Patriots

Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson confident he can make an impact right away

Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson confident he can make an impact right away

Benjamin Watson is confident he can be an instant contributor for the New England Patriots.

"Yes, of course," the veteran tight end told reporters Thursday when asked if he can make an impact right away. "One thing about this place is they prepare the players to play. And so anybody who’s out there, no matter if you’ve been here the entire time or you’ve been here for a week, your job is to perform when called upon, so that’s what I expect to do.”

Watson was released the Monday after the Patriots' Week 5 win over the Washington Redskins. The 38-year-old tight end was suspended for the first four games of the regular season because of a failed drug test, and even though he was eligible to return for the Redskins matchup, he was not activated by the Saturday deadline for that game. 

Watson was back with the Patriots eight days after his release, making his return to practice Tuesday as New England gets ready for its Week 7 road matchup against the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football."

"It feels good (to be back)," Watson said Thursday. "It was a nice windy day out there today, felt like home. It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks, I'm glad to be back, glad to be preparing for another opponent."

Did Watson think a return to New England was likely?

"I didn't know," Watson admitted. "Sometimes a guy gets released and he's back in a couple days. Sometimes that's it. At this point in my career, I know the end is close. You never know how it's going to end. When (I got released), obviously there was a lot of disappointment and sadness about it, obviously, going through everything I went through to have a chance to play. You understand this is part of it. You proceed as a family one day at a time. That's what we try to do."

Watson joins Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse and newly signed Eric Tomlinson as the tight ends on the Patriots roster. Izzo and LaCosse have not made much of an impact in the Patriots passing attack, combining for just 13 receptions, 169 receiving yards and one touchdown through six games. LaCosse is dealing with a knee injury and didn't practice Thursday.

The Patriots need much better production from their tight ends, and Watson's familiarity with quarterback Tom Brady and his 15 years of experience should help him make a successful transition back into the offense before the tough part of the team's schedule arrives.

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Agent Don Yee takes aim at the 'collegiate sports industrial complex'

Agent Don Yee takes aim at the 'collegiate sports industrial complex'

Don Yee is well known as the agent for Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Sean Payton and others.

But his longstanding effort to shine a light on the inequities of what he calls the “collegiate sports industrial complex” may wind up being as impactful on the game of football as the work he’s done with those greats.

This week, I spoke at length to Yee on our podcast about college football at a crossroads in this summer of COVID-19.

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In Yee’s view, the awakening that’s gone on among athletes as they’ve been strung along for months by the Dumb and Dumber coalition of coaches, college presidents and administrators has been building.

“It’s a situation that’s been gaining steam in my view for at least the last 10 to 12 years,” Yee said. “There’s been such a dramatic influx of money into the collegiate sports industrial complex that when you’ve got that kind of money coming in there’s just been a single-minded focus on generating more and more money and that focus unfortunately has taken over … college administrators, college presidents, athletic directors and coaches.

“They’ve actually taken their eye off the ball in that they have completely overlooked the fact that they have a labor force that isn’t being compensated,” Yee added. “In their single-minded pursuit of every single dollar they’ve forgotten about the care and concern of the athletes.”

Patriots Talk Podcast: Don Yee and the remedy for college football’s ‘industrial complex’ | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Everyone knows big-time college sports drips with hypocrisy and greed. It’s a shell game in which literally thousands of people wind up splitting the billions of dollars generated every year and the only ones that never see a legal buck of it are the players.

The pretzel logic used to justify it is laughable. The best way to enjoy the product and the games is, literally, to ignore the reality.

Yee has, over the past decade, forced people to look at it.

“Over the decades we’ve created a unique system that doesn’t exist anywhere in the developed world,” he said. “Nowhere in the developed world does this exist. Where you have a system, a small group of football players every year – there’s 130 Division I schools and among those 130 schools let’s say 50 to 60 are the most critical players to that enterprise for that particular season.

"So it’s a few thousand young men and what they do is strap on the equipment and roll out there for an increasingly long season – now as many as 14 games – and go out there and put their bodies on the line to generate substantial amounts of revenue to support the lifestyles of the administrators, the coaches, the coaches in the non-revenue sports, all the non-revenue sports programs and athletes which then – by extension – helps support the U.S. Olympic program (as a breeding ground for the athletes before becoming Olympians).

“The success of the football program also supports the very existence of the university because if the football program has success, the university can then initiate a piggybacking off the excitement and success of the football team and begin multi-billion capital campaigns to build new buildings on campus etc. So all of this is due to the efforts of a very small group of young men every single year. We tolerate it. Ultimately, we get distracted by the pom-poms and the bands.”

Yee and I discussed so much more, including whether he thinks there will be an NFL equivalent to the NBA’s G-League (yes), details on his new venture which will help teams easily find the players they now have to kick over rocks to discover (like Malcolm Butler) and how the change in college will be shepherded in by the players.

Joe Montana: Tom Brady hinted at displeasure with Patriots at Super Bowl LIV

Joe Montana: Tom Brady hinted at displeasure with Patriots at Super Bowl LIV

Joe Montana has wondered aloud how the New England Patriots could let Tom Brady get away to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Based on the conversation he had with Brady in February, though, maybe he should have seen the QB's exit coming.

During an interview Wednesday on ESPN 97.5 Houston's "Jake Asman Show," Montana revealed he talked with Brady at Super Bowl LIV and got the sense the 20-year veteran didn't like his situation.

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"I spoke to Tom while we were back at the Super Bowl," Montana said. "I don't think he was happy with the way things were progressing there and his ability to have input, and I think that was a big decision for him to make to leave there."

Our Tom E. Curran and others have reported that Brady wasn't thrilled about having less of a say in the Patriots' offensive game plan last season, especially after New England mustered just 13 points in a Wild Card Round loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Montana's recollection of his conversation with Brady -- the two QBs were part of an "NFL 100" pregame ceremony at Super Bowl LIV -- certainly lends credence to those reports and suggests Brady was ready to move on from the Patriots after 20 seasons.

It sounds like the 43-year-old quarterback picked the right destination, too: Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich apparently joked that all he has to do with Brady under center is "get out of the way."