Speaking to reporters Thursday, tight end Benjamin Watson explained that the Patriots and the Saints were the only two teams he would play for in 2019.
Some things are very different right now in Foxborough, and some are very much the same.
And then there’s even a couple of things that are a little bit of both.
Linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. and tight end Benjamin Watson fit into that last category. Both are familiar faces for Patriots fans, and yet neither one of them has spent much time in New England over the past few years.
Collins last played for the Pats in 2016; for Watson, it was 2010. Collins admitted Thursday to reporters that he was “surprised” when his circuitous NFL path brought him back to New England, the place where his professional football journey first got started. Watson, on the other hand, seemed to know all along that he’d either end up where he first started – or he’d just stay right where he was in New Orleans.
One or the other… and nowhere else, apparently.
“There were two clubs, when I was retired, where I said, ‘If I were to play again, I’d love to go somewhere I’ve been before or stay in New Orleans,'” Watson admitted to reporters. “Moving here as a rookie at 22 years old, and now coming back with a whole tribe, that’s something that’s going to be fun for all of us.”
The veteran tight end is referring to the fact that when he was first drafted by New England way back in 2004 (15 years ago!), he was unmarried and childless. Now Watson returns to his roots with a wife of 13 years and seven children in his family.
Of course, playing another season in the NFL was anything but a guarantee to begin with. Watson publicly made his intentions known to retire at the end of last season, even though it reportedly broke his heart to miss the Saints’ NFC Championship Game appearance after contracting appendicitis.
"“I started looking into other opportunities – broadcasting, player development. I was actively looking for other options, and had a few options as well. Then as time passed – two months, three months – I started thinking, ‘Maybe I could do it one more time. Let’s see what’s out there.’ It was more of a family decision. My wife and I talking about what that would look like for our family, and just kind of weighing the pros and cons.”"
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, the Patriots losing Rob Gronkowski to retirement didn’t play a significant factor in Watson’s decision to come to New England.
“New England offered and reached out and said there was an interest there,” he explained. “We definitely thought it was a good thing. Thought it would be a good fit.”
Watson also elaborated on how as much as the culture of “The Patriot Way” remains the same, much of the offensive playbook, terminology, and – of course – the personnel has changed since his first stint in New England.
"“It’s quite different, as to be expected. (Offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) has been here, he’s left, he’s come back. There have been different offensive coaches, different players that have been here, and sometimes you cater to your personnel. So, things might change. The terminology has to change because obviously after time, defenses aren’t dumb. And they pick up on what the quarterback’s saying, so they change. So, offensively, we have to change terms and stuff like that. There are a lot of different terms. There are a lot of different formations, terminology. There’s some carryover, a little bit, but so far it has been a process of learning a lot of new stuff, which is good.”"
Watson is favored to earn the starting tight end job come Week 1 of the 2019 regular season.