Branch returns, wants to retire a Patriot


Branch returns, wants to retire a Patriot

FOXBORO -- Everything happens for a reason.
For Deion Branch, the reason he's still in New England is because he wants to be here.
That would explain why his personal space inside the Patriots locker room at Gillette Stadium has remained untouched each time he's been cut this season.
Branch re-signed with New England earlier this week, after Donte' Stallworth joined Julian Edelman on injured reserve. It marks the second time that Branch signed with the team this season, after being released in August, then again in mid-November.
He last played in Week 10, on Nov. 11, against the Buffalo Bills, and had four catches for 30 yards. it was the fifth straight game he had played while dealing with a hamstring injury. It's an injury that he took time to rehab over the last four weeks that he's been away from the team.
But his "return" to the Patriots this week wasn't necessarily earth-shattering news.
Branch stood in front of his locker after Thursday's practice, and it felt like Groundhog Day. Everyone had seen this scene before.
"All my guys just walked past my locker like nothing ever happened," said Branch with a smile on face. "So I didn't get any hugs or anything like that. Just another day, man."
It's as if the veteran receiver never left, either time he was released. Branch refused to come out and discuss details of his conversations with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, but it was clear that he would be returning at some point -- both times he was cut -- based on the simple fact that his personal belongings -- clothes, equipment, framed pictures -- all remained in his locker, which continued to don the nameplate, "Deion Branch 84" above it.
"It's part of the business," said Branch. "You understand certain things and this is what happens. But at the same time, you know what your goals are. I know it's important, the team knows it's important. We sit down every time with things like this, whether it's me or someone else. Coach Belichick and this organization is straightforward. He lets you know what's what."
But this type of "business" is tough to come by in a professional sports world that's surrounded by large contracts, personal desires, and cold-blooded roster moves.
Branch is an established NFL veteran. He doesn't have to put up with this.
Still, he does. He wants to. Everything happens for a reason, he says.
His reason is that he has everything he ever could want in New England. He stays because he wants to be here. And he's willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
"This is where I want to be," said Branch. "Someone else might be different. I can only speak for myself. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to retire. So that kind of makes things a lot easier.
"I'm stepping in as if I never left. I'm here to just do whatever they need me to do, whatever Tom Brady needs me to do on the offense, whatever my team needs me to do. That's my job, and that's what I'm going to do.
"I'm a very blessed individual," added Branch. "I'm very thankful."

Tom Brady mum on hand injury, practice status


Tom Brady mum on hand injury, practice status

FOXBORO — Tom Brady basically told the media to talk to the hand.

More specifically, Brady replied, “I’m not talking about that” to each question about his right hand injury in Friday’s press conference.

Brady stood at the podium wearing the very red gloves that have been captured in pre-practice photos the last two days. Asked why he was wearing them indoors, Brady replied, “I’ve worn them before.” 

The five-time Super Bowl champion was also mum on whether or not he participated in practice Friday, sharing only that he was “out there,” which adds no clarification given that he was on the field before Thursday’s practice but did not participate. 

Brady is believed to have suffered the injury in Wednesday’s practice. Friday’s practice report will be released this afternoon. 

Dion Lewis: 'Nobody's really worried' about Tom Brady


Dion Lewis: 'Nobody's really worried' about Tom Brady

James White put it perfectly on Thursday. When asked if he was the one who injured Tom Brady's hand in Wednesday's practice, the running back replied, "The world may never know."

During an interview with NFL Network, another Patriots running back said you can't put Brady's injury on him.

"Not me," said DIon Lewis. "No, it wasn't me . . . I actually didn't see it happen, but from when I talked to other guys, I knew he was gonna be oaky. It's Tom, so regardless of any situation he's put in, he's going to make sure he's out there game day. Nobody's really worried."

That seems to be the general consensus inside the Patriots locker room. They're all expecting Brady to play. And when they're asked about how he's looked, their answers have ranged from evasive to joking about Brady's handsomeness

The focus, as Lewis explained, isn't so much on the health of their quarterback but rather the game plan they're putting in place to take on the top defense in the AFC. 

"We have a great idea," Lewis said, "of what we think we can do to have success against this defense . . . We just gotta be on point every play. We don't got plays to give away."

Might that mean a load of two-back or two-tight end sets to keep Jacksonville's base personnel on the field? Might that mean plenty of work in the screen game, as Jerod Mayo suggested on this week's Quick Slants the Podcast? Might that mean a heavy dose of Rob Gronkowski?

There are soft spots in the Jaguars defense, as talented as it is, but it will probably require Brady being able to grip a football for the Patriots to exploit them. His teammates seem confident he'll be able to do that.