my whole outlook on coming into this season and how I want to play, and I just can't wait to get started," he said. "I'm not done yet. I feel like I got a lot more in my tank, a lot more football to be played at the highest level, and hopefully, I can be consistent and stay on the field."