When the Patriots released Watson on Oct. 7, head coach Bill Belichick said the team didn't have a roster spot for him upon his return from a four-game NFL suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. But injuries have altered the picture, so Watson, who spent training camp with the club and has experience with the system, will return and project as an immediate contributor.
His return comes after fullback Jakob Johnson (shoulder) and tight end Matt LaCosse (knee) were knocked out of Thursday's win over the New York Giants. Coupled with an injury to receiver Josh Gordon (knee), it forced the Patriots into one personnel grouping for the entire second half, a situation that quarterback Tom Brady said he couldn't remember ever happening in his 20-year career.
The Patriots announced Monday that they placed Johnson on injured reserve. The 24-year-old appeared in four games with three starts. He caught one pass for 5 yards after being elevated from the practice squad when starter James Develin went on IR with a neck injury.
Watson, 38, joins LaCosse and second-year player Ryan Izzo as tight ends on the roster. His return should please Brady.
"Ben's a great player. He's been a great player for this team, for other teams. He's had an incredible career," Brady said last week. "He was right next to me [in the locker room], and for as great as a player he was, he was 10 times a better person, just the highest integrity. I can't say enough good things about Ben, what he's meant to me, my family, our team."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.