FOXBORO, Mass. — On Monday, the New England Patriots made the somewhat surprising decision to release veteran tight end Ben Watson.
Quarterback Tom Brady, it appears, disagreed with that roster move.
During his weekly news conference Tuesday afternoon, Brady raved about Watson, his teammate from 2004 through 2009 and a longtime friend. The Patriots’ two remaining tight ends, Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo, received no such praise.
Question: How hard was it to hear Ben Watson was released?
Brady: “Pretty tough. Pretty tough. I’ve played with a lot of guys over the years, and Ben’s a great player. He’s been a great player for this team, for other teams. He’s had an incredible career, and hopefully he can keep playing. I know he was looking forward to playing. I miss him. (His locker) was right next to me. And for as great of a player he was, he was 10 times a better person. Just the highest integrity. I can’t say enough good things about Ben, what he’s meant to me and my family and our team. We’re going to miss him.”
Q: Are you more comfortable now with Izzo and LaCosse being able to fill that role?
Brady: “I mean, I’m the quarterback, so I don’t make those decisions. Whoever’s out there, that’s who I’ve got to play with. So, yeah.”
Q: From the beginning of the season to now, have those guys improved? Have you seen things in LaCosse and Izzo that make you more comfortable with them?
Brady: “Those guys, they’re competing hard. I think they’re trying. Matt hasn’t been out there as much as we all would have wanted — certainly what he would have wanted. Ryan’s done quite a few things for us. We’re just trying to get out there and utilize the reps we can in practice, talk about things, communicate through the things that come up in practice so that we can execute when we get into the game.”
LaCosse and Izzo played their best collective game of the season Sunday in a 33-7 win over the Washington Redskins, but the tight end position has been one of the Patriots’ few weak spots through five weeks. Watson was expected to bolster that group upon the conclusion of his four-game suspension, but head coach Bill Belichick opted not to activate the 38-year-old, saying the team simply didn’t have space for him on its 53-man roster.
Brady offered a similarly uninspiring review of the Patriots’ two rookie receivers, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski, when asked about them last week.
“Those guys are trying,” the 42-year-old quarterback said. “They?re young. I was young; I was trying once, too. I just didn?t have to play my first year, so it?s a little different.”
LaCosse, Izzo and Meyers and/or Olszewski all should play significant roles Thursday night against the New York Giants with No. 3 receiver Phillip Dorsett likely to sit out as he nurses a hamstring injury.