BOSTON (CBS) — Ben Watson came out of retirement to re-join with the New England Patriots this offseason, but he’ll have to wait to make his 2019 debut with the team.
That’s because the 38-year-old will start the season serving by a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, Watson announced on his Facebook page Sunday. Watson explained that when he retired after last season, a doctor prescribed him Bio Identical Testosterone Cypionate in early March to help him heal after his 15-year career in the NFL. He took a PED test on March 29 and had forgotten about it when teams started to show interest in him the following month.
Watson found out about the suspension on May 3, and said the Patriots were aware of the four-game ban when they signed him to a one-year deal on May 9.
Here is Watson’s full statement:
As the days and weeks of the 2018 football season passed, I was certain that it would be my last. Injuries and health concerns, including a random bout with appendicitis the last week of the season confirmed my decision, and as I walked off the field for my last time, I had no plans to return. Over the following months, I started actively pursing other career opportunities. After every season during my playing career, I visit with a few doctors for health screenings. During these times we identify the cumulative effects of injuries, stressors, and exertion on my health and formulate an offseason plan for recovery. As a professional athlete for the last 15 years I know very well the limitations on what can be prescribed for my overall health. After my contract expired last March I told my doctors I was finished playing, went through a series of medical tests and was prescribed Bio Identical Testosterone Cypionate to assist in healing my body and mind.
On March 29, nine days after I started therapy, I was randomly tested under our substance policies. I complied out of habit, never thinking in that moment I’d want to come back. In late April, some clubs expressed interest in me playing and after much deliberation and prayer, I decided I wanted to return. Considering myself previously retired, I had forgotten all about my test in March until I got a letter on May 3rd saying my results were positive. I was devastated and for obvious reasons did not want to proceed. At that point I knew that my decision to return to play would include a four game suspension and I immediately discussed this new development with the clubs.
Ultimately I decided to pursue another year and on May 9 the Patriots offered me a contract in spite of these circumstances. I am excited and thankful to return to New England but very disappointed that I will not be able to play and contribute immediately. This is not how I would want to enter a new locker room and attempt to earn my role on a new team. However, I respect the regulations that have been collectively bargained to promote fairness on the field of play and accept the discipline associated with my infraction. My goals as an athlete, teammate, friend, father, husband and believer have not changed. To live a life of integrity and humility while standing for kindness, justice and righteousness and to serve the people in the cities, regions and organizations that God places me in. Until my last day I will continue to pursue excellence in my craft and perform to the best of my ability. I am grateful for yet another opportunity to do so in the NFL.
Watson’s suspension will leave the Patriots shorthanded at tight end to start the season, as they transition at the position following Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. In addition to Watson, New England has Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Matt LaCosse and undrafted free agent Andrew Beck on their tight end depth chart. Watson is eligible to participate in training camp and the preseason before serving his suspension at the start of the season. He’ll miss Week 1’s opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England’s visit to the Miami Dolphins in Week 2, a home game against the New York Jets in Week 3 and Week 4’s visit to the Buffalo Bills. Watson will be eligible to return in Week 5 when the Patriots visit Washington.
Watson had 35 catches for 400 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints last season. Initially a first-round pick by New England in 2004, Watson has found the end zone 44 times over his 15-year career with the Patriots, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Saints.