Page last updated on Mon Apr 23 01:32:48 EDT 2018
Tue, 18 Dec 2012 01:30 AM EST

Deion Branch was released on November 17 and missed the past 4 games. But the nameplate at his locker, ”Deion Branch 84,” remained – just as it did for the 1st 2 games of the season after he was cut shortly before it began. He was back for Game 3.

Standing before the locker where a family photograph was displayed on top shelf and football gloves hung from a bar, the 11-year vet claimed he wants to retire as a Patriot. He revealed he’ll do whatever the team needs from him.

It’s been almost 7 years since Branch was named MVP of the Super Bowl after catching 11 passes in a 24-21 win over the Eagles.

”It was a long while ago,” he announced, ”but that stuff is the past. It’s behind us. I think we all need to be thankful, be grateful just to play the game that we play. I’m grateful. I seize every moment that I get. I’m just glad to be back.”

The New England Patriots drafted him in 2002 and he led them with 78 catches, 998 yards receiving and 5 touchdown catches in 2005. But he was involved in a contract dispute and traded to the Seahawks after the 1st game in 2006. He stayed there until being traded back to New England after the 4th game in 2010. He had 35 catches for the Patriots that year and 51 last year.

The New England Patriots let him go again, this time as a free agent on March 13. But 17 days later he was back, signing a 1-year contract. Before his recent release, Branch was worried by a hamstring injury. He probably did rehabilitation and asserted he feels OK now. But would he have been re-signed if wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth hadn’t gone on injured reserve this week?

”I don’t know,” he revealed. ”Everything happens for a reason and with guys that are patient, stuff happens for them. I’m a patient guy.”

The Patriots signed Stallworth after wide receiver Julian Edelman went on injured reserve Dec. 4. Belichick may have brought Branch back regardless of whether Stallworth were healthy. But he was hurt on a 63-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady, his only catch in his only game of the season. Vegas odds

Now he is the one rehabbing.

”There’s no rush, so I’d like to ensure that I get it back right,” Stallworth declared, standing near a removable boot on the floor of his locker stall.

Stallworth knows the drill, of course. He has also got been back and forth with the Patriots several times. He caught 46 passes for the 2007 team that was 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants. Then he signed as a free agent with the Browns for 2008 and was suspended for the 2009 season after an car he was driving struck and killed a pedestrian in South Florida that March.

He played for Baltimore Ravens in 2010 and Redskins in 2011 and signed with the Patriots last March. But they released him on August. 27, just 4 days before Branch was cut.

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