FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Watson and 'The New Dad's Playbook': It was around this time two years ago, on Father's Day weekend, when veteran tight end Benjamin Watson sent along his new book to this reporter with a nice message inside. It had been eight years since Watson had last played for the Patriots, yet he always made the time to maintain a connection.
Now that Watson is back in New England for one more NFL season, and with this again being Father's Day weekend, I asked him a few questions about "The New Dad's Playbook."
What were some of the primary motivations that led you to write this book?
Watson: In talking with my wife after our third child (though it didn't come together until after our fifth), we realized there was so much that we didn't know when we embarked on the parenthood journey. It was her idea for me to create a handbook for dads that would teach them everything they needed to know about pregnancy -- from conception through the first month after birth. Basically a "what to expect when you're expecting" for men. Moreover, the book is designed to encourage men that they have what it takes to be the dads they desire to be and emphasize how important their role is in supporting, loving and honoring the mother of their child through this process.
There is a lot to digest in the book, but one of the final things passed along is, "Love is everything." How did that manifest itself for you in your experiences?
Watson: Love is a decision to do what is best for the object of its affection. It is not a feeling or emotion but a verb. It's a decision. Throughout relationships, pregnancy, birth and child-rearing, emotions will change. Sometimes I've felt overwhelmed with happiness and devotion toward my wife and our children. At other times, the worries and distractions of life alter my focus on what's truly important. Loving my children means providing, leading, protecting, nurturing and disciplining them, whether I feel like it or not. Loving my wife means cherishing, respecting and sacrificing self on days when that is enjoyable and days when I just don't feel like it. I have fallen short on many occasion, but "love" really is everything because it covers a multitude of wrongs and has allowed us to navigate the mountains and valleys we have faced so far.
You and Kirsten now have seven children. One common theme that seems to be stressed in the book is "be present," and along those lines, how are you balancing your growing family and the demands of playing in the NFL?
Watson: I never feel like I am home enough. Even though we always stay together as I move from city to city, and the NFL schedule resembles an 8-to-5 more than any other pro sport, I know that each moment away is one I cannot get back. Recently, as they've gotten older, I've been able to bring some of my children with me to different speaking engagements and appearances. These times are rich for me, as I am able to work, experience a new adventure and spend time with them simultaneously. As fathers, we must provide for our families, and sometimes that requires us to be out of the home. But part of providing is being emotionally present when you are home. Whether your schedule is seasonal, like mine, or more consistent, when daddy walks through the door, the fears and frustrations from work must stay outside the home. Many dads are home but their minds are thousands of miles away, and their children suffer from this disconnect. I wasn't always good in this department, but I made it a goal and have reaped in my relationship with my kids because of it.
2. What might have led Texans to stop pursuit of Caserio: Houston Texans Chairman and CEO Cal McNair said in a statement on Friday that once Houston was "made aware of certain terms in Nick's contract with the Patriots," he informed New England owner Robert Kraft that the club would no longer pursue Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio as general manager. That was a significant development for the Patriots and sparks an obvious question: What are those terms? One theory that makes the most sense is that Caserio perhaps agreed not to pursue any openings when he signed his last extension with the Patriots. I could envision the Patriots asking for that consideration from Caserio in exchange for longer-term security and an increased salary. If that is the case, one wonders if Caserio now regrets this based on the events of the past week.
3. Caserio's place with Patriots moving forward: One trickle-down effect of the Texans not pursuing Caserio for their GM position -- with the Patriots fighting to retain Caserio by initially filing tampering charges with the NFL on Wednesday before withdrawing them -- is how it might affect Caserio's desire to stay in New England long term. While I think Caserio is a pro's pro who has an uncanny ability to take emotion out of the equation (similar to coach Bill Belichick) -- and will smoothly transition back to his regular responsibilities in the short term -- developments over the past week seemed to reflect that Caserio might be motivated to move on from New England when contractual obligations are no longer an obstacle. (Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported that Caserio's contract expires after the 2020 NFL draft.) Along those lines, one of the things I was surprised to learn over the past week was that Caserio is listed as a client of influential agent Bob LaMonte. In the past, I believe Caserio has mostly represented himself in contract negotiations. LaMonte, who represents some of the biggest names in the business, also lists former Patriots character coach and current Texans executive vice president of team development Jack Easterby as a client.
