Ben Watson: I’m old, so I’m a team leader

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Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson has just arrived in New England, meaning most of his teammates don’t know him yet. But he already sees himself as a leader for a simple reason: He’s old.

At age 38, and with the 41-year-old Tom Brady not participating in Organized Team Activities, Watson is the oldest player in the Patriots’ offseason program, and he takes that responsibility seriously.

“I think I have a leadership role, period, in our locker room because I’m 38 years old. That’s just what comes when you’re an older player,” Watson said. “Now, what happens in the locker room and what happens on the field are two totally different things. On the field, this is the ultimate meritocracy. It’s about learning what to do, being consistent making plays, all the things I learned as a rookie. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done somewhere else, what you did last year or throughout your career. It’s all about how you perform every day in practice. . . . I do consider myself a leader from a life standpoint, talking to the younger guys, but as far as production on the field, that’s something that’s earned.”

Even before he was among the oldest players in the league, Watson was among the most respected. That’s true both for on-field reasons (like his tremendous hustle in running down Champ Bailey in a playoff game 13 years ago) and for off-field reasons (he’s been a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award). Age is one factor, but not the only reason Watson is a leader in New England.