Benjamin Watson Has Quietly Had One Heck of a Comeback


Tight end Benjamin Watson looked over and pointed in the direction of the Ravens training room.

"There were times in that training room over there, where I felt like, 'You know, I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to play in the NFL again, at a level that I'm satisfied with – or at all,'" he said.

Watson missed all of last season with a torn Achilles. He'll turn 37 years old a month from Saturday. Yet Watson has returned this season not only to play, but to play at a high level.

On an offense that has had its share of ups and downs this season, Watson has been perhaps the unit's most reliable player.

After nine games, he's second on the team in receptions (39) and targets (49). He leads the team in first-down receptions (18) and is tied for the team lead in catches of 20 yards or more (three).

"We haven't won as many games as I would've liked, or we would've liked, but it is satisfying any time you have an injury like that to be able to come back and see yourself again on the field," Watson said.

What makes it even more impressive is Watson has done it despite taking massive hits week after week from defenders, who are often more than a decade younger than him.

"Just the toughness that he's had this year is unbelievable," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He's always in the right spot, you can count on him to win, I can anticipate my throws with him – and make them that much more accurate because of that. He's been huge."

Watson signed a two-year contract with the Ravens before last season. He was coming off a career year in New Orleans, in which he caught 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns.

From the time Watson stepped onto the Ravens' campus at the Under Armour Performance Center, he was an impressive leader on the field and locker room.

He moved his large family to Baltimore to show that he was committed to the organization and city, and that it wasn't just a pit stop at the end of his career. He wanted to prove he still had more to contribute as a player, and could help the Ravens get back into the playoffs.

But when his injury threw his career into question, Watson had to lean on his deep religious faith, his family and personal inner strength.

"On the field, or whatever occupation you're in – you're going to face some sort of adversity," he said.

"It's not that it's not going to happen, but it's about how you deal with it, and how you fight through it, and what message you send to others around you – including my children, who have prayed for me, and continue to pray for my Achilles, every single day for the last year and a half. What kind of message am I sending to them with my willingness to fight?"

Even within this season, Watson has had to deal with more injuries. Knee and calf injuries have landed him on the injury report, and held him out of practice, in multiple weeks.

Flacco has often relied on Watson's excellent hands to make contested catches over the middle. He's also taken many big hits in the flats in the quick, short passing game. Yet Watson hasn't missed a game yet.

The Ravens may get some offensive weapons back Sunday in Green Bay after the bye, including running backs Danny Woodhead and Terrance West and tight end Nick Boyle. But a week of rest for Watson's body is also quite helpful for the offense moving forward.

"Every 24-hour block counts," Watson said with a chuckle.

"My goal this year has been to do the best that I can with what I've been given, to contribute as much as I can, and really, to have a sense of gratitude just to be able to be out here."

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