Tight end Benjamin Watson, who came out of a brief retirement to sign a one-year deal with the New England Patriots earlier this month, announced Sunday on social media that he is facing a four-game suspension under the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Figuring his playing days were over, Watson took a testosterone supplement that was legally prescribed by his doctor, but banned by the league.
“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,” Watson, a 15-year veteran who played for the Saints last season, explained on Facebook and Instagram. “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.”
After tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement on March 24, the Patriots reached out to Watson about a possible return. The 38-year-old spent the first six years of his career in New England after the Patriots drafted him with the final pick of the first round out of Georgia in the 2004 NFL draft. Watson, who lives in New Orleans with his wife and seven kids, had looked into broadcasting and player development opportunities during the offseason before having second thoughts about playing a 16th season. He later told reporters he was only really interested in a return with the Saints or Patriots.
Watson said he received a letter on May 3 informing that he had tested positive for testosterone.
“I was devastated and for obvious reasons did not want to proceed,” he wrote on Sunday. “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.”
The Patriots signed Watson anyway. The NFL has yet to announce a suspension for the tight end.
“I am excited and thankful to return to New England but very disappointed that I will not be able to play and contribute immediately,” wrote Watson, who did not play in the Saints’ loss to the Rams in the NFC championship game after being diagnosed with appendicitis. “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.”
If Watson, who had 35 catches for 400 yards and two touchdowns last season, is suspended for four games at the start of the regular season, he would be eligible to return for the Patriots’ Week 5 game against the Redskins.