New Orleans Saints Tight End Benjamin WatsonConference Call With New Orleans MediaThursday, March 29, 2018
Welcome back and what do you think about your return to the Saints and where you fit?
"I'm excited about returning. Every team is different, where I stand that's something I will have to figure out through the OTA process, through the training camp process. You have to earn your spot on any team and earn the ability to take the field and the trust and all that. I am happy that there is some familiarity there and that I have played here before, that I know Drew (Brees) and Coach (Payton) and kind of have an idea of the offense. That's the great thing, coming somewhere that obviously there will be some new wrinkles in the offense, probably some terminology that I don't know, but everything won't be totally foreign. I am happy about that. But every year is different and I will be fighting to earn a spot."
Why do you think you had such a successful return from an Achilles injury suffered in 2016 in the preseason?
"It was really hard. The Achilles was difficult. I've had a number of injuries. I've had seven surgeries, including ACL and another knee surgery, ankle, the list goes on with football and the things that have happened to me, but the Achilles was tough, given that it's a tendon and it's weight-bearing, it doesn't get a lot of blood flow. You battle your calf muscles being very weak and atrophy. There's still some strength that I have to get back from that. For a lot of guys, myself included, it takes a couple of years before you get to the best that you'll ever be. But the Ravens did a good job of rehabbing me. They've had quite an experience with Achilles (injuries) up here, so I guess if there was a place to tear it, it was in Baltimore with the experience that they had rehabbing Achilles tendons and they did a fabulous job of taking me through that grind. My family was very supportive. My wife took care of all of us while I was incapacitated in a bed for a month (post-surgery). But I know I wanted to play again. God allowed me to play. He allowed me to come back on the field. There were still some challenges. There were still some times last year where I didn't feel quite like myself sometimes, but I was able to play and I'm very thankful for that."
What motivates you to keep wanting to play, even after an injury like that?
"A couple things, number one, this is my job and I look at it that way. This is how I support my family and that's very, very important to me. Also, speaking of my family when I got hurt, we pray together every night as a family, my kids literally prayed for my Achilles for 365 days straight. Even when I was healthy technically, they were still praying for me to get better and I wanted them to see daddy go through something, go through some adversity and fight back, because that's something they're going to have to do through their entire lives. Also, I still believe that if I have the ability to play, this is a great game and I love to play the game and I love the opportunities and the platforms that it gives. So there is no doubt I wanted to come back. It was just a matter of if I could and then when I could it was a matter of continuing to get stronger, which is what I am still doing."
What looks different about the Saints coming back from when you first left here?
"The youth. I think the whole league was surprised on how well the young players played last year. A lot of times when you have a draft class, you just don't know how it's going to go. Sometimes you may miss on an entire draft and sometimes you may get a few players and I think that it was a tremendous having guys that could come in and contribute and really not only contribute, but really play a large part and with younger players that's not easy to do in the NFL. It's very hard to come in from college at any position and deal with the stresses of the NFL, to play the way they did. That was different definitely. Also, just watching the Saints, which we do in this house, we still watch the Saints in the house because we know players that played there, they played well defensively when we played them in the preseason. You never know how that's going to carry over into the regular season, but when you look down the line and look at how they played against the run in the past, defensively, they played much better than when I was there a few years ago. It's complementary football. That's what every team is trying to do. Every team is trying to play complementary football because that gives you the best opportunity to win, go in the playoffs and do the things that you want to do. Those are a couple of things that were different."
You mention the youth and you were such a leader in your fist tenure with the Saints, do you relish having that role again?
"I definitely do. Anytime you've over thirtysomething years old and over year ten, you're automatically in that role. But again, this team has leadership. I haven't been here the last two years, I'm the new guy on the block so to speak. It's not as if you come in and you're automatically a leader. Part of leadership is guys seeing your work ethic, hearing you and talking to you about things off the field. There has to be that trust factor there. Obviously I have that with some guys who are still there, but the guys that were younger when I was here the first time are the leaders, the Mark Ingram's, the Cam Jordan's, those guys, Terron (Armstead), those guys are the leaders now. Whereas, when I was here the first time, they were younger and that's how it's supposed to be It's not about me coming in and having to be some sort of leader. The reason you try to mentor guys is so that they can play that role. I'm so proud of those guys watching from the outside looking in and seeing the way that they have stepped up in those roles. Being there, going to practice everyday, workouts, I'll have my chance to say my two cents here and there and I'm looking forward to it."
You're such a nice guy I can't picture you wanting to prove the Saints wrong or having motivation of revenge, but when they decided to let you go to Baltimore a couple of years ago, was that motivation for you?
"It wasn't a motivator. I understand the business side of the game. I understand every team has a metric and that everybody wants to get younger, that's the way life is, not just in football, but in general. You are always looking for the next thing. I looked at it as, while we were disappointed, while we would have loved to stay here when we left the first time, we didn't really get an offer and it was clear we were going to be moving elsewhere, we had grown to enjoy being there in New Orleans and wanted to stay, but that was not the plan. And now looking back at it, a lot of times you don't understand the plan while you're in it, you don't understand the purpose of why you're in it, looking back it, I wouldn't change anything. The fact that we came to Baltimore, that we were able to experience living up here in the East and all the things that this place offers and the people that we've met and the growth that we've experienced both in myself and my family, I wouldn't change it. You can't live in football thinking about revenge, because it changes so often. There would always be something you would be upset about. That is just the way that it goes. I am excited about the new opportunity. If anything, I just want to contribute to this team winning games."
Speaking of the business side of football, what was reaction when you saw two former Saints players in Jermon Bushrod and Patrick Robinson re-sign here in free agency this offseason and what does it say about the organization that former players want to return her?
"It's funny because last year, Rafael (Bush) came back and Roman (Harper) came back the year before. That's not uncommon for guys sometimes to come back to their former team, but it seems to happen a lot with the Saints. I think part of it is the organization that Mr. Benson ran and Mrs. Benson is running and the way that they treat their players and the family business feel to it, but also it's a credit to the community. It's a credit to the fact that the people in the community in New Orleans embrace you as their own, even when they don't know you yet. They're going to criticize you when you do things wrong, just like when a family does, but they're going to praise you when you do well and I think as players, we appreciate that. One part of it is the ownership and the organization. I think a lot of it is that guys come to New Orleans because they feel like they're wanted, they feel like they are a part of the community no matter where they're from, they feel like they can be themselves, they feel like the fans truly care about them outside of just being football players and they feel that's important."
At this point in your career, do you have any desire to outlast Drew Brees?
"He's a quarterback (laughter). There's no way. He would have to retire and I would have to keep going, so the longer he goes I would have to add more years in. At this point in time when I get out of bed in the morning I look at how much I have left in me. No, there's no desire to outlast Drew, but I would love to play with him and go out on a very, very high note though. That would be amazing."