New Orleans Saints Tight End Benjamin Watson
August 19, 2018
What’s your experience over years with joint practices?
“I have only done it once believe it or not and that was in 2015 at the Greenbrier with the (New England) Patriots. No other team I’ve been on has done it. The great thing I think is that it breaks up some of the monotony of camp and you get a chance to go against some other guys, some different looks. I think for a team also, whether you're going on the road or having someone come to you, it kind of builds some sort of team camraderie, team chemistry, you are going on the field against another opponent. There is that aspect of it as well.”
How much better do you feel this offseason?
“It's had its own challenges. While it may not be one thing, there's always something else at this point in my career. There is always some issue that you are fighting through, but this is football. Honestly, I think two years removed from the Achilles, I do feel better from that aspect. It was a very very tough injury, a tough rehab. There’s imbalances that you are having to correct simply because you’ve had that injury.”
Was it an easy choice for you to decide to keep playing?
“No, it wasn't. I would say that at the end of last year I was very unsure if I was going to continue playing. I knew that if I did play there only a very small number of places that I’d consider going. Talking with my wife and family, we were okay with not playing. That was going to be it, we're in a good place. I've said it before, this was one of maybe two places that I would even consider coming back. Obviously, a program that I’m familiar with, one that’s winning, one that has a commitment to that excellence. It's tough moving. You factor in do I want to move my family somewhere if it was going to be one year (at a time) at this point in my career. You factor all those things, but we felt like this is an opportunity that the Lord presented to us.”
If not anything else could you not let Brady and Brees play longer than you?
“I am not trying to compete with them. Those guys playing quarterback, I am not trying to compete with them, but I do want to have my last years to be with a guy like Drew definitely. It’s great being in the huddle with him.”
How long do you think you can play?
“I’m day to day right now during training camp. Honestly, it really is. I say that jokingly, but it is a one day at a time thing. Right now my focus is on making this team, it’s on making a role (for) myself on this team, it’s on competing every day when I come out, prepare myself in the meeting room, it’s doing what’s asked of me to the best of my ability. That's how you approach this game for me at least. I've never the one to say hey I want to play ten years, I want to play five years, I want to play fifteen years. No, it’s I’ve got to make it through this day and this day has enough challenges. I’ve got to make it through this game, through this week, through this training camp. When you have that sort of focus then the years start to add on. So right now, I'm really on I guess you could say a very narrow focus.”
Your last season here, did they just tap into your skill set or did you discover something like they figured out a way to use you like you hadn’t been used before that’s been carried on?
“I think I think it is a combination of different things. Everybody out there you see on the field and a lot of guys at home have skills. It’s about opportunity. It’s about coaching staffs. It's about an offense. It's about developing a certain confidence. It's about people allowing you to do things that you could do or you’re needed to do something that you could do as opposed to something else. There's a combination of different factors. For me, that last year was the combination of those factors. There was a need there. We had one of the best tight ends to ever play a game (Jimmy Graham) left. The offense was catered to him in a lot of ways. They needed somebody to make some of those plays. I had the opportunity to do so. I was (relied on by) Coach Payton and Coach Drew Brees on how to do certain things and I did them. The year before that, that wasn’t my role. It was a different role. Every year, at least in my career, it's been different. What's been asked of me in the passing game, the run game, special teams game or how much I've had to play. I do think that over the course of anybody's career there's going to be growth in all areas. That's how you stay in the game got to be able to evolve into what the need is and continue to perfect your skills.”
When you start connecting on stuff with Drew (Brees) is there more confidence in that relationship between you two and does that lead to more and more?
“It's like that with any relationship. You take it out of the football realm, into the sports room, into the business realm, into what you do as professional. As you do things more collectively and have success together on the practice field as well as in a game situation there is going to be confidence built there. Not just trust but muscle memory. The reason why you see us do the same thing over and over again is because we're teaching our muscles how to run a certain route over and over again when we're tired, when it's hot, when it's cold. You just do it. It’s the same thing for the quarterback throwing the ball and going through his progressions. There is that I guess synergy that that becomes built over time and that's why we go through this process of training camp.”
A couple young guys are also at your position. Do you feel like a mentor to them, in terms of providing leadership, a guy that they can lean on? How do you kind of approach that relationship?
