FOXBORO -— Tom Brady has seen plenty of teammates released before. But Ben Watson, at 38 years old, is one of the few teammates Brady has had in recent years who was close to Brady in age. Watson is someone Brady has known for the better part of the last two decades. The two are friends.
For the Patriots quarterback, that made yesterday's decision by the team to release Watson a difficult one.
"Pretty tough, you know? Pretty tough," Brady said. "It's tough for a lot of guys I've played with a lot of guys over the years. Ben's a great player. He's been a great player for this team, for other teams. He's had an incredible career. Hopefully he can keep playing. I know he was looking forward to playing.
"I miss him. He was right next to me. For as great as a player he was, he was 10 times a better person. Just the highest integrity. I can't say enough good things about Ben, what he's meant to me, my family, our team. We're gonna miss him."
Watson was suspended for the first four games of the season after violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy in the offseason. He spent training camp with the Patriots, but through the first four weeks of the regular season he was not allowed to have any contact with the club.
The Patriots had until 4 p.m. on Monday to activate Watson to the 53-man roster, but they chose not to, making him a free agent. Bill Belichick left open the possibility of a Watson return earlier in the day on Wednesday, but for now the coach will roll with Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo as his top two options at tight end.
Brady was asked about his comfort level with LaCosse and Izzo in place to fill the team's tight end roles now that Watson is no longer in the mix.
"It's just . . . I'm the quarterback so I don't make those decisions," Brady said. "Whoever's out there, that's who I gotta play with. So . . . yeah."
Patriots tight ends did have their best game of the season in Week 5 against the Redskins, as Izzo caught two passes for 39 yards and a touchdown while LaCosse caught one for 22 yards. LaCosse had a drop on the first pass of the game, but he played 72 of a possible 77 snaps, showing that he was closer to full health than he has been since suffering an ankle injury in the first week of preseason play.
"Those guys are competing hard," Brady said. "I think they're trying. Matt hasn't been out there as much as we all would've wanted. Certainly what he would've wanted. Ryan's done quite a few things for us . . .
"We're trying to get out there and utilize the reps in practice that we can to talk about things, communicate through the things that come up in practice so that we can execute when we need to in a game."
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.