WR Deion Branch returns to Patriots - again

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 13, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - NOVERMBER 21: Deion Branch of the New England Patriots reacts after teammate in the second half against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
One week into his second round of unemployment this season, Deion Branch had just picked his daughter up at school when she wondered why he had so much free time. He broke the news to 7-year-old D'Ahni. ''She said, `Dad, what happened? Why aren't you playing?''' the New England Patriots wide receiver said Thursday. ''I said, `Baby, daddy can't play right now. I don't have a job.' And she said, `aw, you'll get one.' And I said, `I know, baby.''' It's almost as if she had sat in during her father's conversation with coach Bill Belichick. Perhaps Belichick told him he'd return at some point? ''I'll keep that between us,'' Branch said with a smile and a laugh, one day after re-signing. Branch was released on Nov. 17 and missed the past four games. But the nameplate at his locker, ''Deion Branch 84,'' remained - just as it did for the first two 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 photo was displayed on the top shelf and football gloves hung from a bar, the 11-year veteran said he wants to retire as a Patriot. He said he'll do whatever the team needs from him, starting Sunday night when the Patriots (10-3), winners of seven straight, host the San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) in a meeting of Super Bowl contenders. It's been nearly seven years since Branch was named MVP of the Super Bowl after catching 11 passes in a 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. ''It was a long time ago,'' he said, ''but that stuff is in the past. It's behind us. I think we all need to be grateful, be thankful just to play the game that we play. I'm thankful. I seize every moment that I get. I'm just glad to be back.'' The Patriots drafted him in 2002 and he led them with 78 catches, 998 yards receiving and five touchdown catches in 2005. But he was involved in a contract dispute and traded to the Seattle Seahawks after the first game in 2006. He remained there until being traded back to New England after the fourth game in 2010. He had 35 catches for the Patriots that year and 51 last year. The Patriots let him go again, this time as a free agent on March 13. But 17 days later he was back, signing a one-year contract. Before his latest release, Branch was bothered by a hamstring injury. He did rehabilitation and said 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 said. ''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 might have brought Branch back even if 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. Now he's the one rehabbing. ''There's no rush, so I want to make sure that I get it back right,'' Stallworth said, standing near a removable boot on the floor of his locker stall. Stallworth knows the drill, of course. He also has 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 Cleveland Browns for 2008 and was suspended for the 2009 season after a car he was driving struck and killed a pedestrian in South Florida that March. Stallworth spent 24 days in jail for a DUI manslaughter conviction. He played for Baltimore in 2010 and Washington in 2011 and signed with the Patriots last March. But they released him on Aug. 27, just four days before Branch was cut. ''He's one of my guys,'' Branch said. ''We came in the draft class together.'' On Thursday, Branch returned to work as if, it almost seemed, he had never left. ''Nothing's changed,'' he said. ''All the guys just walked past my locker like nothing ever happened, so I didn't get any hugs, just `Hey, how you doing? What's up?''' With or without Branch, the Patriots have kept winning throughout the past decade. ''This is where I want to be. This is where I want to retire,'' he said. ''So that kind of makes everything a lot easier.'' Especially now that he has a shot at another championship, as long as the Patriots keep him. ''That's what I hope,'' he said. Surely, D'Ahni hopes the same thing. --- Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: K-State players storm student section after big win

Tony Dungy coaches his way into Canton

Top eight takeaways from NFL Honors awards

Report: Austin Rivers out 4-6 weeks with broken hand

Brett Favre Hall of Fame discussion took less than 10 seconds

WATCH: Pop wishes Kobe well in heartfelt message

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Eric Berry named NFL Comeback Player of the Year

Cam Newton to be named NFL MVP

Ezekiel Elliott hung out with Jim Brown

Rickie Fowler taunted by fans over his ex-girlfriend

Roger Goodell speaks about future of Pro Bowl in annual address

Mike Krzyzewski provides an update on his health

Another star confirmed for Super Bowl 50 halftime show

WATCH: Wayne Simmonds loses his cool, earns match penalty

Winners and losers from 2016 Hall of Fame vote

Brett Favre, Tony Dungy headline Hall of Fame Class of 2016

Terrell Owens says he was not elected to Hall of Fame

Bruins prospect hit in throat with puck, taken to hospital

WATCH: Mavs rookie laughed at for trash talking Spurs bench

Norris Cole has No. 30 retired with LeBron James, New Orleans Pelicans in attendance

Three keys to victory for the Broncos in Super Bowl 50

Torrey Smith: ‘This is probably the best offense’ for Kaepernick

Byron Scott thought D’Angelo Russell would be further along

Under-the-radar Super Bowl 50 matchups

Is Tim Lincecum's run with the San Francisco Giants done?

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in playoff hunt

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker