GREEN BAY – There were sporadic stretches the first two games of the season, then the first half in London, one series at Buffalo, and finally just a single snap at Detroit.
That's the extent of the playing time Packers rookie receivers Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs have gotten together in 2022, so far. Their limited on-field partnership is set to resume and potentially expand now that Doubs returned to practice Wednesday from the ankle injury sustained on that first play in Detroit.
Doubs wasn't promising he'd be out there Sunday at Soldier Field against the Bears, because the decision is out of his hands, but he said he felt good and "we'll see what happens." If he gets in a full week of practice, a return in a limited role is certainly on the table.
With the two rookies having combined for 667 receiving yards and nine TDs as essentially separate entities, there's curiosity surrounding what they might accomplish playing together for, hopefully, an extended period the rest of the season.
"It can get us going," Doubs said. "I can play, Christian can, and Christian has obviously showed that he can really play football, as well as the veterans in the room as well who have set that standard for us when we got here."
Watson's emergence the last three weeks has been as rapid as it's been explosive. After dealing on and off with a hamstring injury and then a concussion (on that opening series in Buffalo) during the first half of the season, Watson has recorded 12 catches for 265 yards and six touchdowns in the last three games. Three of the TDs have covered 58, 39 and 63 yards.
The big-time production has been no surprise to Doubs, who met Watson at the Senior Bowl in January, making it even easier to become fast friends when the two were selected by Green Bay two rounds apart (Watson second, Doubs fourth) in April's draft.
"That's the reason why he's here. I've been preaching it all year," Doubs said. "That's just our expectation to play in this league is to play at that high level. Christian is a baller, man."
Doubs hasn't been too shabby himself, but his injury halted what appeared to be noticeable strides.
At Washington in Week 7, Doubs had a rough game without a reception, but the next week at Buffalo he caught four passes for 62 yards, including two highlight-reel grabs – a contested 19-yard TD in the back of the end zone, and a 26-yard leaping sideline snag.
Then he caught an 18-yard in route on the first snap at Ford Field, was tackled awkwardly, and missed the next three games, sitting out entirely until Wednesday.
Doubs is confident he can pick up where he left off, but he also knows with the offense playing at a higher level the last three games (minus the fourth quarter vs. Tennessee), he's going to have to earn his snaps, just as he did earlier in the year when he scored his first NFL touchdowns against Tampa Bay and New England.
"It definitely hurt him a little bit, the time off," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "I'm not sure if they're going to throw him back out there for 40 or 50 plays. I don't know if that's necessary or needed or best for him, but any plays we get with '87' back on the field is going to be good for us."
While the focus is on winning games now, getting Watson and Doubs on the field together down the stretch should also serve as a preview to the future of the Packers' receiving corps.
They were drafted together to provide a foundation at the position for years to come regardless of what happens with the other veterans in the group. But keeping the focus on the present and immediate future is key for them at the moment, leaving the big-picture thoughts to others.
"We need to be careful of putting certain expectations on guys," Rodgers said, reiterating his own comments from the spring and summer. "I think the possibility's there, for sure. But they're going to have to grow, between Years 1 and 2 … take some time to reset and figure out how you want to go about your life as a professional now.
"Guys who make the jump are able to handle that offseason time and that bit about being a professional. Those guys have the opportunity to be really good players in this league."
Though he's eager to get back in the action, Doubs is never one to let himself get carried away. As rookies go, he was as grounded as they come before the injury, and that's not going to change.
"Just got to stay 10 toes down moving forward," he said. "Not everything's promised in this league. Again, we'll just see what happens."