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Alan Branch, Chandler Jones not spotted at Patriots practice

10.30.14 at 12:17 pm ET
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Alan Branch could provide depth for a New England defensive line that has been thinned by injury. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Alan Branch could provide depth for a New England defensive line that has been thinned by injury. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

One day after making his Patriots’ debut on the practice field, defensive tackle Alan Branch was not spotted at the start of Patriots practice, according to multiple reports.

Branch, a defensive lineman, officially signed on Wednesday morning — this after being spotted in the Patriots locker room last week. According to Pro Football Talk, Branch had his pending DUI case resolved, avoiding potential suspension by the NFL under the new substance abuse policy. Branch did not appear at all on Wednesday’s official injury report released by the team.

Also missing was Chandler Jones, out indefinitely with a hip injury. Jones has not practiced since injuring his hip against the Jets on Oct. 16.

Fellow newcomer Jonathan Casillas, a linebacker, was again at practice as he tries to assimilate the Patriots defensive system in time to be useful against the Broncos this Sunday. He was traded to the Patriots from the Buccaneers Tuesday at the trade deadline.

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Read More: Alan Branch, chandler jones, Denver Broncos, Jonathan Casillas

Tom Brady earns AFC offensive player of month award

10.30.14 at 11:35 am ET
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Tom Brady had his best game of the season in Sunday's win over the Bears. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady had his best game of the season in Sunday’s win over the Bears. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO -€“ From the ruins of September came the resurgence of October for Tom Brady.

The Patriots quarterback Thursday was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October. After going 2-2 in September and looking like a beaten down quarterback in a 41-14 loss in Kansas City, Brady has responded with one of the best four-game stretches of his career.

Brady led the Pariots to a 4-0 record in the month of October and completed 100 of 144 passes for 1,268 yards with 14 touchdowns, 0 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 129.1. Brady’€™s 14 touchdowns are tied for first with Peyton Manning during October and Brady is the only starting quarterback that has not thrown an interception during the month.

The Patriots entered the month of October with the 29th ranked offense in the NFL and under Brady’€™s guidance, the team climbed to No. 10. Brady’€™s play in the month of October also helped the 24th-ranked scoring offense ascend to the third-ranked scoring offense entering November.

It is the seventh time overall that Brady has earned an AFC Player of the Month honor. It is Brady’€™s first since he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month for December/January in 2011.

Brady had two 300-yard games in October and threw two or more touchdowns in all four wins, including four in the win at Buffalo on Oct. 12 when he finished 27-of-37 for 361 yards and five when he finished 30-of-35 for 354 yards in the 51-23 win over Chicago last Sunday.

Brady has 2,059 passing yards and 18 touchdowns so far in 2014 and is on pace to finished with 4,118 passing yards and 36 touchdowns.

Read More: AFC offensive player of month, New England Patriots, Tom Brady,

Tom Brady explains his recent rush to embrace social media

10.30.14 at 11:22 am ET
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Tom Brady, social media All-Pro?

The quarterback has been pretty active on Facebook over the last few months, adding smiling photos when the Patriots win, as well as tossing in an occasional Photoshop picture and a shout-out to other Boston area teams. Brady acknowledged Wednesday he’s been behind the curve when it comes to social media, but he certainly appears to be making up for lost time.

“œI have a great friend of mine, Ben, who helps me out with it,” he said. “He’€™s done a great job.

“Social media …€” I’€™m kind of an old school. I’€™ve been very reluctant over the years. I think over the last couple of months, we’€™ve tried to show the fans that there may be some fun pictures to share and some other things that have been a part of my life. I think it’€™s fun for the fans. Hopefully they enjoy it. I’€™ve enjoyed kind of opening up a little bit, relaxing about some things about me that I probably wouldn’€™t have in the past.”

Wes Welker says he knew Tom Brady would bounce back from sluggish start

10.30.14 at 5:30 am ET
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Wes Welker hasn't been surprised old friend Tom Brady has bounced back from a rough start. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Wes Welker hasn’t been surprised old friend Tom Brady has bounced back from a rough start. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Count Wes Welker among those who haven’t been surprised by Tom Brady‘s recent renaissance.

Welker, who played with Brady and the Patriots from 2007-12 before joining the Broncos, still maintains a friendship with the New England quarterback.

“I’m not surprised at all,” the Denver receiver said Wednesday. “I’ve seen it 100 times there, where it’s one bad week and everything’s falling apart … it’s one week and you can never really judge anything off that, and you knew they were going to bounce back from it.”

Welker said he and Brady “text back and forth” on occasion during the season, but it’s never really about football. (“It’s just really how he’s doing, the family and how my wife’s doing and stuff like that,” he said.) He said there probably won’t be much communication this week.

“This isn’t really a friend week this week,” he said. “So I don’t think so.”

Welker is in the second year of a two-year contract he signed with Denver in the spring of 2013, and has 19 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown this season with the Broncos. It represents a down year for the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder, who went from 118 catches in his final season with the Patriots (2012) to 73 last year, to now being on pace for roughly 40 this season.

However, he sounds OK with it, if that means more wins for Denver.

“Yeah it’s definitely been different, for sure,” he acknowledged. “Would I want the ball more? Yes. As long as we’re winning games and we’re being productive on offense and doing those things, I’m good with however we get that done.

