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Things getting tight for Watson

The question seemed to strike a nerve, and the burly tight end's initial response certainly backed that up.

"With the upgrade, or changes, made at tight end in the offseason, do you feel any more pressure?"

Benjamin Watsonshot a glare at his inquisitor and quickly responded: "You want to go with upgraded? You said it and then took it back. Is that what you wanted to go with?"

The reporter was predictably taken aback, searching for kinder words to ask the same question.

"Upgrading the depth."

Before the reporter could continue, Watson let out a huge smile and patted him on the back. His anger was little more than act, designed to do exactly what it had – and now that he was happy with the result he was content to let writer off the hook.

"I was just messing with you," he began. "I understand where you're coming from, but in the National Football League they do that a lot. There have been times when we've had 10 running backs. It's happens throughout the year and it happens every year. My approach doesn't change. My job stays the same if there are 20 guys trying to play tight end or if there's one guy trying to play tight end."

Watson is entering the sixth and final year of his rookie contract, and with two newcomers at his position brought in during the offseason –Chris Bakerand Alex Smith– there has been speculation that perhaps his job could be in jeopardy.

So, if there original angered response had been genuine it would have been hard to blame the former first-round pick out of Georgia. To the contrary, Watson relishes the added competition and believes it only serves to better the team.

"Every year there's competition for roster spots, not just tight end but every position there's always competition," Watson said. "That's the nature of the National Football League. I'm not entering this camp any differently."

Head Coach Bill Belichickechoes Waston's sentiments about 20 minutes later during his press conference folliwng Monday morning's practice. When asked if adding players at a specific position changes the dynamic in any way, the coach downplayed the entire situation.

"I think it depends, but most players in camp are more concerned with themselves," Belichick said. "Whatever somebody else does or doesn't do doesn't matter. Players control what they can control and that's what they should be focusing on."

Watson has been an enigmatic player throughout his five seasons in New England. After injuring his knee in his first regular-season game and missing the remainder of his rookie season, the 6-3, 255-pound tight end has failed to generate any level of consistency as a Patriot.

His athleticism sets him apart from most of his peers, but an inability to stay healthy and inconsistency catching the football have dogged him at times throughout his career. He set career highs with 49 catches for 643 yards in 2006, the season Tom Brady basically operated without wideouts as Reche Caldwellwound up as the team's leading receiver that year.

Last year he caught just 22 balls for 209 yards, both totals representing career lows for a full season. He's missed 10 games over the last five years, and then missed nine days of camp before returning for Monday morning's workout. The on-field inconsistency coupled with the injuries have combined to cast doubt about his future with the team.

The various additions at the position haven't made life any easier for him either. Baker and Smith have been present for every practice, as have David Thomasand Tyson DeVree, incumbents vying to return for another season. Belichick called the competition at the spot as tough as any he's seen at the position in his 10 years in New England.

With such a deep and talented group, Belichick has featured a wide array of looks with multiple tight ends being used in a variety of ways. It's a prospect that has Watson excited and looking forward to being a part of.

"It's awesome. As a tight end, I think we're all receivers who got too big. We wanted to play receiver and we just kept gaining weight," Watson said. "We always want to be part of the offense and anytime they give us a chance to do more things [it's great]. That's the fun thing about playing tight end is that you get to be involved in the running game and the passing game.

"[The offense] can go as far as we take it. On offense our goal is to execute on every play like it always is. We're only going to be as good as we are on the practice field. That's why it's so important to get out here and make those plays in practice."

Where Watson fits into those plans at this point is anyone's guess. His prolonged absence likely means he won't be in Philadelphia Thursday night for the preseason opener against the Eagles. But writing him off at this point, given his tantalizing skills, wouldn't be wise either.

"He's fast, athletic, smart, versatile athletically and mentally," Belichick said. "He can do a lot of different things."

The question is, will there be room on a suddenly crowded tight end depth chart for him to do those things in New England?

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