Packers Hope They’ve Solved Field-Tilting Watson’s Hamstring Problems

Through weekly trips to Madison, Packers receiver Christian Watson is working on eliminating the asymmetry that has been at the root of his hamstring injuries.
Packers WR Christian Watson
Packers WR Christian Watson / Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
In this story:

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers receiver Christian Watson’s hamstrings have been hamstrung by asymmetry.

The quest for answers to persistent hamstring issues led Watson, cornerback Eric Stokes and members of the team’s training staff to the University of Wisconsin, where they met with specialists from Badger Athletic Performance. Tests showed asymmetry in Watson’s hamstring. The left was significantly stronger and more powerful than the right hamstring.

“One, it puts strain on the left side, and the left is going through a lot more,” Watson explained at Packers OTAs on Tuesday. “And then, two, obviously, when you’re trying to be equal in power, it puts a lot more stress on the one that’s not as strong. So, that’s been the No. 1 thing for me because that leads to fatigue, as well. It’s a bad place to be so, obviously, that’s been my No. 1 goal to just kind of eliminate that.”

Watson said there was a “20-something percent” difference between the legs.

“Which is huge,” he said. It was a byproduct of injuries to his right hamstring that cost him three games in 2022, the first three games in 2023 and the final five games in 2023.

Through weekly treks to Madison and workouts in Green Bay, the difference has been cut in half.

“We have a NordBord in there that tells us the power outputs and the asymmetry,” Watson said. “Honestly, that’s my favorite part of the week, just going in there and getting to see that we’ve knocked off 4, 5, 6 percent of that asymmetry every week. Obviously, I still have a goal to get to. I want to be perfectly symmetrical, so I’ll continue to work that that.”

Perfect symmetry isn’t really possible – everyone has a dominant side. The goal is to find relative equilibrium. To get there, Watson does either an extra set of lifts or adds additional weight so his right leg is working harder than the left.

“You want to be within 6 percent symmetry on both legs,” Watson said. “Obviously, still working to get there.”

Watson was at his explosive best on Tuesday. He was arguably the best player on the practice field, making a number of catches 10, 15 and 20 yards down the field on passes from Jordan Love.

“I’m feeling really good,” he said.

Coach Matt LaFleur was cautiously optimistic that Watson has found the answers that will allow him to get on the field and stay on the field so he can stack day after day and then game after game.

“Time will tell. Certainly, you’ve got to get through the entire offseason, into training camp,” LaFleur said. “There’s a lot of volume in training camp, so we get through that, then we’ll feel pretty good about it. Both he and Stokes look like they’re probably in the best shape I’ve seen either one of them.”

The Packers have assembled a strong receiver corps. Last year, when Watson missed those eight games due to hamstring injuries, the Packers went 5-3. Moreover, passes thrown to Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks and Bo Melton resulted in passer ratings ranging from 109.5 to 124.5; passes to Watson resulted in a passer rating of 69.8. Of Love’s 12 interceptions on passes to receivers, six were directed to Watson.

Still, his importance to the team can’t be overstated because of his game-changing combination of speed and size.

“He’s incredibly bright, which allows us to move him all over the place,” LaFleur said. “Certainly, he brings the sheer size and physicality and speed that he possesses. You better know where he’s at at all times, because all it takes is one play. If he gets a sliver of light, he’s able to outrun everybody on the defense. So, yeah, he definitely changes and tilts the field in our favor when he’s out there.”

The key to tilting the field is staying on the field. As a rookie, he started his career by playing in two games and missing one, playing in two games and missing two. Through the team’s first nine games, Watson had 88 receiving yards. In Game 10 against Dallas and Game 12 against Philadelphia, Watson topped 100 yards. It was a similar story last year, with Watson turning in a series of ho-hum performances before catching five passes for 94 yards and one touchdown against Detroit and seven passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs.

In retrospect, Watson said his issues were “pretty self-explanatory.” Now, the key will be eliminating the asymmetry and getting an even better understanding of his body to nip any potential problems in the bud. From that perspective, the trips to Madison have been enlightening.

“I liked science when I was a kid, but it was never my strong suit,” he said. “At this level of any sport, I think you’ve got to know your body. Just to be able to learn about it and understand how everything works has helped me a lot in terms of what I’m doing. I’m not just doing it because they’re telling me. I’m doing it because I understand what it’s going to do for me.”

More Green Bay Packers News

Packers OTAs: Big goals but torn pectorals | Jordan Love’s focus | Day 1 starters | NFL’s fastest | Five storylines | Incredible roster fact | Battles on defense | Battles on offense 

College coaches: Edgerrin Cooper | Javon Bullard | MarShawn Lloyd | Ty’Ron Hopper | Evan Williams | Jacob Monk | Kitan Oladapo | Michael Pratt | Kalen King

Bill Huber


Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.