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Training camp notebook: Andy Reid raves about Justin Watson’s ‘importance’ to Chiefs

Based on the head coach’s compliments, Watson is making Kansas City’s initial 53-man roster.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Right around this time last year, wide receiver Justin Watson became a player to watch at the Kansas City Chiefs’ training camp.

After a disappointing ending to his four-year span with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Watson had caught on with the Chiefs — but the 27-year-old making the team was not a given. To do just that, Watson spent time with quarterback Patrick Mahomes ahead of the offseason in Texas — and once he arrived for workouts, he showed coordinator Dave Toub he could provide value on special teams.

Watson indeed made the 53-man roster, appearing in all 17 Kansas City games. He set career highs in offensive snaps (494) and yardage (315) and tied career highs in receptions (15) and touchdowns (2).

Always ready, Watson caught a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Divisional Round and two against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. All three receptions went for first downs.

After breaking out as a go-to role player for Andy Reid, Watson said he had six or seven teams interested in bringing him aboard following his one year with the Chiefs. Concealing his emotions on the matter, Watson was thrilled when his representation reached a two-year deal worth up to $6 million for him to remain in Kansas City.

“Secretly, I always knew I was coming back here,” confessed Watson. “We were going back and forth on the numbers. When you get into Year 6 and you’ve played in big-time football games, once you’ve experienced Arrowhead and Chiefs Kingdom, you want to be a part of it. I was so glad that it all worked out. [I] came back here — and get to do it all again this year.”

Expectedly, a significant reason Watson wanted to remain in Kansas City was the relationship he had developed with Mahomes — both on and off the field.

“When you play with the best quarterback in the NFL — and the whole world — you want to be a part of that,” he said. “It’s special. Knowing him as a person, as a friend and also as a teammate, there’s all kinds of guys in this locker room that you want to be around — and Patrick’s definitely one of them.”

At this time of the NFL calendar, 53-man roster projections change with every day of training camp. That’s no different for the Chiefs as they evaluate the team in St. Joseph. If Watson’s $1.4 million guaranteed did not properly indicate his roster security, Reid gushing on the veteran receiver should do the trick.

“[Watson’s] going to give you a legitimate look every snap,” said the head coach. “He’s very detailed. He’s obviously very smart, and then you add in the big target and speed, you [can] work with that. He doesn’t get a lot of credit, especially with the young guys that we have jumping in. They get most of the writeups. But this kid? He’s a talented player for us — a very important player.”

Watson would not name his personal goals for 2023, instead explaining that if he puts the work in every day, those goals will accomplish themselves. Still, there exists a feeling that he believes he can take his game to another level.

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s departure for the New England Patriots (and Mecole Hardman’s departure to the New York Jets) should open up greater opportunities for Watson.

“I think last year when I came here, it was getting a feel, trying to find a rapport with Patrick — and this year, really, the expectation is perfection,” he said. “You’re chasing that next level of being perfect, being great on every single play — so it’s cool seeing if we can pick up where we ended last year and just build on that this year.”

That will include guiding rookie second-rounder Rashee Rice and roster hopeful Justyn Ross, who are currently projected to be in the mix.

“There’s been a lot of change in this receiver room over the last two seasons,” noted Watson. “Last year, I was a new guy — and even just being here for one season, this year, [I’m] the seasoned vet. MVS ([Marquez Valdes-Scantling) and myself, we’re the only two vets that we had play in this system, and so [I’m] just becoming a leader this year. We have a bunch of young guys that are just champing at the bit and really pushing everybody.”


Our lead analyst, Ron Kopp, was in attendance at Sunday’s practice, and you can find his complete observations from Sunday’s practice here.

Post-practice chat and press conferences

If you can’t see the above (Apple iTunes) embed, click here. The press conference is also available on Spotify.

Injury report

  • Did not practice (due to injury): DE Mike Danna (calf injured on 7/28), RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (illness on 7/29), TE Jody Fortson (right shoulder injured on 7/28), WR Kadarius Toney (knee injured on 7/23)
  • Limited: RB Isiah Pacheco (hand, labrum)
  • Returned to practice: CB L’Jarius Sneed (knee), LB Drue Tranquill (neck)
  • Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List: DT Tershawn Wharton (ACL)
  • Placed on Injured Reserve: LB Isaiah Moore (knee), CB Nazeeh Johnson (ACL)

Tweet of the day

Our John Dixon compiled all of Sunday’s tweets here. Here is the tweet of the day:

The “bowl full of attitude” makes too much sense, considering his conversations with both tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Richie James this camp.

Quote of the day

Chiefs left tackle Donovan Smith on whether the offensive line will wear sleeves on game days this year: “I don’t know — I’ma wear my sleeves. I went one year without sleeves, and it’s just me. I feel like it’s a lot better for me; keep me cooler. And yeah, I got to hide my small arms.”

What’s next?

The Chiefs return to the field on Monday morning for their eighth full-team training camp practice. The workout begins at 9:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will address the media following the practice as offensive and defensive linemen sign autographs. Here’s the complete 2023 training camp schedule.

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