FOXBORO -- Ben Watson has been around the league a long time with this being his 15th year and he's been fortunate enough to play with some great quarterbacks, most notably Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
Speaking after practice Thursday, the 38-year-old explained the similarities between the two.
"I would say I just grew tremendously," he said. "It's amazing how much you can grow as a player when you have the right coach, the right system, the right offensive coordinator, but also the right quarterback. Certain quarterbacks – really there is a certain gene in a lot of quarterbacks that makes them compete and makes them want to perfect their craft with other players. With Tom and with Drew, if it's staying after practice and running extra routes, if they're on a pitch count and they say, 'Bump the pitch count, I've got to get this right with my guys,' they'll do that. It's in the meeting rooms, when you're running a route in a meeting room and we're watching it on film, and they'd like you to break it a little bit earlier. Even if in the textbook it says to break it at five yards, and they say, 'You know what, I need you to break it here and I'll be ready to throw you the ball.' It's them vocalizing that.
"As a player receiving that, it helps you to grow as a player, and in your relationship with them. That's what those guys do and it benefits them because they've been in the same offense for a long time -- so they kind of have their own spin on it -- but they also know how to communicate and coach the players that they're going to be playing with from year to year, because that always changes."
Training camp is more for the younger players to develop techniques and learn what it's like to play in the NFL, so Watson likely would be just fine without it, but he understands its importance.
"Well, training camp – Bill [Belichick] talked about it today – training camp is not punishment; it's preparation," he said. "While training camp is tough mentally, physically, emotionally, it's something that is a grind. It's definitely a weeding out process, I would say. It's necessary preparation if you individually are going to perform at your best, and if collectively as a team you're going to perform at your best. That's what it's for. Obviously, as you get older, training camp becomes harder. Football in general is harder. It's just tougher and tougher, but as a player you know that, hey, if I want to perform, I've got to get in there and I've got to make it through training camp."
Watson also explained what keeps him going at age 38.
"Well, part of it is my kids that are here," he said. "I fought through a lot of adversity – physically, emotionally – a lot of things have happened, and I want to show them how to fight through that. Those sorts of things. I also believe that when God opens a door and you walk through it and you don't understand why, but there's other things that are going on, and there's the unknown – the benefits that are going to come from you continuing to do what you've been able to do. Also, just having the opportunity to be a part of a great organization again. As you get older, there's certain places that you don't want to play. You don't want to start totally over, and fortunately for me, there was an opportunity to come back here. I think that definitely played into the decision to keep on going."
The tight end will miss the first four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy -- something he took when he thought he was retired.