Watson remains in play
01:00 AM EDT on Sunday, August 5, 2007
BY SHALISE MANZA YOUNG
Journal Sports Writer
FOXBORO – It’s hard to imagine that at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, pass-catching tight end Benjamin Watson could be overlooked.
But on an offense that has been, shall we say, enhanced by the signing of a number of wide receivers in the offseason, Watson seemingly has been in the background.
Don’t minimize him, however, because he’s the kind of talent who’ll be back in the spotlight sooner rather than later.
Especially since the guy spreading the ball around is well aware of his presence.
“I don’t care what anyone else says, I’m not forgetting about him,” Tom Brady said of Watson last week.
Even with Brady’s endorsement, Watson isn’t worried about who’s getting the ink.
“I don’t really feel forgotten. Those guys deserve to be talked about,” he said. “I mean, Randy Moss. Donte Stallworth. Wes Welker. Kelley Washington. Those are guys who I’ve watched play and who are great players, so it’s no slight against me, talking about those guys now. When it comes down to it, we’re all striving for the same thing.”
And though he claims he doesn’t know how defenses will play against the Patriots, Watson must know that the mere presence of Moss stands to open things up for him. The former first-round pick is coming off a career year, with 49 catches for 643 yards — despite missing the final three games of the regular season with a knee injury.
At times, even Watson is excited to look over and see Moss, once the premier downfield receiver in the NFL and still a formidable threat, wearing a Patriots’ helmet.
“I think a lot of guys are like that. Junior (Seau) last year, even some of the older guys we’re like, ‘wow, that’s Junior,’ ” Watson said. “To a player, we walk on the same team, but at the same time, I watched him when I was in high school. So the thing is, it’s great to play with a guy that you’ve watched and you realize that he’s a man just like you, he makes mistakes, and also at the same time you get to learn from him.”
The offseason provided plenty of opportunity for Watson to learn. He was one of four NFL players to travel to the Middle East as part of the league’s USO program, visiting troops in Iraq and coming away changed by the experience. For 12 days, he had cold showers and bland meals-ready-to-eat (MREs), and even slept in a dam on the Euphrates River.
He came away with a greater respect for the men and women he met there, many of whom just wanted to meet him, stronger in his faith, and the realization that a loss on the football field isn’t as serious as a loss on the battlefield.
The athletic tight end — this is, remember, the man who chased down Champ Bailey — came into the league known more as a pass-catcher, but has worked hard to improve his blocking, something that’s been evident since training camp began. The skill will come in handy with his good friend, Daniel Graham, now playing in Denver.
“A lot (of blocking) is ‘want-to’, a lot of it is technique,” Watson explained. “It’s a combination of both, like anything else. But in our offense, at my position, it’s something you’ve got to do if you want to get on the field. They expect you to be able to run routes and they expect you to block. That’s what tight ends do.”
What tight ends aren’t supposed to do is be able to sprint the length of the field to chase down elite cornerbacks, as Watson did to Bailey in the Patriots’ loss to Denver in the 2005 playoffs.
That play was a lot like one his new teammate, Moss, could virtually pull off on the old Sega Dreamcast game system, which Watson used to play.
“He was awesome on that game,” Watson recalled. “I saw him do something (Wednesday) and I was like, that was like one of those Dreamcast moves.”
Fans still approach Watson about the play in Denver, which seems destined to follow him throughout his career and beyond.
“People recognize it and still to this day come up to me and congratulate me and say it was a great play,” he said. “But hopefully this year coming up we’ll add more to that.”
source: http://www.projo.com/patriots/content/s ... 25f68.html