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With help from Brady, Branch settling back in with Patriots

10.15.10 at 12:22 am ET
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Deion Branch (No. 84) and Tom Brady were close when Branch initially joined the Patriots, and the two have remained close. (AP)

FOXBORO — The pure emotion of the cross-country move has worn off. The new equipment has been broken in, the meet-and-greet with the new teammates has been completed and the contract has been re-done.

Now, the real work begins. As of Thursday night, Deion Branch now has three practice sessions with his new/old team under his belt. He said Thursday that, so far, everything has gone well.

Well enough to play on Sunday?

“That’s my job. I think physically, I am,” Branch said after practice on Thursday. “Mentally, as far as the preparation without the plays and stuff, that varies. But as far as me being healthy and being able to run around, to run for 60 minutes, I can do that. But I’m still going through the motions with a couple of plays here and there.”

One of the things that’s made the transition easier is the fact that there are some similarities between the offense now and what it was back before he left in 2006. Branch has been able to double-check the current playbook against the one the Patriots used before Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles.

His daughter found that game plan this past offseason.

“My daughter was like, rambling through the cabinets, down looking for little kids stuff and she was like, ‘Daddy, what is this book?’” Branch said. “It was all torn on the sides, I said, ‘Let me see this.’ And it was the game plan for the Super Bowl when we played in Jacksonville. And so, some of the stuff is in there. Everything is not the same, though. So, even if all the plays are in there, they changed the words, they changed a lot of it, so that’s what I’m learning now.

“But that was under [ex-offensive coordinator] Charlie [Weis] and some of the stuff is still the same. And some of the stuff I do remember looking at is still here. Some of it.”

And then, there’s the relationship with quarterback Tom Brady, which transcends the usual quarterback/receiver kinship. (Check out this video for proof of that.) The two spent a portion of media availability on Thursday deep in conversation at their adjoining lockers, and when Branch met the media, Brady spent a bulk of his time heckling the receiver about his dancing abilities.

“I didn’t think I’d be right next to him. But he was saving it for me,” Branch said with a laugh. “It’s a blessing just to be here. I’m honored.”

“[The chemistry] will always be there. I’ve thrown to him thousands and thousands of footballs,” Brady said. “I think you could pull Troy Brown out of the announcer booth, or whatever he’s doing these days in the media, and he could come in here, put some pads on and I’d be able to throw him the ball pretty consistently. The relationship I have with Deion on the field has always been a great one. There’s always been a natural chemistry. I hope that we’ll be able to rely back on that a little bit.”

It all adds up to one comfortable wide receiver.

“I’m comfortable. I think the emotions will kick in on Sunday,” Branch said. “I had my early emotions once the trade went through. I was excited to be back with the guys. I didn’t want it to turn into a big reunion-fest, like me and coach Belichick talked about. We still have to go to work, and I think that’s the biggest thing the guys are focused on — coming in and getting prepared for the Ravens.

“We’re not going to be sitting around hugging each other all day, about me being back. It’s time to go to work. And Sunday, once we get that first game under our belt, everything will be back to normal.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Charlie Weis, Deion Branch, Tom Brady

Baltimore’s new look is just so Raven

10.14.10 at 5:38 pm ET
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Joe Flacco isn’t about to look at film of last year’s playoff domination of the Patriots and conclude that Sunday will be just as easy.

After all, it’s not every game that begins with an 83-yard touchdown run from your lead back, a strip-sack under a minute later and another touchdown run moments after that to put you up 14-0 within the first two minutes.

“So far I’ve just concentrated on the games that they’ve played this year,” Flacco said this week. “I’ll look at last year’s playoff game and I’ll look at the first time we played them [last year]. Last year’s playoff game, that game was just such a different game and I don’t know how much you’re going to be able to get out of that just because the type of game it was and how quickly it developed in what we did, so the rest of the game was a little bit different than a normal game plan.”

Flacco, who was severly hobbled by a leg injury, had one of the most understated statistical lines ever by a playoff-winning quarterback. He attempted only 10 passes, completed just four and threw for just 34 yards and an interception. In other words, he didn’t need to exactly light it up to turn out the lights on the Pats.

“We’ll see how much we can get from that film, but the first time we played them there it was a pretty good match up and I’m sure we can grab some things from that tape,” added Flacco.

By the end of the first quarter, the Ravens were up, 24-0, before a stunned Gillette Stadium crowd that didn’t leave by the fourth quarter since they didn’t know what hit them.

“That’s going to be part of our study,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “And also the last year’s loss up there will be in our breakdown also.”

Yes, the two teams did play on Oct. 4, 2009 in Foxboro, with the Patriots coming out on top, 27-21. But it’s the 33-14 loss ended the Patriots season that left many wondering if the two teams were headed in different directions.

The Ravens answered quickly by acquiring receiver Anquan Boldin from Arizona on March 5, along with a 2010 fifth-round draft pick for Baltimore’s 2010 third-and fourth-round picks. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, Devin McCourty, joe flacco

Ravens Thursday injury report

10.14.10 at 5:09 pm ET
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The 4-1 Baltimore Ravens returned five players to practice on Thursday, including RB Ray Rice and NT Haloti Ngata. All five were still limited by various ailments as they prepare for Sunday’s showdown with the 3-1 Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Three players have already been ruled out of Sunday’s game.