“It’s kind of strange being … I feel like the weak link of our offense. [But] if I’m the weak link, we’re going to be OK. I’m excited about the guys we have and the camaraderie that we have together and really pulling for each other.”

He said he’s placing no added pressure on quarterback Peyton Manning to get him the ball Sunday because he’s going up against his old team.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Wes Welker,

Mike Petraglia, Chris Price preview 16th edition of Tom Brady-Peyton Manning and what it all means

10.29.14 at 6:40 pm ET
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FOXBORO —’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price preview the big showdown between the 6-1 Denver Broncos and the 6-2 New England Patriots and the 16th edition in the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry. Brady holds a 10-5 lead in the series and had won the last four meetings before losing to Manning in the AFC championship last January in Denver. The two met in an epic contest last year at Gillette Stadium, when the Broncos raced out to a 24-0 halftime lead, only to see Brady and the Patriots execute a miracle comeback and win, 34-31, in overtime on field goal in the last minute.

Read More: Chris Price, Denver Broncos, Mike Petraglia, New England Patriots

Dominique Easley, Cameron Fleming among 4 limited at Patriots practice Wednesday

10.29.14 at 4:41 pm ET
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Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

FOXBORO — The Patriots are getting healthier.

After having 12 players listed as having injuries last week at this time, the Patriots now only list eight players as they get set to face the Broncos Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Dominique Easley (knee), Nate Ebner (finger), Cameron Fleming (finger) and Matthew Slater (shoulder) were all limited in Wednesday’s practice. Easley and Slater played in last Sunday’s game against the Bears after being listed as questionable, while Ebner and Fleming have been out since Week 4 against Kansas City.

Offensive linemen Dan Connolly and Bryan Stork have been removed from the injury report after being questionable going into last Sunday’s game with concussions.

Once again, Chandler Jones (hip) was the only player to miss practice, which isn’t a surprise as he is expected to miss roughly six weeks.

Here is the complete practice report:

Did not practice

DE Chandler Jones (hip)

Limited participation

S Nate Ebner (finger)
DL Dominique Easley (knee)
OL Cameron Fleming (finger)
WR Matthew Slater (shoulder)

Full participation

QB Tom Brady (ankle)
CB Brandon Browner (ankle)
LB Dont’a Hightower (knee)

Read More: Patriots injury report,

Tough enough: Even into their 30s, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning remain two of NFL’s most durable quarterbacks

10.29.14 at 4:20 pm ET
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Despite their ages, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning remains two of the NFL's most durable quarterbacks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Despite their ages, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning remains two of the NFL’s most durable quarterbacks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — When you’re talking about football toughness, it’s easy to overlook the quarterback position.

They’re the ones who draw the multimillion dollar deals, marry the supermodels and get too much of the credit when their team wins and too much of the blame when they lose.

But at the same time, they remain some of the toughest players on the roster. And on Sunday, two of the most durable quarterbacks in the recent history of the game will do battle when Tom Brady and Peyton Manning meet for the 16th time in their careers at Gillette Stadium.

“I think really to play in the National Football League, you have to be tough. It’s a tough way to earn a living,” said Denver coach John Fox. “In my opinion, [the quarterbacks] earn every penny.”

Brady and Manning can be measured using a wide variety of metrics, but one thing that certainly sets them apart from their contemporaries is their durability. Brady had started 88 consecutive games, fourth-best among current NFL quarterbacks. (By way of comparison, Eli Manning is first overall with 158 straight games played, all of them starts. San Diego’s Philip Rivers is second with 137 straight games played, while Baltimore’s Joe Flacco is third with 104 straight games played.)

Before he sat out the entire 2011 season following neck surgery, Manning had a consecutive start streak of 227 games (including the postseason), one that dated back to his rookie year of 1998.

When talking about durability on Wednesday, both referenced Brett Favre, who started 297 straight games over 19 seasons.

“His toughness and his durability [have] been similar to Brett Favre,” Brady said of Manning, who has started 43 straight games with the Broncos since e took over as the starter prior to the 2012 season.

“That’€™s probably why he’€™s been breaking all those records because he’€™s been so consistent and durable [and] dependable for his team,” Brady added. “He’€™s off to another great start this year. He does everything right. I don’€™t know what more else I can say about him as a player. It means a lot to him. Obviously, he’€™s got great leadership, and that’€™s what it takes at the quarterback position.”

As for Manning, his durability comes down to a simple philosophy.

“Certainly, I think quarterback’s job — first and foremost — is to be out there,” Manning said on a conference call Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve always wanted to be there.

“I’ve always had great respect for Favre’s consecutive start streak because he was always there. He played hurt and had great toughness and durability. I think Eli holds the longest streak now, which speaks to his [durability],” he added. “That was always one I was always kind of proud of — making all those starts until I got injured. That was kind of difficult, because I couldn’t always be there. I wanted to get back out there. I’ve been pleased I was able to be there for these two and a half years.”

Despite the fact that Brady was sidelined for most all of the 2008 season because of a knee injury he suffered in the regular season opener, Manning views Brady through the same lens.

“Brady is always there,” Manning said of the New England quarterback. “He’s always there. He had his long season where he was injured [in the first half] of the first game of the season, I think. I know I’ve talked to him. I know that was difficult for him for a lot of those same reasons. He couldn’t be there to help his team. Now, he’s been back, and he’s been playing like Tom Brady does.

“That’s one of his real strengths — always answering the bell.”

Read More: Brett Favre, John Fox, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady
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