Last year's second round pick OL Menelik Watson had rough go of it for his rookie season. The injuries started early and kept him out often, a very frustrating experience for a raw athlete just trying to figure out the game.
Finally 100% healthy again, the 2nd year player is focused and ready for action. As soon as last season was done Menelik became completely focused on moving forward. There was a lot to move on from for the talented Englishman. Not the least of which was controlling his frustration and preparing his body better.
"I’m a powerful man and I have to control my temper a little bit. It was frustrating last year; I wish that on nobody, especially as a new guy coming in. I learned a lot. Just taking care of my body, I have a bunch of equipment in my room that I use every night, a lot of prevention stuff. I’m 100 percent healthy, but I just do a lot of prevention stuff, just doing everything that’s possible to avoid being in that situation again. Getting in here early and making sure I’m getting treatment when I need it. Making sure I’m stretching. Making sure I’m eating right. Making sure I’m hydrated, all those little things."
Watson didn't just learn that he needed to take care of his body better though. He also learned just how much different it is to be in the NFL over what his college life was like. It can be quite the shock to the system.
"In college and junior college, it flew by so fast; I wasn’t really thinking about my body, I was just thinking about learning the game. But now, obviously, when you’re a professional this is your job; you need this body. Just learning that and being grateful, honestly. Every day I come out here I just thank God for every day that he’s given me to play this game. I love this game and it hurt a lot to have it taken away last year. This is a new year, and last year is behind me and that’s where it’s going to stay."
Menelik may have had a rough season last year, but his enthusiasm for the game wasn't effected by it. In fact, it seems like his enthusiasm for the game is better than ever. He certainly sounds more focused than ever anyway.
"Ever since after the season was over and that last game, I had a mission in mind, which was to get my body back to where it needs to be. It’s just the beginning. I guess that’s part of the reason why I’ve been quiet with the media, because it’s just really been about action. It’s not about talking anymore or I’m going to be this or I’m going to be that."
There is something very refreshing about a player wanting his actions to do the talking for him. Entirely too often do players make promises that they can't back up (cough, cough, Richard Seymour) and the fall from those heights tend to hurt a lot more. It is absolutely time to see Raiders players embrace speaking with their actions over their egos.
It is also refreshing to hear a 2nd year player that missed so much time in their rookie year talk about using their idle time to learn the game. Despite the frustration of injuries keeping Menelik out he still made sure to pay attention to his teammates and learn from their actions. Being as raw as he is after just 2 years of football in his entire lifetime maybe the perspective from the side line was exactly what he needed.
"Yeah. I got a lot of mental reps, especially with what we were going through last year with everyone rotating in and out, you get to learn how to deal with things when things aren’t going your way. The couple of snaps that I had last year, sometimes I would get a little frustrated when I was out there and I had to deal with that, learning how to get over a play, learn how to move on. I took a lot from last year, just from watching the vets and what they were going through and everything like that. It wasn’t a wasted year. It was from a physical standpoint, a play and production standpoint, but it definitely wasn’t wasted."
Today was just the first day of pads which usually isn't a time that you hear much about offensive linemen. They usually don't get to show their stuff until the live action and tackling officially begin because of so much related to the trenches being about physicality and brute strength. Even so, there was at least one time of note from Watson putting his skills on display, it was noticed and tweeted about from Jerry McDonald of the Oakland Tribune.
Not bad, hopefully we will be hearing and seeing a lot more of these plays from Menelik! He has to stay on the field if he is going to meet his own expectations but from the sounds of it he is much better prepared for the wear and tear this year than he was coming into the league.
Menelik Watson walls off Khalil Mack long enough for Schaub to complete deep under thrown sideline pass to Butler vs. McGill.— Jerry McDonald (@Jerrymcd) July 27, 2014