Tight end Ben Watson says he probably won’t be back playing with the New England Patriots or playing at all next season.
Following a disappointing 20-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Wildcard Weekend, Watson was seen on the field giving a long hug to teammate Matthew Slater, a player who was just a rookie. It was during that moment that reality set in about Watson’s future and what was his last run and opportunity to win another Super Bowl with the team that drafted him.
When asked about the opportunity to end his NFL career with the team that drafted him, Watson was filled with appreciation and also reflected on the growth of Slater, who was just a rookie when he was last on the team.
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"“It was special,” Watson said following the game, via Patriots.com. “It definitely was special. Obviously you have a storybook ending in your mind of course, so that is hard. Reconnecting with some of those guys and really seeing how everybody has grown so much. Matthew [Slater] was young, he was a rookie, and now he is one of the leaders on the team. He is inspiring guys to not only be great football players, but to be great husbands and fathers and men. He is challenging guys to be men. He’s setting a tremendous example for the team. It is really cool to see his maturation over the decade that I have been gone. It’s a testament to him. Obviously, he is still playing at a very high level but he’s investing in men and I’m so proud of him for that especially.”"
In coming out of retirement to play for the Patriots, Watson didn’t have the best season. He started his return by serving a four-game suspension and overall, caught just 17 passes for 173 yards. He did come up with a couple big catches in Saturday night’s game, but overall, he didn’t do much to better the team’s tight end issues, but he wasn’t counted on to be a major factor.
At his age and with his experience, Ben Watson was factored to be a compliment at the tight end position. A depth piece that would give Tom Brady and the offense another option. Like other areas of the offense, things didn’t quite pan out and now the veteran tight end recognizes the end of his own era as a professional football player.
"“You know, it’s difficult. I love playing this game, but there is a time when you definitely have to move on,” Watson continued. “Definitely won’t be back here next year probably and probably won’t be playing at all. It’s something I tried doing before and it didn’t work. There is only so much your body can take and so much you can put your family through before you want to settle down and figure out what the next chapter of your life is going to be. We’re going to talk about it of course and make family decisions. It’s been a great run and it has been really special to be back here and special to have the opportunity to play the game.”"
It would be very surprising if Ben Watson stepped foot on another football field as a player in 2020. He came back, he gave it his all and 2019 proved that he doesn’t have much left in the tank and that is something he had to find out by putting on those shoulder pads again.
Coming back to and playing with the New England Patriots also gave him a last chance to play with Tom Brady. The two didn’t connect for a touchdown this season, but overall Watson has 13 of Brady’s career 541 touchdown passes.
In also playing some of his career catching the ball from Drew Brees, Ben Watson can go out knowing he has played with the best.