When thinking about Benjamin Watson's six-year career with the New England Patriots, there are two main things that come to mind:
1. How he chased down Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey in the 2005 playoffs. It was a remarkable effort that showed all-out hustle on Bailey's 100-yard interception return that led to a touchdown.
2. The high expectations that seemed to hover over him. As a first-round draft choice in 2004 -- the 32nd and last selection of the round -- Watson came with plenty of hype. He was touted as an out-of-this-world athlete who could bring a Tony Gonzalez-type element to the offense. That never happened and the expectations created an uphill battle for him.
In early November, I wrote about those expectations in a piece that touched on what was a rebound season at that point.
"No matter how wise you are as a rookie or second-year player, I think we definitely get caught up in the expectations we have and the expectations for other people, trying to please other people," Watson said in the piece. "As you get a little older, you sort of get to the point where you ask, 'What am I trying to please other people for? Why am I going home stressed out about what other people think of me?' You sort of move and grow a little past that."
Watson's growth in that area was evident in recent years.
In 2006, Watson had a career-high 49 catches in a season that the team featured more two tight-end sets with him and Daniel Graham. The last three seasons, he was a nice complement in the team's three-receiver package, his speed sometimes threatening defenses down the middle.
Without him, the Patriots will have a dramatically different look at the position in 2010.