By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
FOXBOROUGH — Speaking at his locker room stall after a season-ending, wild card weekend loss to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night, New England Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson seemed ready to do what he intended to last year before the Patriots came calling.
“I love playing this game, but there is a time when you definitely have to move on,” the 39-year-old Watson offered. “Definitely won’t be back [in New England] next year probably, and probably won’t be playing at all.
“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.”
Getting Watson back at all (a move made in the wake of Rob Gronkowski’s retirement) was always a longshot kind of move for a Patriot squad that was noticeably thin at tight end all season, and it certainly came with some undeniable headaches for Watson.
First came a four-game suspension for a performance-enhancing drug violation (drugs taken when Watson originally retired from the NFL), then came a preseason concussion delivered by the Panthers’ Eric Reid, and then the Patriots cut the veteran when forced to make a decision on either activating or releasing him. The release certainly seemed to irk Watson, who voiced his own frustration with the move, even though he returned to New England just a week later.
And while the eventual return to the Patriots certainly came some obvious pluses — Watson finished the year with 17 grabs on 24 targets for a total of 173 yards and had three catches for 38 yards on Saturday — but didn’t come with the storybook ending everybody envisioned, Watson certainly seemed grateful for one last ride in New England.
“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,” said Watson.
Assuming he does indeed retire, Watson will exit the game with the 12th-most receptions (547), 20th-most yards (6,058), and 27th-most touchdowns (44) among all tight ends in NFL history.