The Patriots tight end missed Friday's preseason opener versus Tampa, as well as a number of training camp practices before and since. But on Tuesday afternoon, he was back out there in full pads, taking part in every drill and scrimmage, seemingly back at full strength.
"I feel good," Watson declared after Tuesday's lone session. "It's always good to be out here. Sometimes your body won't let you, but when you're here, the coaches expect you to go full-speed, and that's what we're here for, so, I'm glad to be back out on the field. It's tough [to sit out], whether it's practice or a game."
He appeared to pick up right where he left off, getting open and catching a few passes down field against the Patriots first-team defense. At this point, though, Watson is unclear about what his role will be in this year's offense.
"Tight end always has a big part in the offense. It's probably going to be a lot of the same things we did last year. If it changes, that's part of the deal."
Always a team player, Watson extolled the virtues of the new offensive weapons the Patriots have added this season.
"We've got a lot of good players – players who deserve some respect. They've done a lot of good things. But our main thing here is the team, and they've come in and learned our system. When Sundays come, our main focus is just to win a game."
Play of the Day
QB Matt Cassel bootleg
In full-squad scrimmaging, Cassel led the second-team offense against the first-team defense. He took the snap and appeared to hand off to his left to Sammy Morris. But as he wheeled back around to the right, he still had the ball, and nearly everyone on defense followed Morris. Cassel, with nothing but green in front of him for the next 30 yards, raised the ball over his head in celebration.
FB Heath Evans
He's quietly having a great camp. Evans is solid as in pass protection, a great lead blocker, excellent receiver out of the backfield, and a decent ball carrier when given the opportunity.
The entire defense was forced to take a penalty lap around the practice field just before practice ended. Apparently, the coaching staff was unhappy with their performance during 11-on-11 play. They then huddled up and received a talking to by head coach Bill Belichick before returning to full-squad action.
More Tuesday Notes
A perfect day for summertime football: sunny, blue skies, puffy white clouds, and temps in the low 80s, with no humidity. There was even a cool on-again-off-again breeze. The Patriots came out to practice in full pads. The spectator stands were packed and the berm was full of fans yet again on the penultimate day of training camp.
Players not present at the 2:30 session: the five remaining PUPers (WR Troy Brown, WR Chad Jackson, CB Eddie Jackson, DL Richard Seymour, and TE David Thomas), TE Kyle Brady, S Artrell Hawkins, WR Randy Moss, CB Asante Samuel, DL Ty Warren, DB Gemara Williams, and OL Billy Yates.
TE Benjamin Watson and LB Pierre Woods returned to practice.
RB Laurence Maroney and LB Eric Alexander were the only players wearing red (no-contact) jerseys, aside from the QBs, who always do.
When the Pats worked on kickoff team, the returners alternated between WR Wes Welker, RB Sammy Morris, WR Bam Childress, RB Kevin Faulk, LB Laurence Maroney, DB Willie Andrews, and CB Ellis Hobbs.
A bit of Ivy on the grass practice fields today … Ivy League, that is. The coaching staff from Columbia University was the special guest of the Patriots. They watched practice from the sidelines.
At the start of practice, receivers and defensive backs went one-on-one with quarterbacks throwing to them. On the other practice field, the offensive line and tight ends focused on the running game versus the front seven on defense.
11-on-11…The running game was the focus during the first go-round. Passing took precedence in the second full-squad scrimmage. Ellis Hobbs intercepted a Matt Gutierrez pass at one point.
Owner Robert Kraft made another appearance on the practice field. He greeted and chatted with the Columbia coaching staff. Kraft is a Columbia alumnus.
In 7-on-7 work, Welker got behind two defenders and Cassel lobbed a perfect pass over their heads into the awaiting arms of Welker. CB Randall Gay was beaten by WR Chris Dunlap on a long pass from Cassel down the right sideline. One bright spot on defense: Rashad Baker picked a Gutierrez pass, but ran head-on into LB Junior Seau in the process. The collision looked and sounded a lot worse than it actually was, however, as both players got up immediately.
K Stephen Gostkowski struggled a bit today. He missed three field goals in a row from inside 40 yards, and sent a 50-yard kick wide during situational offense.