FOXBORO – Having Ben Watson around isn’t just a boon for Tom Brady because the Patriots are light at tight end.
Watson’s presence also means he’s got someone else on the team who knows what it was like to be in high school in the 1990s.
As time has passed and Brady’s defied it, the age gap between he and his teammates has logically widened. His best buddy has been Julian Edelman who, at 33, is eight years younger. Before the Watson, 38, showed up, Stephen Gostkowski, 36, was the closest in age.
Now, grizzled veteran Watson actually will be working with someone who remembers when Watson showed up in the NFL.
“There’s very few men in the NFL that I can step on the field with and say, ‘Wow. I look up to that guy,’ “ Watson said after minicamp practice Tuesday at Gillette. “I played with one in New Orleans in Drew Brees, a guy who’s been in a few years more than me. Obviously coming in as a rookie [after being drafted by the Patriots in 2004] and walking into a locker room with a young Tom Brady then – he was what, four or so years in and was already accomplished – for him to still be on the field is really cool for me. I’m still an older guy but there’s still someone for me to pattern myself after as well.”
With Austin Seferian-Jenkins being released Tuesday and the remaining tight ends being relative neophytes, Watson was front-and-center working with Brady on Tuesday. In one period, Brady broke off in a small group with running back James White, rookie first-rounder N’Keal Harry and Watson to work on some reads, spacing and timing. Though not exactly explosive, Watson still moves smoothly and plucks the ball with ease. And Brady seemed – from a distance – to warm to working with him.
There has to be a bit of a bond between two guys who spent a chunk of their careers together before they became who they’ve become – two of the most respected men in the league.
“We can talk about being married and having kids and my oldest is 10 now and we’re in the same areas of life although he is a superstar/rock star,” said Watson. “We can connect on those levels so that’s what’s really fun. That’s what I’ve enjoyed over the course of my career, obviously the football and winning and competing but being able to connect with him on life issues. We’re almost kinda checking the same box.”
Watson was asked about how familiar it feels being back with the team a decade since he moved on. He said that – against all odds in such a transitory league – the familiarity remains.
“It speaks to the stability this organization has had from an ownership standpoint, head coach standpoint, assistant coach standpoint, quarterback standpoint,” said Watson. “Obviously, when there’s that stability guys may come back to that because they are coming back to coaches that drafted them or knew them in free agency.”
Twenty minicamps in, Brady and Bill Belichick are like walking relics of another era. So much so that they make Watson feel young.
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