Catching up with Ben Watson
|06.09.09 at 2:01 pm ET|
By DJ Bean
FOXBOROUGH — When the Patriots selected Benjamin Watson with the 32nd overall pick in 2004, it was seen as a classic Belichickian pick—overvaluing a guy who fit into the system. Now entering the final year of his rookie contract, Watson is looking to put an exclamation point on a tenure that has been marked by injuries, touchdowns, drops, and cleaning Champ Bailey’s clock.
“[This season has] a different feel to it just because I know that it’s the last year and the future’s uncertain,” said Watson. “The only thing I have to worry about is playing ball every day this year.”
With nose tackle Vince Wilfork being a noticeable absence from OTAs on Tuesday, Watson reflected on his status as an impending free agent. The tight end noted that getting a contract done hasn’t been motivation for him to consider skipping OTAs, but said he doesn’t lose respect for those who do.
“The OTAs are voluntary,” said Watson. “If guys don’t want to come, that’s their prerogative.”
Meanwhile, Watson’s patience in regard to his long-term future is certainly a departure from the first impression he made in the 2004 offseason. Prior to hitting IR after two catches in 2004, Watson was best known around NFL circles as holding out for 18 days in training camp and being the last first-rounder to sign. Now with four seasons under his belt and possibly facing free agency, Watson can reflect on what being a Patriot has meant to him off the field.
“I like it here. I like the people I’ve met, even [the] media people,” said Watson. “I’ve met a lot of great people here, my family likes it here, and my daughter is a Bostonian. But we’ll see what happens, you never know what the future’s going to hold.”
Being a tight end for the Patriots isn’t exactly the most secure job in the world. Belichick is notorious for acquiring tight ends in excess, and this offseason was no different. By adding free agent Chris Baker from the Jets and trading for former Buccaneer and Stanford product Alex Smith, the Patriots have added to a position that already featured Watson, David Thomas, and Tyson DeVree.
Rather than viewing the acquisitions as a challenge to his playing time (“Challenges are personal. It’s not a challenge [because] it’s not personal”), Watson instead embraces the team’s remarkable depth at the position.
“You can’t take it personally,” said Watson. “Belichick even says ‘don’t take stuff personally.’ Although it’s hard sometimes, because we’re all human beings, we all have emotions and stuff like that, but you just realize that it’s part of the business and guys come in all the time. It’s just about doing what I can do, coming out here every day and then the coaches make the personnel decisions. I can’t worry about that.
“It definitely is the most depth [we’ve had],” added Watson. “All of us have game experience, all of us have played. It’s a great group. We can bounce stuff off each other, we can learn from each other. It is a deep group.”
As for who will be starter come week one, Watson has confidence in himself but doesn’t feel that the team has a clear-cut starter.
“I think for the past few years there hasn’t really been a ‘one guy’ that plays,” said Watson. “A lot of times we’ll use multiple tight ends and in some game we don’t use any tight ends, so it’s a variety of a lot of different things. There’s never been one guy that we would say gets all the [first team]reps.”
Regardless of whether he gets the reps this season, what happens in the offseason is anyone’s guess.
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