FOXBORO -- Benjamin Watson is back with the New England Patriots, and he arrived at a good time.
The Patriots are in a transition period at tight end after the offseason departures of Rob Gronkowski (retirement) and Dwayne Allen (released). They didn't select a tight end in the 2019 NFL Draft and haven't added a top-tier tight end via trade or free agency. Watson and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are New England's two most notable tight end additions since Gronkowski retired.
Watson was among the tight ends at Thursday's OTA session at Gillette Stadium, and he was asked if Gronkowski's retirement influenced his decision to return to the Patriots.
"No, I was retired. I considered myself retired," Watson said. "I was processing as such and moving forward as such until late in April. That wasn’t a factor for me."
Watson said he started looking at different opportunities after retiring, including roles in player development and broadcasting, but he ultimately chose to put himself back on the market, and there were only two teams he gave real consideration to signing with.
“I was retired. I was done for a few months," Watson said. "Around I would say, late April, early May I started thinking about it and made myself available. There were really only two places I would consider playing, coming back here and playing in New Orleans. Once I made myself available I got a call, and I thought it would be an interesting opportunity.”
Watson spent the first six seasons of his career in New England after the Patriots drafted him at the end of the first round in 2004. His quarterback then was Tom Brady, and nothing has changed in that regard despite nearly 10 years passing since Watson left for the Cleveland Browns. Brady was not present at OTAs on Thursday, and Watson had absolutely no issue with that.
"Look, what is it? Is it May? Yeah, it's May. We have plenty of time. This is just the beginning," Watson said. "There are going to be guys who are in and out. I'll be in and out. We've got family things. We train different places in the offseason. It's still very early. Everybody is trying to compete and compile their best team right now, 32 cities around the league. We have plenty of time here, but while we're here, we're definitely trying to get better."
Watson and Brady will be back together in action when the Patriots hold mandatory minicamp June 4-6.
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