4. Link to Schiano remains at Patriots camp: Bob Fraser, a longtime assistant under Greg Schiano at Rutgers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ohio State who reportedly was set to join New England's staff this year under Schiano, was with the club for mandatory minicamp and helping the staff. It is unknown if Fraser will be sticking around beyond the spring. Having first started as a coach in 1987, Fraser could potentially add a veteran-type perspective in a year when Belichick's defensive staff is younger than the norm.
5. Connection with Connolly helped create memorable Brady video: Tom Brady made a thoughtful gesture to send a personalized video to a student and Patriots fan from St. Louis who missed his high school graduation because he underwent a heart transplant, which sparked the question: How did Brady even know about it? The answer, it turns out, highlights how Brady maintains a strong connection with his former teammates. Former Patriots offensive lineman Dan Connolly, who is from the St. Louis area, had reached out to Brady on behalf of Shaun Patterson's family and SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital to make it happen.
6. Familiarity sparks trades for Patriots and Lions: The Patriots' attempted acquisition of third-year tight end Michael Roberts from the Detroit Lions on Thursday would have marked the seventh trade between the teams since former New England director of pro scouting Bob Quinn became Detroit's general manager in 2016. The trade was rescinded Friday.
In the other six deals, the Patriots:
Acquired LB Kyle Van Noy and seventh-round pick for sixth-round pick.
Acquired CB/core special-teamer Johnson Bademosi for sixth-round pick.
Traded a 2017 third-round pick (85) for 2017 third- and fourth-round picks (96, 124).
Traded 2018 second- and fourth-round picks (51, 117) for a 2018 second-round pick (43).
Traded a 2018 fourth-round pick (114) for a 2019 third-rounder.
Traded LB Jon Bostic for a conditional draft pick.
The Van Noy deal turned out to be a steal for New England, while Quinn probably feels best about trading up for the 2018 second-round pick and nabbing Kerryon Johnson.
7a. Did You Know: The six trades between the Patriots and Lions since Quinn became Detroit's general manager are tied with the Cleveland Browns for the most that New England has made with any team in that span. The Seattle Seahawks (5), Los Angeles Rams (4) and Philadelphia Eagles (4) are next on the list.
7b. Did You Know, Part II: The Patriots have made 47 trades over that same span (2016 to present). Hence the sometimes-mentioned nickname "Trader Bill" for Belichick.
8. Harris a possible Gaffney-type addition: ESPN Nation reporters each picked one surprise standout from spring practices, and though I went with linebacker Jamie Collins, a close second was receiver Maurice Harris. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Harris took a lot of quality reps alongside returnees Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett, and his versatility and sure hands had me thinking he has a chance to be a 2006-type Jabar Gaffney-esque addition if he stays healthy. Nothing too flashy but a solid option who can line up in multiple spots and seems to show an early aptitude to pick up a challenging offense. Harris was a restricted free agent and the Washington Redskins didn't tender him an offer, so the Patriots signed him to a one-year, $1 million deal.
9. Trade compensation sets low expectations for Roberts: The Patriots were prepared to ship a conditional seventh-round pick to the Lions in exchange for the third-year tight end, which reflected the low expectations that would have accompanied Roberts to New England before the trade was rescinded. (A source told ESPN the Patriots failed Roberts on his physical.) The pick that would have gone to Detroit was acquired from the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for safety Jordan Richards in August. So, there was no guarantee Roberts would have even made the roster, but with a thin depth chart, the Patriots figure to continue exploring various possibilities around the NFL. One scout familiar with Roberts (13 catches over the past two seasons) relayed that the third-year Toledo alum has flashed ability as a pass-catcher and blocker but has been inconsistent and might not have been viewed as the best culture fit in Detroit's hard-driving environment.
10. Coaches take vacation while rookies stick around: With the Patriots having completed all their spring practices (the final two days of voluntary work included a paintball trip and time at a movie theater), this is the time of year for coaches to take long-awaited vacations. Meanwhile, rookies are still around as the league's "transition" program for new players takes place at each individual club. Things should pick back up in mid-July around Gillette Stadium, with July 25 the projected first day of training camp practice.