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New Patriots TE Ben Watson facing 4-game NFL suspension for failed drug test

Ben Watson won't be able to make his regular-season debut for the Patriots in 2019 until Week 5. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Benjamin Watson won’t officially see the field in his second run with the New England Patriots until the fifth game of the regular season.

Watson posted to his Facebook page Sunday afternoon that he’s been suspended for four games by the NFL for having elevated testosterone levels.

The failure, Watson said, came when he took an NFL drug test in March and wasn’t sure he was coming back to the NFL after 14-year career. He had started testosterone therapy in preparation for life after the NFL but then began thinking of keeping his career alive after teams contacted him.

Watson, who played for the New Orleans Saints in 2018 and had a bout with appendicitis at the end of the season, said he forgot he was drug tested in March and then found out on May 3 that he would be suspended.

Here’s the entire post from his Facebook page:

As the days and weeks of the 2018 football season passed, I was certain that it would be my last. Injuries and health concerns, including a random bout with appendicitis the last week of the season confirmed my decision, and as I walked off the field for my last time, I had no plans to return. Over the following months, I started actively pursing other career opportunities. After every season during my playing career, I visit with a few doctors for health screenings. During these times we identify the cumulative effects of injuries, stressors, and exertion on my health and formulate an offseason plan for recovery. As a professional athlete for the last 15 years I know very well the limitations on what can be prescribed for my overall health. After my contract expired last March I told my doctors I was finished playing, went through a series of medical tests and was prescribed Bio Identical Testosterone Cypionate to assist in healing my body and mind.

On March 29, nine days after I started therapy, I was randomly tested under our substance policies. I complied out of habit, never thinking in that moment I'd want to come back. In late April, some clubs expressed interest in me playing and after much deliberation and prayer, I decided I wanted to return. Considering myself previously retired, I had forgotten all about my test in March until I got a letter on May 3rd saying my results were positive. I was devastated and for obvious reasons did not want to proceed. At that point I knew that my decision to return to play would include a four game suspension and I immediately discussed this new development with the clubs.

Ultimately I decided to pursue another year and on May 9 the Patriots offered me a contract in spite of these circumstances. I am excited and thankful to return to New England but very disappointed that I will not be able to play and contribute immediately. This is not how I would want to enter a new locker room and attempt to earn my role on a new team. However, I respect the regulations that have been collectively bargained to promote fairness on the field of play and accept the discipline associated with my infraction. My goals as an athlete, teammate, friend, father, husband and believer have not changed. To live a life of integrity and humility while standing for kindness, justice and righteousness and to serve the people in the cities, regions and organizations that God places me in. Until my last day I will continue to pursue excellence in my craft and perform to the best of my ability. I am grateful for yet another opportunity to do so in the NFL.

Watson returns to team that drafted him

Watson signed with the Patriots a week after he found out about his drug test failure, so, as Watson notes, this doesn’t come as a surprise to the team. Watson is expected to provide cover after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement.

And while that cover won’t come until Week 5 against the Washington Redskins, the Patriots are no stranger to four-game suspensions to start the season. WR Julian Edelman was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season for failing a PED test and Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of 2016 for his role in the saga surrounding deflated footballs.

Watson was originally drafted by New England in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft. He spent the first six seasons of his career with the Patriots before signing with the Cleveland Browns ahead of the 2010 season.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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