Branch (toe) pops up on Patriots injury report after getting stepped on

Branch (toe) pops up on Patriots injury report after getting stepped on

HOUSTON -- Alan Branch has been one of the most consistent players on the Patriots defense throughout the course of the 2016 season. Planted in the middle of Bill Belichick's defensive line, he's been a force against opposing running games in executing the two-gapping technique that the team employs. 

With a matchup against Atlanta's well-balanced offensive attack on tap, he'll play a vital role once again, which is why his appearance on the Patriots injury report Wednesday raised an eyebrow.

The 6-foot-5, 350-pounder was limited in the team's first practice of the week with a toe issue, which he said was the result of getting stepped on. He's feeling good, he explained, which is probably a relief for the Patriots coaching staff.

Branch, 32, has played in 61.2 percent of the defensive snaps this season, which is the highest percentage of his career since 2011, when he played 65.4 percent for the Seahawks. His 723 snaps played this season, a contract year for him, are the most of his career.

"Alan has done a great job for us, and along with his play which is certainly significant, one of the things that’s really been impressive about him has been his play time," Belichick said last week. "So in addition to his overall production he’s played a lot more than he has in quite a while in terms of number of plays.

"From a production standpoint he’s got, again, quite a few tackles, tackles for loss. It’s hard to measure the disruptive plays, but he’s certainly got his share of those. He’s played very well for us in the running game. He’s given us a presence in the pass rush of a long, physical player in the middle. That’s all been really good, and he’s played more plays so all of that is good." 

Along with Branch, Martellus Bennett (knee), Nate Ebner (concussion), Dont'a Hightower (shoulder), Chris Hogan (thigh) and Malcolm Mitchell (knee) were all limited in Wednesday's practice. 

For the Falcons, Julio Jones (toe) was limited Wednesday. Center Alex Mack, who's expected to square off with Branch quite a bit on Sunday, was also limited with a fibula injury.

David Harris retires after 11 seasons with Jets, Patriots

File Photo

David Harris retires after 11 seasons with Jets, Patriots

David Harris's 11-year run in the NFL has come to an end. 

On Friday, the linebacker announced his retirement from the game of football after spending 10 seasons with the Jets and one with the Patriots. 

The Jets drafted Harris with the 47th pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, he racked up 5 sacks and 127 total tackles. His breakout rookie season was an clear indication of the solid player he would become over the course of his career. 

Although he neither won a Super Bowl, nor made it to a Pro Bowl, the linebacker served as a focal point on a Rex Ryan defense that appeared in two AFC Championships in 2010 and 2011. 

When he was released in 2017, the 34-year-old made a career choice to sign with the Patriots to compete for a Super Bowl.

He didn't go out a champion, but a trip to the Super Bowl was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for one of the most underrated linebackers of the past decade. 



What was Odell Beckham Jr. telling Kyrie Irving?

AP Photo

What was Odell Beckham Jr. telling Kyrie Irving?

Admittedly, the audio is poor but the idea is no less intriguing.

Was Odell Beckham Jr. telling Kyrie Irving at NBA All-Star Weekend that he's trying to go to the Patriots? Or to Boston? Or New England? 

It's 23 seconds into the video below: 

Isaiah Houde of USA TODAY's PatriotsWire interprets it as: "You went to the Celtics and I’m trying to go to New England."

Beckham has had a few Instagram posts about Brady recently, including an exchange of rap lyrics back in December. 


A post shared by Odell Beckham Jr (@obj) on

Unless there's a trade between the Patriots and Giants, Beckham, 25, the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, won't be free to join Kyrie in New England - or was it Boston? - until the four-year deal he signed in 2014 ends after this season. Oh, and as he enters that 2019 season, Tom Brady will be 42.