Kerry Watkins - Recevier - 2004-2011 - Georgia Tech
'No regrets,' Als' Watkins says of sudden retirement - Montreal Gazette - Herb Zurkowsky - Feb 1 2012
On Monday, general manager Jim Popp mentioned, in passing, that veteran wide-receiver Kerry Watkins had been medically cleared for the coming season after sustaining a broken leg in October.
On Tuesday morning, Watkins called Popp, informing him of his retirement.
"I guess I'm surprised," Popp said. "But it sounds like he's in a comfortable place. He seemed very comfortable with his decision."
Watkins, 32, spent his entire Canadian Football League career in Montreal, turning pro with the Als in 2004 after a tryout with the New England Patriots. And Watkins was extremely consistent during the majority of his career, producing five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, between 2005-09. A late-season shoulder injury in 2010 left him 30 yards shy of a sixth such season.
But 2011 didn't go as Watkins had anticipated. He underwent sinus surgery during training camp and missed the first four games. After that, he never seemed to get into a rhythm with quarterback Anthony Calvillo, and Watkins wasn't an integral part of the team's offence. He caught only 31 passes for 395 yards with three touchdowns. His season ended with the injury against Calgary on Oct. 30.
"I have no regrets. I'm happy with my career and accomplishments," Watkins told The Gazette from his winter home near New Orleans. "It was a consistent career. I have no problems, no regrets and no mixed feelings. It was my decision and I wanted to let them know well before (training camp). If I ever had major surgery or an injury, I told them I was going to retire."
There was speculation, given his diminished role and drop in production, Watkins would be told to reduce his salary next season. Or that he might be asked to assume a backup position. Popp said no discussions took place concerning Watkins's contract, but there had been some talk whether the player's status might change.
Watkins said the time had come to move on to the next chapter of his life. The 2012 season, he had decided, was going to be his last in the CFL, coinciding with the optionyear of his contract. What changed? Watkins, who operates a barbershop in LaPlace, La., said he's going to open a sports bar as well.
He retires with 515 catches for 7,431 yards and 48 touchdowns. That included his 500th reception last season, when he became the Als' second-leading receiver, behind Ben Cahoon. Watkins was a two-time CFL all-star.
"Once he got into a starting role, he became a major threat," Calvillo said. "You saw how defensive backs respected and played him."
Popp said Watkins was a smart player, someone the GM had his eyes on from his collegiate days at Georgia Tech. "I followed him and thought he'd be a good fit in the CFL," he said. "He has been able to get it done and has done well for our organization."
Watkins's retirement could lead to increased playing time for Brandon London and non-import Éric Deslauriers. The Als, who frequently pass the ball, generally have five receivers on the field at any one time. Deslauriers could become that fifth receiver, allowing the team to play an additional import elsewhere.
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