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It was Patriots or nothing for Benjamin Watson in 2019 – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Watson thought “maybe this is it” after release: When the Patriots released veteran tight end Benjamin Watson on Oct. 7, there were reports Watson still wanted to play this season. Those were accurate, but also a bit incomplete. Watson told me this week that if he played in 2019, it would have only been in New England because of family considerations.

“There were some other teams that called,” he said as he prepared for Monday’s road game against the New York Jets (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN), after being re-signed Tuesday. “But at this point, it would have been very difficult for me to go somewhere, no matter where it was, and have them be here. We just moved, and we weren’t going to move anywhere else. There are some other organizations I have a lot of respect for, but at this point, being that the season has started, school has started, we weren’t going to move.

“My desire to play wasn’t going to trump the commitment we made as a family that we were not going to be separate for two months.”

So when Watson, 38, walked out of the locker room on Oct. 7, thoughts were swirling that he had played his last NFL game.

“I was processing it as ‘maybe this is it.’ As difficult as it was, I was prepared for ‘it’s going to end at some point and it’s usually not pretty, but you get over it and it’s OK. So maybe this is how I’m going to exit.'”

Which makes Watson’s return to action Monday all the more special. The Patriots gave him $800,000 in guaranteed money to return, which provides some reassurance he’ll be around for the season. His return also helps fill the void with tight end Matt LaCosse (knee) sidelined.

When the Patriots called his agent about re-signing him, Watson needed some time to make his decision.

“While I was excited, I was also dealing with emotionally the question of ‘Do I want to re-start this thing over again?’ When you go through certain disappointments and stuff, you deal with it and then try to move on. Do you want to open that back up? I started to shift and think that ‘maybe this is it and I’m OK with that.’ That was a long conversation, through the night.

“In the end, it was that I came up here to play, and to be a part of this team. I had another opportunity to do so, and so I want to give it another shot.”

2. Belichick backs Bielema on Bennett suspension: I view veteran defensive end Michael Bennett‘s suspension for conduct detrimental to the team as an example of how coach Bill Belichick backs his staff, and sends a clear message to all players that certain lines can’t be crossed. Had Bennett privately addressed disappointment about his role, it’s hard to imagine the result would have been a suspension. But because Bennett’s displeasure was voiced in front of other players, it potentially threatened the authority of defensive line coach Bret Bielema. So, Belichick came down hard.

3. Did you know: The Patriots have used man coverage schemes 67% of the time this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That is the second-highest rate in the NFL behind the Lions (73%), who of course, have former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia in his second year as coach.

4. Defensive snaps are way down: The Patriots have been on the field for 374 defensive snaps in their 6-0 start, averaging 62.3 snaps per game. This is a result of strong play on third down, a high total of turnovers, and some offensive inefficiency from opponents. As long as the defense isn’t giving up big plays, this is a telling stat, because the fewer times the offense has the ball, the less likely it is to score. For context, here is how that compares to the past five years at this point of the season:

5. Patriots rookie receivers go under the radar: With starting receiver Josh Gordon (knee/ankle) already ruled out Monday night, and No. 3 target Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) questionable, the Patriots could be leaning more on undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski against the Jets. They both played extensively in the second half of the Week 6 win against the Giants, so how do Meyers and Olszewski feel about continuing with that workload? The answers are elusive, as Belichick had the players off limits to reporters in the locker room all week, perhaps as a reminder that actions are more important than words.

6. Replays on PI about what was expected: Belichick has yet to throw a challenge flag on a pass interference penalty (or lack thereof) this season, and if he did, chances are he would lose it. Coaches are 4-of-37 on challenges (10.8%), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. In his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, Belichick noted the high bar to overturn a call or non-call, and how it’s consistent with what was advertised to him. “I think it’s been pretty clear and the league has come out and said, it has to be clear and obvious. What the definition of that is, I’m not sure. But I don’t think there can be much gray area, or it’s not clear and obvious. I haven’t studied all of them, but a lot of the ones that I’ve observed or have been in our games, I can see why they were called the way they were,” he said.

7. Browns’ bye week lessens strain on Patriots’ short week: Next week marks the only time this season the Patriots face a team coming off a bye, with quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Browns coming to town. With the Patriots coming off a Monday night game, it is a rare case of the short week vs. long week dynamic. One thing that helps the Patriots’ staff is they won’t have to add a Week 7 game to their Browns preparations, so they could get a more complete jump start on them with some of the extra time they had this past week.

