Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson enjoyed a trip overseas this offseason, which was a bit more pleasant than another trip he recently made - to the operating table.
Earlier this month, Watson had surgery on the left ankle that nagged him much of the 2007 season, according to a league source.
Watson has been present for the start of the team's offseason program this week, and he spoke with reporters at Gillette Stadium yesterday. He did not address the surgery. Watson had been seen wearing a protective boot, but he was not wearing it during the conversation yesterday.
Considering Watson took a trip to Israel earlier this year, the injury hasn't exactly grounded him, but it figures to alter the course of his offseason training, and potentially affect his level of participation in passing camps and the lone full-team minicamp (June 6-8).
The Patriots are scheduled to open training camp in late July.
After building positive momentum through the first five games of last season - with 17 receptions and five touchdowns - Watson was knocked out in Week 6 at Dallas. On a 6-yard gain in the second quarter, he was tackled from behind by safety Roy Williams, hurting his ankle. He missed the remainder of the game and was inactive the next two contests.
Watson came back for a string of five games, but Dec. 9 against the Steelers he limped off the field in the third quarter after an 8-yard catch. Although Watson returned, he was held out of the next two games before returning for the season finale against the Giants.
Watson played in 12 regular-season games (nine starts), finishing with 36 receptions for 389 yards and six touchdowns. He also suited up for all three postseason games.
After releasing veteran Kyle Brady, the Patriots have three tight ends on their roster - Watson, David Thomas, and Stephen Spach.
Visiting hoursThe Patriots are scheduled to host Southern California linebacker Keith Rivers for a predraft visit at Gillette Stadium early next month, according to Rivers's representatives. An outside linebacker in Southern Cal's 4-3 defense, the 6-foot-2-inch, 241-pound Rivers projects as an inside linebacker in the Patriots' 3-4 alignment.
Rivers is considered one of the top linebackers in the draft, and he's expected to be selected in the first round (the Patriots own the No. 7 pick). He totaled 240 career tackles in his four-year career, the last three of which he spent as a starter.
Last month at the NFL Combine, Rivers talked about playing under former Patriots coach Pete Carroll and learning pro-style concepts.
"Playing in an NFL-style defense makes it a little bit easier to make the transition, I hope," Rivers said. "We run a lot of different schemes, a lot of similar schemes that they run at the next level."
Working it outThe Patriots continue to have coaches and scouts crisscross the country to attend Pro Days and meet and work out prospects. University of Buffalo center Jamey Richard is scheduled to be put through a private workout today by Patriots officials in Western New York.
Richard projects as a mid- to late-round selection. His size (6-5, 295) has caught the eye of scouts.
"He's a great leader, a tough kid, and a good finisher," said his college offensive line coach, Allen Mogridge.