Ready To Shoulder A Bigger Load

The fact that safety Patrick Watkins picked up 21 tackles in 2008 is not that remarkable … until you consider the fact that he easily could have missed the entire season.

Watkins injured his shoulder during the preseason last year, but chose to play on. He labored through workouts in the weight room, and limited the motion with his right arm. He tried to hit with his left shoulder because of the searing pain in the right. The injury caused numbness and pain to shoot all the way down his left arm, into his hand.

As it turns out, Watkins had a torn labrum in his right shoulder, an injury that finally limited him to just eight games. He had surgery after the season and began the arduous rehabilitation process.

"It was awful," he said. "For three months, I didn't do anything with my arms — no upper-body work at all."

In the meantime, he spent his days working on his cardiovascular stamina and strengthening his strong-but-still-spindly legs. After his 12-week hiatus from doing any upper-body lifting, he began to rebuild his strength.

"It took some time, but I kept working at it," Watkins said. "Now my strength is back to where it was before I got hurt."

Now preparing for just his fourth NFL season, Watkins finds himself as one of the Dallas secondary's elder statesmen after the offseason departures of Roy Williams and Anthony Henry.

"It's a little different" without Williams and Henry, Watkins said, "but we've still got a job to do."

Watkins finds himself in the precarious position of battling for playing time in the Cowboys' crowded backfield while also playing mentor to a slew of youngsters in the Dallas secondary.

"We've got a lot of talented guys back there," Watkins said. "We're young, but there are a lot of guys coming in who can make plays. Our secondary should be pretty good."

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