8. Nugent returns to where career started: Veteran kicker Mike Nugent, who was signed by the Patriots three weeks ago after Stephen Gostkowski went on injured reserve (hip), broke into the NFL with the Jets in 2005 and was with them for four seasons. So Monday brings the 37-year-old full circle. “At the time, I wanted to play 10 years,” he said, noting the presence of players such as Kevin Mawae, Chad Pennington, Curtis Martin and Wayne Chrebet, among others, who provided him a great example to follow. This year is Nugent’s 15th, so he has exceeded his own expectations.

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Ex-Browns WR Antonio Callaway suspended 10 games

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Former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Antonio Callaway has lost his appeal and will be suspended for his next 10 games, regular season or postseason, for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Friday.

The Browns waived Callaway on Thursday.

Callaway’s agent, Malki Kawa, had tweeted that Callaway was facing the ban for taking a tainted CBD supplement.

Callaway was a healthy inactive for Sunday’s win over the Buffalo Bills after showing up late to a game. His replacement in the lineup, wide receiver Rashard Higgins, wound up catching the game-winning touchdown.

A source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Callaway was late again this week.

Asked why the team waived him, a source said to ESPN’s Josina Anderson: “Too many issues.”

But the receiver’s troubles began far before that.

Callaway was suspended for the first four games of this season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He tested positive for marijuana at the 2018 NFL scouting combine and was cited for possession of marijuana while driving with a suspended license last August. Police also found bullets and a gun part while searching his vehicle. The possession charge was dropped at a hearing on Jan. 25, and Callaway pleaded guilty to operating without a valid license and speeding.

While at Florida, Callaway was suspended for the entire 2017 season for allegedly using stolen credit card information to fund bookstore accounts. He was also cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession and possession of drug equipment during a traffic stop by Gainesville police in May 2017.

The Browns drafted Callaway anyway then backed him after the four-game suspension was announced, with general manager John Dorsey declaring that the franchise would stand by him as long as he was “committed to taking advantage of the resources made available to him by our club and the league to help him become the best version of himself as a person first and foremost.”

Yet earlier this week after Callaway was late, Kitchens admitted he didn’t know if the second-year player “had gotten the message or not.”

Callaway had eight catches for 89 yards this season.



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Mason Rudolph’s agent — No legal options ruled out after Steelers-Browns fight

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CLEVELAND — The agent for Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph isn’t ruling out any legal options in the aftermath of a late-game melee Thursday night.

“I am gathering all information and no options have been removed from the table,” Tim Younger said when reached by text message Friday morning.

Rudolph was struck in the head with his own helmet by Cleveland’s Myles Garrett after the Browns defensive end ripped it off in the final seconds of the Steelers’ 21-7 loss.

The fight started when Garrett took Rudolph to the ground following the quarterback’s short pass to Trey Edmunds on third-and-long. Rudolph appeared to attempt to dislodge Garrett’s helmet as the two exchanged words. As Rudolph stood up, Garrett ripped Rudolph’s helmet off and swung it at him as offensive linemen David DeCastro tried to push Garrett away.

“It was pretty cowardly,” Rudolph said. “Pretty bush league.”

The incident evoked memories of Tennessee’s Albert Haynesworth stomping on the head of the Cowboys’ Andre Gurode in a 2006 game. Haynesworth was suspended five games, but Gurode opted against pressing criminal charges or filing a civil lawsuit.

Younger tweeted about Thursday night’s incident after the game.

“There are many risks an NFL QB assumes every snap taken on the field,” Younger wrote. “Being hit on your uncovered head by a helmet being swung by a 275-pound DE is not one of them. Tonight could have had a catastrophic ending. The matter will be reviewed thoroughly.”



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Eagles’ Darren Sproles has torn hip flexor muscle, out for season

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Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn right hip flexor muscle, the team announced Friday.

The team said Sproles originally was injured in an Oct. 6 win over the New York Jets. It was also during that game that Sproles moved into fifth place in career all-purpose yards.

Sproles, at 5-foot-6, has spent much of his career being underestimated because of his height. Fourteen running backs went ahead of him in the 2005 NFL draft before the San Diego Chargers selected him 130th overall in the fourth round. Of that group, only he and Frank Gore are still playing.

Sproles, 36, said he was motivated to return for his 15th NFL season in part so he could finish his career fifth in all-purpose yards.

He also returned to honor an agreement. His daughter made a bet with him: If she qualified for the Junior Olympics, he had to play one more year. She qualified, and Sproles obliged.

Sproles, a three-time Pro Bowler, is the only player in NFL history to record more than 30 receiving touchdowns (32), more than 20 rushing TDs (23), in addition to at least one kickoff return touchdown (2) and at least one punt return TD (7).

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