NAPA — Menelik Watson’s rookie season proved to be mostly a waste.
Watson arrived at his first training camp with the Oakland Raiders with an injured calf that forced him to miss much of the preseason. A knee injury just before the beginning of the regular season cost Watson a shot at a starting job.
By the time Watson was finally healthy he got only limited playing time, mostly as a sixth offensive lineman. He couldn’t overcome all the missed time.
That wasn’t exactly what the Raiders were counting on from a second-round pick, and it certainly wasn’t what the raw Watson needed considering he only played two seasons of football before entering the NFL.
“It was frustrating last year. I’d wish that on nobody, especially as a new guy coming in,” Watson said. “I love this game. It was a lot to have it taken away last year. This is a new year. Last year is behind me. That’s where it’s going to stay.”
Watson said 2013 wasn’t a complete loss. He learned the importance of taking care of his body and placed extra emphasis this offseason on conditioning, nutrition and hydration.
He also got to watch how veterans prepare and got a better understanding of the game, which was needed since he didn’t even start playing football until 2011.
Watson is a former basketball player and boxer who played one year of junior college football at Saddleback Community College before transferring to Florida State. He started 12 games for the Seminoles in 2012 and earned second-team All-ACC honors.
The Raiders saw enough potential to draft Watson 42nd overall and still believe he can reach that level.
“You don’t see men of his size with the kind of feet that he has,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “We’ve seen growth from him. We’ll know more when we get into live situations, but we’ve got high expectations and he has high expectations as well.”