“I automatically feel that simply because they remind me that my rookie year in the league, they were in elementary school stuff like that. We have those times where we joke ‘hey man, you’ve played longer than all of us combined.’ We have you know this was kind of fun times. I do relish that role and not just on the field. I feel that the way I try to live my life imperfectly but striving to be a husband a father those sorts of things. I want that to rub off on them too and I want them to be better than me in that area because to me that's even more important was happening on the field. This is very very important, but when I'm gone, and I tell them when I'm 50 years old watching them playing their 13th, 14th, 15th years, I want them to be men in their communities that people look up to. I want to have had a small part in training them to do that. Coming on the practice field, and showing up every day, and working hard at the reps I get, and encouraging them because we've got a lot of talent in that room. A lot of talent. Josh (Hill) is kind of the older guy now. He's got a lot of talent, but all the way down to Dan (Arnold) and Deon (Yelder) and Griff (Garrett Griffin) all those guys have a whole lot of out of talent.”
Has the Ben Watson hotline started up again?
“Yes. Its starts and then you hear from guys you haven’t heard in a while which Is always great hearing back from those guys. It’s part of the game that you mentioned about coming back and playing. I think that part of playing again has to do with legacy and impact outside of football.”
Maybe you've already answered this, but you've been around for a while. What are the benefits of having a joint practice when you are going against another team and it is important trying to get work in to kind of temper the anger that probably gets out there?
“Obviously, you always see some of the fights and those sorts of things and that happens sometimes. That's not the goal, but at the same time you're going against another team. You are going against an opponent. It is an opportunity for us to go on the road and be the visitors. You build that sort of camraderie as a team. You're trying to win everything like we are here, but now it’s Saints versus. We’re cheering for each other in that manner. It's an opportunity to get some different looks. You’re used to going into the same guys and one on ones, pass rush drills, and team drills. You’re used to those things and it's an opportunity for us to kind of mimic going and scouting an opponent and seeing what those guys’ strength and weaknesses are and trying to exploit them.”
Would you want to have it that way versus probably going to through long, grueling training camp?
“It is grueling anyway. However you look at it, it is going to be grueling. I was just thinking training camp is so long. We're halfway there at this point, but it does break it up a little bit.”
What exactly is being discussed during those melees during practice?
“I don't know. I honestly have not been in a fight with another team. When we practiced against the Patriots, I do not think we had any fights. Usually it is the usual. The same stuff’s going on when you're fighting against someone in a bar somewhere or in the stands when you see the stands and people are fighting in the stands during a game, yelling at each other. Probably some of those same things being passed back and forth. I’m the one trying not to get hurt because those guys are big, and strong, and fast, and young. I am not (young), so I’m trying not to get hurt.”
Have you ever been in a practice fight in the NFL?
Yes, I have. It was a while ago. I've almost been in some recently, but I haven’t quite stepped over the line. We do have a rule. There is a rule about fighting, if someone in your room gets in a fight with us in practice or on the road or whatever you always come out there to their defense.”
If a player is dumb enough to punch someone in the helmet, do they immediately get cut from the team just because of judgement?
“It depends on who the player is just like everything else. It’s like everything else. Everything depends on who the player is.”
Players and coaches say they don’t want fights to happen, but is there this undertone of well it happens?
How many of y’all played football? Football is a very emotional sport. To be good at this game, you have to get yourself on the edge. Sometimes you see a different person out before a game. No matter what it is you have to think about. Your kids, your livelihood, the journey that you took to make it there. All that has to go through you to come out here and run up full speed against another human being. So that is a good thing to be able to play football with that type of intensity and emotion. Now what happens in practice, you do not want to go over that. That is why you train yourself to be able to have that emotion, have that energy, and do it within the confines of the rules, and be productive. Fighting is usually not productive because it can cost the team five, ten, 15 yards, whatever it is. The practice you mentioned getting an injury from breaking your hand and those sorts of things. Sometimes it just happens, but the goal and where the maturity comes in is when you can play at that fever pitch, but not go past that because then you're not being productive. It is football and stuff like that happens.”
When you look at the top edge players in the NFL, have you seen much film on Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram?
I have not seen a lot of film on them honestly at this point. I think when we get back maybe Tuesday we’re going to really start on them. I haven't played them in the past, so I don't know much other than watching them during games, but obviously from the highlight films that I have seen, especially from (Joey) Bosa and (Melvin) Ingram, they are at the top of the game. I wouldn’t put them past our guy so I’m glad we have Cam (Jordan) to get us ready for next week.”