Ravens Injury Report for Thursday:

OUT
T Jared Gaither (back)
LB Tavares Gooden (shoulder)
WR Donte Stallworth (foot)

Limited Participation
LB Paul Kruger (knee)
S Ken Hamlin (ankle)
TE Edgar Jones (thigh)
RB Le’Ron McClain (shoulder/knee)
DT Haloti Ngata (knee)
RB Ray Rice (knee)
CB Josh Wilson (thigh)

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Haloti Ngata, New England Patriots, NFL Injury report

Branch: I reworked my deal to be ‘around champions’

10.14.10 at 4:48 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch said Thursday that he renegotiated his deal so he could “be around champions.”

Speaking at an impromptu Q&A at his locker with reporters, Branch talked about his reported decision to reduce his base salary to $2.2 million for 2011, the final year of a six-year, $39 million contract he signed with Seattle in 2006. The original contract would have given Branch just under $6 million in base salary for the 2011 season. With his new deal, incentives could bring Branch’s salary to $4 million.

“I think it was just more so something that I was dealing with. It’s nothing bad at all,” Branch said. “I just always wanted to be around champions. It’s always good to have that feeling and to know what you’re surrounded with.

“I think both parties agreed on something and we worked it out,” Branch added. “You got to know what you’re doing before, and I know my purpose and why I did it, you know, and that’s the most important thing.”

Read More: Deion Branch,

Sanders joins Taylor on Pats injury list

10.14.10 at 4:21 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Safety James Sanders joined running back Fred Taylor on the Patriots’ injury report on Thursday as he was limited with a hamstring injury. Taylor was again the only player to miss Patriots practice with a toe injury. The team continued its preparations for the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at Gillette Stadium with a longer-than-usual practice in shells and shorts on the upper practice fields outside Gillette.

Patriots Injury Report for Thursday:

Did Not Practice

RB Fred Taylor (toe)

Limited Participation

S James Sanders (hamstring)

Full Participation

QB Tom Brady (right shoulder)

CB Terrence Wheatley (foot)

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Fred Taylor, James Sanders, New England Patriots

Brady speaks with SIRIUS XM on Branch, Moss and the labor situation

10.14.10 at 1:13 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady went on SIRIUS XM’s Mad Dog Radio Wednesday morning and talked about the addition of Deion Branch, the trade of Randy Moss and the possibility of playing an 18-game season.

On the departure of Randy Moss:
Host/Gary Williams: “How can you be a better football team without [Randy Moss]?”

Tom Brady: “Well, I think that just remains to be seen. I mean, I don’t think you take away great players and think all of a sudden that your team’s going to be better. I think there are things that are going to be different and we’re going to have to find maybe some different ways, guys’ll have different opportunities and I think all the guys we have on the roster are looking forward for those opportunities. It’s really been the nature of what I’ve really witnessed in this era of football with free agency and the salary cap and so much player movement. You think every year, ‘Man, how are we going to be better? We lost this guy or we lost this guy.’ Ultimately you’ve got to go out there and perform and the guys that are out there on the field have to take advantage of those chances that they get. We’ve got 12 football games [left] in the regular season, none of them are bigger than the one we’ve got this week and hopefully we go out there and put together a great game. And I think all the guys are excited about that chance.”
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Read More: Tom Brady,

Billick on D&C: ‘Wouldn’t bet against Ravens’

10.14.10 at 12:45 pm ET
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Brian Billick feels that life will get tougher for Wes Welker without Randy Moss (AP)

Brian Billick feels that life will get tougher for Wes Welker without Randy Moss (AP)

Former Ravens head coach and current Foxsports.com and NFL Network correspondent Brian Billick joined Dennis & Callahan this morning to discuss varying topics around the NFL, focusing largely on the Patriots and Ravens upcoming matchup, as well as the Randy Moss trade and how it shakes up the Patriot offense.

“I guarantee Tom Brady and Wes Welker‘s life just got a lot more difficult because they don’t have that vertical stretch,” Billick said.  “Doesn’t mean that they can’t get it, that they can’t manufacture it, that they won’t have many other ways to move the ball.”

To hear the entire interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

If you were still coaching the Ravens, which is a bigger disadvantage for you: The Patriots coming off of a bye week? The Patriot offense evolving without Randy Moss, something no one has seen before? Or you have their undivided attention after the beat down in the playoffs last year?

Oh boy, choice D – all of the above. Yeah, you worry about the bye week in terms of obviously Bill Belichick, Tom Brady adapting themselves. The Ravens obviously a tall task for them. I’m going to be very interested in seeing the approach they take without a Randy Moss, you know. And, you know, that’s been done add him for an item in terms of good thing, bad thing; should they have gotten rid of him or not? Sitting with all those draft choices will look awful good in April, but right now to not have the vertical stretch that they had with a Randy Moss, Wes Welker’s life just got a whole lot more difficult.

Going back to the bye week, is the thing you want most as a head coach more time to prepare for an opponent? Taking the 10 to 12 days to prepare instead of the usual three to four?

Well you got to be careful how you use the bye week, because you can do too much. You’d like for it to be a little bit later, but it is when it is and you’ve got to get healthy. But a game plan can get stale; I’ve always believed that you’ve got to careful about how you want to introduce the next game plan. I mean the inclination is, ‘Hey, let’s put it in the week before. Let’s really double up and practice,’ kind of like you do for a Super Bowl. But that can be too much during the course of a season. You might steal an extra day, but you don’t want to do a whole lot, particularly with the players, beyond that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brian Billick, Randy Moss, Ray Lewis
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