Excuse Brandon Watts if he has a little extra motivation this weekend against the Miami Dolphins.
After working through a knee injury during the first half of this season, the rookie linebacker received his first NFL regular-season action last weekend when he played nine snaps on special teams.
This week, with Anthony Barr done for the season with upcoming knee surgery, Watts is hoping to get his first turns on defense, too. It couldn’t be coming against a better team.
The Minnesota Vikings rookie was fully expecting to a Miami Dolphins rookie in the weeks leading up to the draft … and even throughout draft weekend.
“It would be great,” he said of the possibility of getting his first defensive snaps of the year in Miami. “Before the draft, Miami was the team that talked to me the most so I thought that was where I was going and they never did take me after they called me so many times. It would be nice to play against them and get a little revenge.
“They called me from the beginning of the second day (of the draft),” he said. “They called me until the end of the draft and they never took me.”
Between Watts’ pro day, a private workout and during draft weekend, he talked to both the Dolphins defensive coordinator, Kevin Coyle, and their linebackers coach, Mark Duffner. Still, it was the Vikings that ended up making the most important call for Watts – letting him know he was drafted by them in the seventh round with the 223rd pick overall.
It took Watts some time to establish himself with the team. A preseason knee injury took him out of consideration for special teams playing time at the beginning of the season. Initially, he thought it would be only a few weeks before he was ready, and the Vikings never put him on injured reserve even though they ended up deactivating him for the first 13 weeks of the season.
Finally, last week, Watts got his first opportunity for playing time after feeling he was back to 100 percent for a few weeks.
“It was my first game. Just to get out there and run around with my teammates and made a couple plays and showed the coaches that I’m ready to play and I’m 100 percent, it just felt good to get out there on the field,” he said. “It was my first game action other than the preseason. It felt great.”
Watts admitted it took him longer to return to full health than he initially figured it would, but he said his explosiveness is “all back.”
With Barr out for the remaining two games, head coach Mike Zimmer said he would like to see Watts get “some time” on defense.
“I’ve got hope for him in the future. He’s a very athletic linebacker, he’s a smart guy and I think that the more things he does, the better he will be in the future,” Zimmer said Friday. “He’s going to need an offseason and all of that stuff that some of these young guys need. He’s got a lot of ability to work with.”
Last year, Watts was second in tackles-for-loss with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, getting 8½ of them, and led the team with two forced fumbles. He was one of the fastest linebackers in college football, but he didn’t get an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine.
Maybe that fact had the Dolphins thinking he wouldn’t get drafted at all.
But Watts knows that if he does get into the game against the Dolphins, he has to be careful to not get overly aggressive with revenge on his mind.
“I’ve got to make sure I control myself and make sure I do my job and play my technique. Go out there and play hard, get to the ball and I’ll be fine,” he said.
“I’m ready. I know all the positions and I’m ready to step in whenever I can because I get reps at practice. The more reps you get, it just helps every day.”
He knows he will stop by their sidelines at some point prior to Sunday’s game, but he played it cool on what he might say to their coaches.
“I’ll speak to them. I don’t have no hard feelings towards to them. Things happen. They had other plans, of course. … I’ll just speak to them and tell them good luck on the game,” he said with a big smile and a laugh. “I’m sure (Duffner) will remember me. I talked to him every day.”
Watts has a reason to get even with Dolphins
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