The phone call came from the Bears, who demanded waivers from Watts the day after he was released from Minnesota. While Watts’ spirits lifted when he arrived at Halas Hall and began to integrate into the team, he was still “very disappointed” with how things ended in Minnesota, calling the “roller coaster” process.
As the Vikings moved to a 3-4 defense this offseason, Watts planned to be a force in the new scheme as he was listed as a starter on the initial depth chart. Watts lived up to his potential last season, recording 5.0 sacks, 46 tackles, 10 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. He has started nine games in 2021 and has played in all 17 competitions.
When Watts arrived in Chicago, there were only 11 days until the regular season opener against the 49ers, forcing him to put the Vikings’ situation on hold. But it wasn’t until his number was called last Sunday and he took his first picture as a bear that he felt comfortable.
“Mentally, it was a bit tough going into the game just because, you know, everything was still fresh,” Watts said. “I was still a bit shaken, caught off guard by the whole situation. But I think once I got in there and once I started making plays, I started to feel comfortable.”
Watts’ production was evident in the 21 snaps he played against the 49ers. He showed his speed and physicality against the inside linemen by recording two pressures, two run saves and two tackles.
Playing meaningful snaps in Week 1 told Watts his new team was already confident in his abilities. This established a basis of respect between him and the organization.
“It meant a lot to me,” Watts said. “I left the game feeling in a better place. It almost didn’t feel like week 1 for me just because of the speed of the turnaround and all the emotions I was going through. As I came out and I felt comfortable , i just started playing football, just to show people that i didn’t get pushed aside because of [how I was] play or what I was able to do.”