Honesty is, of course, the best policy, and when it comes to Packers wide receiver Christian Watson, the injury-expert folks over at The Athletic are getting all-too-honest. Watson is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s Week 2 game in Atlanta after having limited participation in practice on Friday—the first time he has participated in practice at all since injuring his hamstring just before Labor Day.
It’s unlikely that Watson will play, though it seems that Week 3 could see him making his season debut. But perhaps it shouldn’t, according to Greg Scholz of the site, Inside Injuries: Yup.
“He’s been out since late August with a hamstring injury and we don’t expect him to return for Week 2,” Scholz wrote at The Athletic. “His metrics aren’t great and he’s still four weeks away from Optimal Recovery. He may return before that, but we wouldn’t recommend it.”
Yes, that’s right, Watson is still four weeks from being “optimally recovered” from the hamstring injury currently keeping him out. That would put his return in Week 6, and we already know that Watson has no intention of waiting that long. He would have been placed on the PUP list (keeping him out for four weeks, and allowing the Packers to add another player) if that had been the plan.
Watson said this week that going on injured reserve was never an option.
Watson Now Has Hamstring History
Watson will return before Week 6, and could, thus, be at risk for future injury. That might sound familiar because it’s what happened last year, when Watson missed Week 3 with a hamstring issue, then played in Weeks 4 and 5, only to go back out with the hamstring problem in Weeks 6 and 7.
When Watson did return, he was terrific. In the final eight weeks of the season, Watson totaled 31 catches and 523 yards, with seven touchdowns, and looked worthy of the second-round 2022 draft pick the Packers used to draft him. So, battling through a hamstring injury does not necessarily sap a player’s production the whole season.
But the fact that Watson is dealing with the hamstring again here in his second season in the NFL is a problem and the bigger question is whether his penchant for hamstring injuries could be a problem that follows him through this season and, maybe, through his career?
“Watson’s past injuries are a major concern here,” Scholz wrote, comparing Watson’s injuries to those of teammate Aaron Jones. “Watson is a different story. He missed three games at the start of 2022 due to a hamstring strain, and here we are not even a year later. In short, a troubling trend is starting to develop.”
Julio Jones Is a Best-Case Comparison
The comparison that could be most apt, according to Scholz, is that of star wide receiver Julio Jones—not in that Watson is expected to produce like Jones, but that Jones experienced similar hamstring issues early in his career, in his first three seasons. From there, though, Jones was able to stay healthy, playing six seasons in which he only four games.
“(Julio) Jones might have been able to overcome his issues early on, but not everyone can be him, and I’m not saying that to disparage Watson,” Sholz wrote. “By that, I mean these injuries really can derail a career from the start. Do we predict that for Watson? No, not at all, but it’s important to remember what can happen anytime these hamstring strains start to show up with frequency.”