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Branch’s absence from practice fuels trade speculation

10.11.10 at 8:26 pm ET
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Deion Branch spent four seasons with the Patriots. (AP)

Time to crank up those Deion Branch trade rumors again.

The former Patriot and current Seattle wide receiver missed Monday’s practice to take a personal day off, according to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who said the expectation is that Branch will be with the team Wednesday when the Seahawks begin game planning for Sunday’s game against Chicago.

But even an excused absence is enough to raise eyebrows when it comes to the 5-foot-9, 193-pound Branch, who has been the subject of trade rumors that could bring him back to New England sooner rather than later.

Branch, who was a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2002 out of Louisville, spent the first four years of his career with New England and developed a tight bond with quarterback Tom Brady. (He had 213 catches in four seasons in New England, and finished Super Bowl XXXIX with 11 catches to take home MVP honors in the Patriots’ win over Philadelphia.)

Branch and the Patriots became embroiled in a contract dispute, and New England shipped Branch to Seattle for a first-round pick in 2006. However, the recent trade of Randy Moss to the Vikings could open up a slot for Branch to return to the Patriots.

The 31-year-old has 13 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown through four games with the Seahawks this season.

Branch was at Louisville over the weekend — his No. 9 jersey was placed in the Ring of Honor before the second quarter of Saturday’s 56-0 blowout victory over Memphis. He was asked by the Louisville Courier-Journal about his NFL future.

“I’m going to leave that to the people that handle that,” Branch said. “Right now I’m still a Seattle Seahawk, and whatever happens happens.”

Read More: Deion Branch, Pete Carroll, Randy Moss, Tom Brady

Bill Belichick on The Big Show: Trading Randy Moss ‘best thing to do’

10.11.10 at 6:01 pm ET
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Bill Belichick

Patriots coach Bill Belichick made his weekly appearance on The Big Show on Monday afternoon, and the main topic of discussion was the Randy Moss trade and reports of an altercation between Moss and Tom Brady.

Following is a transcript of the part of the interview dealing with the Moss situation, plus highlights from the rest of the conversation. To hear the interview, visit The Big Show audio on demand page.

Charley Casserly is claiming there was some type of altercation between Brady and Moss. Did any of this ever happen?

It’s news to me.

Have you talked to Brady or anybody?

No.

Wouldn’t you know if something like that happened, if somebody had to be separated?

Again, it’s news to me.

You said last week that it was a football decision of trading away Randy Moss. You’ve always said that you make decisions based on making this a better football. How is this a better football team now than it was last week?

Well, as I said, I think you take a lot of things into consideration. When you just put it all together, that’s kind of where it came out. It’s complicated, long, but in the end, I just felt that was the best thing to do.

How long was it in the works?

What’s that?

The trade for Randy.

I don’t know. I never personally talked to [the Vikings]. They had shown some interest a long time ago. And it kind of came up a little more recently, so we followed through on it.

With the acquisition of more talent on offense, the tight ends and [Brandon] Tate, did that make it possible for this to happen? You have more guys to throw the ball to?

It might have been a little bit of a factor. Again, I think it was just the whole combination of things. You know, our team and some individuals and Randy, Randy’s situation. I have a good relationship with Randy, but just when the whole thing was put together, talking to him, I just felt like this was the way to go.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Randy Moss, Tom Brady,

Vince Wilfork on D&C: Moss trade all business

10.11.10 at 2:23 pm ET
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Vince Wilfork

Vince Wilfork

Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork joined the Dale & Holley show Monday morning to talk about his relationship with Randy Moss and the business aspect of being a Patriot.

Wilfork talked about Moss as a great friend of his who he hangs out with in the offseason in Florida. “[Everybody in] the locker room loved him. There aren’t too many people that don’t like him.”

He also emphasized that it was just another example of business being business with the Patriots and the NFL in general. “Sometimes you forget about the business part of it. But that’s all it was about it. No hard feelings we are just going to keep moving.”

Below are the highlights from the conversation. To hear the full interview, visit the Dale & Holley show audio on demand page.

On his relationship with Moss:

Just coming over and being the first new year and I heard he [Moss] had a place down in Florida and heard good things from good people. We hit it off from day one, that’s a friendship that is going to last forever. I don’t think that will change just because he’s not a Patriot; I’ve seen people come and go all the time but that’s one guy that is really a great person, great athlete, great friend, great teammate whatever you want to say, he’s a great dude. We just hit off from day one and we’ve been kicking it ever since.

On surprises about Moss when he came to the Patriots:

The type of  guy he [Moss] is, sometimes the media can be harsh on people, sometimes the media can glorify people. I think there becomes a lot of that and I think that with losing comes a lot of that. If you lose ball games and you lose a lot, you start to see different personalities coming out in the locker room. I never had a problem or anything, we never had a problem with him over here. Like I said, he’s a great teammate, a great person. [Everybody] in the locker room loved him. There aren’t too many people that do not like him.

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Read More: Randy Moss, Vince Wilfork,

More from Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio

10.11.10 at 1:08 pm ET
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In addition to weighing in on Randy Moss and whether or not the playbook might change now that he’s gone, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and director of pro personnel Nick Caserio talked about a few other things during a Monday afternoon conference call.

