Patriots

Emotional Ben Watson hints at retirement after Patriots' playoff loss

Emotional Ben Watson hints at retirement after Patriots' playoff loss

Retirement.

It was a big topic in the days leading up to the Patriots' Wild Card round game against the Titans, and it was a big topic of discussion in the postgame media scrums as well.

But while the largest and brightest spotlight shone on Tom Brady, he's not the only Patriots player with an uncertain future — either in New England or the league in general.

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And while Brady termed his retirement as "hopefully unlikely," it sure sounds like Ben Watson's playing days are over. When asked what the future held for him, an emotional Watson paused 17 seconds before answering.

"It's difficult. I love this game, but there's a time when you definitely have to move on," he said. "So, I definitely won't be back here next year, probably, and probably won't be playing at all."

Watson had previously announced his retirement last December, but came out of retirement when he signed with the Patriots in May.

"It's something that I've tried to do before and it didn't work, but there's only so much your body can take and so much you want to put your family through before you want to settle down, have some roots 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, great run and it's been really special to be back here, and special to have the opportunity to play again."

If this is the end for the 39-year-old Watson, he would have both started and finished his 15-year career with the Patriots, winning Super Bowl XXXIX in his first stint.

He had three catches for 38 yards Saturday night against Tennessee, though his biggest play of the day was wiped out by an ineligible man downfield penalty on Shaq Mason.

Cam Newton provides update after openly wondering how he'd 'mesh' with Bill Belichick

Cam Newton provides update after openly wondering how he'd 'mesh' with Bill Belichick

How well will Cam Newton and Bill Belichick work together, we've wonderedNewton asked himself the same question when he found out that the Patriots were interested in signing him earlier this offseason. 

He shared his thought process on YouTube during a roundtable discussion with Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham and Todd Gurley: "I said, 'Hold on. How, how is me and Belichick gonna mesh?' You know what I'm saying?"

Well . . . plenty of time has elapsed since then. Newton and his new Patriots teammates have been at Gillette Stadium this week going through what Belichick has compared to the NFL's typical "Phase 1," which usually takes place in the spring and consists of meetings as well as strength and conditioning workouts.

So how has it gone? How have Newton and his new head coach meshed?

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"Listen, listen," Newton said during a WebEx conference call with reporters Friday. "There's a lot of things that I say that there's a perception, but at the end of the day, it's football. I've loved it ever since I've been here. 

"I've been here, going on a week, now and you hear rumors about certain things, but once you finally get settled in on things like that, none of that really matters. It's just all about finding a way to prove your worth on the team."

Belichick has coached all types of personalities, and had success with all types, during his Patriots tenure. Tom Brady was different than Rob Gronkowski, who was different than Randy Moss, who was different than Corey Dillon, who was different than Richard Seymour, who was different than Willie McGinest, who was different than Tedy Bruschi, who was different than Matt Light. 

Newton is a unique personality with a unique skill set who may require a unique approach from the Patriots coaching staff when it comes to drawing out his best. And there may be some bumps in the road as the team finds the right path to maximizing Newton's stay in Foxboro. But for now, according to Newton, everything is going swimmingly. 

It helps that before Newton even set foot inside the team's facilities, they'd established a track record that has him ready to buy into Belichick's way of doing things. 

"I'm still constantly -- I don't want to say in disbelief, but it's just a surreal moment," Newton said. "Nobody really knows how excited I am just to be a part of this organization in (more) ways than one.

"Following up such a powerful dynasty that has so much prestige and lineage of success -- a lot of people would hide from the notion to do certain things, but for me, I think this opportunity is something that I wake up pinching myself each and every day."

Patriots' Cam Newton says there's nothing to worry about with his health: 'I feel amazing'

Patriots' Cam Newton says there's nothing to worry about with his health: 'I feel amazing'

Jarrett Stidham may feel like he has a chance to be the starting quarterback in New England. Bill Belichick may be looking forward to having an open competition at that position. But if Cam Newton really feels the way he says he does, the decision could be closer to final than anyone is willing to admit at the moment.

Asked if he'd be restricted at all by his surgically-repaired right shoulder, Newton replied in no uncertain terms. 

"At this part point in time, sir," he said, "I'm a full go."

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Newton needed to go under the knife in both 2017 and 2019 to fix up his shoulder. The most recent procedure came in January of last year, after a midseason hit to his right side in 2018 mangled the upper portion of his arm, impacted his delivery, and waylaid his performance in a season when through eight games he was near the top of the league in a number of statistical passing categories.

It was a foot injury in the summer of last year that limited him to just two games played in the regular season. That led to surgery in December. 

But almost a year removed from the foot issue, and 18 months removed from his most recent shoulder procedure, Newton told reporters on Friday that he has made his way to New England in very good health. After fighting through injury for each of the last two years, he may be closer to the Newton that beat up on the Patriots back in 2017 than anyone realizes.

"Just right now, for me, this season's not here yet so I do still have time," Newton said. "Working with the training staff here as well as having all the outlets at your disposal to get better and to be as confident come opening day, or when the team may need you, I think that's the most important thing. 

"As far as how I feel right now, I feel amazing. I feel great. Not any different than any other person in that locker room right now so I'm extremely optimistic about that. Through it all, it's just putting yourself in position to be in the best shape and having your body in the best possible situation when you actually need it."

Though he used words like "amazing" and "great" to describe his health, it sounded like Newton wanted to hedge a bit. Perhaps even he knows there's a lot that can happen between now and the start of the regular season when it comes to his well-being. After all, last time he got hurt badly was on the Gillette Stadium turf, trying to avoid a hit early in a meaningless preseason game. 

But for now he's healthy. And he's motivated. Some of that is inherent. He didn't necessarily need to be released by the team that drafted him, he didn't need to linger on the free-agent market for months to experience the sensation propelling him forward in this new chapter of his career.

"I don't have to prove nothing," he said. "Especially not to nobody. I have to prove to myself. That's a daily challenge. I don't think nobody's expectations will ever surpass my expectations for myself. I'm just looking forward to the challenge. 

"Knowing, picking up this whole system, not only the philosophical way of the offense but also how things are ran. This is a new team. I've only been geared by one particular team and one particular city. Now moving to a whole nother residence has kind of put the onus on trying to adapt. That has been the rather interesting part."

Still, there is a part of Newton -- a part that he's not afraid to show on social media -- that wants to let people know he's ticked. 

The Panthers get some, though he said he wishes them "nothing but the best," because he's been uprooted. The rest of the league gets some because it allowed players like Marcus Mariota and Andy Dalton to sign before him (and for more money). But he's using that as "fuel," he explained.

"Look, I wake up mad," he said. "Know what I'm saying? The fact that I'm not able to see my kids on a regular basis, that's what makes me mad. At the end of the day, for me, I'm not gonna dwell on the past. I'm a self-motivator. Even though the past is the past, I'm not gonna keep looking back."

That approach usually plays for Belichick and the Patriots. If it's the one Newton will carry with him to his new team, and if he's healthy, then odds are he'll be playing too.