Veteran tight end Ben Watson was supposed to play a pivotal role with the New England Patriots following the surprise retirement of Rob Gronkowski in the offseason. Watson was convinced by the Patriots to end his short retirement and sign a one-year deal worth $3 million. However, things did not go as planned for Watson as he was suspended for the first four games of the regular season after he was tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance.

The timing of Watson’s return was ill-timed since it happened while the Patriots are desperate to create salary-cap room for them to trade for a wide receiver before the Oct. 29 trade deadline. Watson’s suspension ended in Week 5, but the Patriots did not activate him for their game against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. The following day, the Patriots decided to release Watson, a move that gave them an additional $2 million in salary-cap room.

Watson was drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL and played with the Patriots until 2009, winning one Super Bowl ring while playing alongside veteran quarterback Tom Brady.

Watson thanks Brady for the kind words

The 42-year-old Brady, in an interview with reporters, expressed disappointment over the move, calling Watson a “great player.” Brady also heaped praises on Watson for being “10 times a better person with the highest integrity.” In an interview with on WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni and Fauria,” Watson thanked Brady for the kind words.

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The veteran tight end called Brady “the ultimate competitor.” Watson added that part of the reason that he came out of retirement was to grab another opportunity to play with Brady.

While he was disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to play with Brady in the regular season, Watson said it was a privilege to play with the veteran quarterback in the preseason and in practice. Watson’s dream of playing alongside Brady again could come true after Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said they could sign the tight end at some point this season.

Watson says Brady hasn’t changed

When asked about the difference when they first played together and now, Watson said he hasn’t noticed any change. “He's still elite. He still has energy. He still throws a great pass. He's still very, very sharp mentally, which he would even tell you is one of this biggest assets,” said Watson.

The veteran tight end said he will cherish the moments that he sat in his locker beside Brady during training camp and talk about their respective families and about life.

Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter said during FS1’s “First Things First” that Brady would miss Watson’s veteran presence and leadership in the locker room.

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