It’s a good thing the Patriots stocked up on tight ends, as it appears as if a failed drug test will leave New England without tight end Ben Watson for the first four games of the 2019 season.
And it was Watson himself decided to break the news on his personal Twitter account on Sunday.
For those of you not interested in reading Watson’s screengrabs via Twitter, here you go…
As the days and weeks of the 2018 football season passed, I was certain that it would be my last. Injuries and health concerns, including a random bout with appendicitis the last week of the season confirmed my decision, and as I walked off the field for my last time, I had no plans to return. Over the following months, I started actively pursing other career opportunities. After every season during my playing career, I visit with a few doctors for health screenings. During these times we identify the cumulative effects of injuries, stressors, and exertion on my health and formulate an offseason plan for recovery. As a professional athlete for the last 15 years I know very well the limitations on what can be prescribed for my overall health. After my contract expired last March I told my doctors I was finished playing, went through a series of medical tests and was prescribed Bio Identical Testosterone Cypionate to assist in healing my body and mind.
On March 29, nine days after I started therapy, I was randomly tested under our substance policies. I complied out of habit, never thinking in that moment I’d want to come back. In late April, some clubs expressed interest in me playing and after much deliberation and prayer, I decided I wanted to return. Considering myself previously retired, I had forgotten all about my test in March until I got a letter on May 3rd saying my results were positive. I was devastated and for obvious reasons did not want to proceed. At that point I knew that my decision to return to play would include a four game suspension and I immediately discussed this new development with the clubs.
But there’s more.
Ultimately I decided to pursue another year and on May 9 the Patriots offered me a contract in spite of these circumstances. I am excited and thankful to return to New England but very disappointed that I will not be able to play and contribute immediately. This is not how I would want to enter a new locker room and attempt to earn my role on a new team. However, I respect the regulations that have been collectively bargained to promote fairness on the field of play and accept the discipline associated with my infraction. My goals as an athlete, teammate, friend, father, husband and believer have not changed. To live a life of integrity and humility while standing for kindness, justice and righteousness and to serve the people in the cities, regions and organizations that God places me in. Until my last day I will continue to pursue excellence in my craft and perform to the best of my ability. I am grateful for yet another opportunity to do so in the NFL.
The “in spite of these circumstances” comment nestled in there — as well as Watson’s comment that he informed teams of his pending suspension — obviously confirmed that the Patriots signed Watson knowing they would be without the veteran tight end for the first four games of the year. With Watson at 38 and given the medical ailments Watson touched on in the first part of his announcement, perhaps that’s not the worst thing in the world at this point in his career.
(The Patriots, by the way, played without the now-retired Rob Gronkowski for 13 of their last 48 regular-season games, so being down their projected No. 1 tight end isn’t exactly foreign to the offense.)
But with Watson expected to miss the first four games of the season, surviving training camp in Foxboro would mean a heavy dose of free agent additions Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Matt LaCosse through Week 4.
Watson caught 35 balls for two touchdowns and 400 receiving yards in 16 games for the Saints last season.