JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- In a room full of young wide receiver talent, Bryan Walters serves as the veteran presence of the bunch.
Despite logging just 41 regular season catches during his career, Walters has a wealth of experience. A former undrafted free agent, Walters has battled the rigors of the NFL's basement.
Bouncing from San Diego to Seattle to Jacksonville, Walters has gained knowledge of multiple offenses, been part of two Super Bowl teams, and won a ring to mark the ultimate accomplishment in the NFL. Those experiences have given Walters perspective on the league and how to maintain his body throughout the season.
Walters had career highs in targets, receptions and receiving yards last season, his first with the Jaguars. Following the uptick in playing time, Walters has done little to change his offseason regime.
“I think I usually go into the offseason a little heavier, just because you lose five pounds due to the wear and tear of the season,” Walters said. “You add some weight so you don’t go lighter than you want. I probably want to play at 190 pounds, so I usually go at like 195 [during the offseason].”
While his workouts haven't changed, his work from last season has put him in a place to expand his game on offense and special teams. Walters enjoys being used at several different positions, being counted on as an asset in multiple areas of attack.
While versatility has become paramount in the NFL, Walters also knows that availability is just as crucial. That's why he is doing all he can to improve his durability and on-field capabilities.
“I think first of all, [I want to] stay healthy, I had that [back injury] at the end of the year,” Walters said. “I just want to be the guy that can be put in anywhere, play any [wide receiver or special teams] position. I want to be relied on for any situation at anytime”
Reliability has served Walters well over the years. A seasoned punt returner, Walters has been a fixture on special teams in his last two stops.
That won't change next season, despite Rashad Greene's success returning punts as a rookie. Instead of solely focusing on return work, Walters is getting looks at other areas of the core four special teams lineups.
“I'm definitely back there,” Walters said, regarding his future as a punt returner.
“I’ve talked to [special teams coach Mike Mallory] a lot about it this offseason. He has me working on other things for now, ‘the more you can do’ I guess. He’s not worried about me back there but I’m getting reps in other places just in case I need to fill in for someone. Rashad [Greene] had a great year returning last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m the backup guy.”
Special teams work is the key to making an NFL roster as a depth wide receiver. Walters has played behind some talented receivers during his NFL career, so he has experience serving in that role. However, this offseason has allowed for new opportunities to further that area of his game.
“That’s what is so valuable about the offseason,” Walters said. “I hadn’t played a lot of the [special teams] positions before this offseason, so hopefully [the added reps] will help me this season.”
Walters has also seen increased looks at wide receiver during the offseason program. After catching 32 passes for 368 receiving yards and a touchdown last season, Walters has established himself as part of the offense.
With his cleats firmly planted in Greg Olson's offense, Walters is a favorite in the battle for a wide receiver depth spot. It's a new position for Walters, a proverbial underdog in the NFL universe.
Still, the seemingly secure footing has done little to shake his competitive mindset when it comes to chasing a roster spot.
“It’s the same thing every year,” Walters said. “You have to do your best not to think about it and play your game. I’m a different receiver than a lot of those guys.”
The Jaguars wide receiver unit houses several talented players, some of whom will not make the roster. Walters has been in that position before and understands that the work he puts in during training camp will not just be for his team's talent evaluators to dissect.
“Every preseason game is a tryout for 32 teams,” Walters said. “[The league] is full of competition everywhere, you’ve got to be ready at any time. Unfortunately, for a lot of guys, it doesn’t work out for teams they’re practicing with in camp, but you may get a better opportunity to play in other places.”
Already considered a journeyman, Walters wants to stay put and continue to make waves in the Jaguars' offense. Having already spent a season in Jacksonville, Walters is now at a point where he can further his effectiveness and benefit from his experience.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.