Belichick said he didn’t really watch much football this weekend, instead spending time with his kids. (One reader says he spotted him at a Canterbury-Suffield football game.)

On his impressions of how things look this year in the NFL:
“I’d say like usual in the NFL, pretty much anything can happen any week,” Belichick said. “Team you might expect to win don’t win. Teams you might not expect to win win and win big. A lot of real close, competitive games come down to the last possession, the last play, or one key play right at the end of the game. It looks very, very competitive to me, all the way across the board.”

How much has the Ravens loss stayed with you?
“I think any time your seasons ends, you remember that game–whether it’s the Giants game, the Indianapolis game, the Baltimore game. … I wouldn’t say not any different than the other games I mentioned. The Denver game, all those games,” Belichick said. “The last one, those are the ones you kind of remember. I think we’ve moved on from all those and now we have a chance to play that team again. It’s a new matchup, a new game, but it’ll be … hopefully, we can learn from some of the things that happened in that game.”

As for Caserio, he was asked about Logan Mankins: “There’s nothing to update on that front.” He was also questioned about the possibility of making a trade for either disgruntled San Diego wide receiver Vincent Jackson or former Patriot Deion Branch.

”I would say any conversations we have about players, we keep internally,” he said. “I would say they’re continually ongoing. We look at a lot of players this time of year. Whether it’s players who are on the street, players who are available, whatever means or mechanism there is to improve our football team, we’ll explore, that’s how we approach it. I would say what we’re going today, is not different than we do at any point during the year.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Deion Branch, Nick Caserio, Vincent Jackson

Brandon Meriweather on D&H: Randy Moss ‘a great teammate’

10.11.10 at 1:05 pm ET
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Brandon Meriweather

Brandon Meriweather

Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather joined the Dale & Holley show Monday morning to talk about the bye week and the team’s upcoming game against the Ravens. Meriweather said that it was business as usual with the Randy Moss trade and that he had not heard anything about an alleged altercation between Moss and Tom Brady.

“It was a team decision, and that was the decision they made,” Meriweather said of the trade. “I really didn’t have anything to think about. It is what it is.”

Below are some highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

On last year’s loss to Baltimore:

I knew you were going to ask that. To be honest, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. To have your last game of the season and you get destroyed like that, it hurts. You spend a lot of time thinking about it, especially when I had to see a lot of those guys at the Pro Bowl.

Do you want to watch the game film from that game against Baltimore?

I think you should watch it. I think we have a little bit of history with this team. You know you go back and you look at some of the things that they did well.

On the challenges of matching up with Baltimore’s skill players:

Where do you want me to start? [Todd Heap is] one of the best tight ends in the league. He can block, he’s got great hands. He’s one of the tight ends that every team wants. That’s pretty much as much as you can say about him. I think everyone in the league would agree with that right now.

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Read More: Brandon Meriweather, Randy Moss,

Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio: Offense won’t change game-planning approach

10.11.10 at 12:53 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick said the team won’t alter its approach to game-planning because Randy Moss is no longer around.

In a Monday afternoon conference call with reporters, Belichick said that even though Moss has been traded to Minnesota, “I think we’ll still be using the same playbook.”

“We’ll go through the same process we go through every week, which is looking at the team we are playing and look at what our options are and try and come up with the best game plan that we can against them. I don’t think it’ll be any different,” Belichick said.

“I mean, we have guys that go in and out of the lineup from week to week based on injury or whatever the circumstances are. It’s not that unusual to game plan with a player one week and then without him next week and then with him the following week. I think we’ll still be using the same playbook.”

Nick Caserio, New England’s director of player personnel, echoed the point, saying that offensive system that was put in place in the spring and refined throughout OTA’s and training camps won’t be radically overhauled just because the Patriots traded away their top receiver.

“Our approach offensively … we’re a game-plan team, so we put in a game plan week-to-week based on the opponent,” Caserio said. “And we’ll put the players in the position we feel is best and try to maximize what we do offensively relative to what the defense does. So we’ll go about this week like we normally do from an offense perspective and try and prepare ourselves for a good defense we’re going to face on Sunday.

“The offense isn’t going to change. What we put in in the spring, what we worked on in training camp, we’re not all of a sudden going to go back and make up new plays,” Caserio added. “We have a foundation that’s in place. We’ve installed an offensive system. Like we do any week, week to week, we look at the team and we figure out, ‘This play works relative to this coverage. This play works in this situation.’ So from our perspective, nothing’s going to change from a game-plan standpoint in terms of how we go about it.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio, Randy Moss,

Belichick on Casserly report: ‘News to me’

10.11.10 at 12:19 pm ET
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On a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon, Patriots coach Bill Belichick dismissed a report from CBS analyst Charley Casserly that said Tom Brady and Randy Moss were involved in an altercation in the days leading up to the trade of Moss to Minnesota.

“That’s news to me,” Belichick said of Casserly’s report, which said the two players had to be separated.

“The week before Moss was traded, Tom Brady and Randy Moss went toe-to-toe and had to be separated,” Casserly said on the CBS pregame show on Sunday. “One of Brady’s problems with Moss was his behavior as a Patriot. One of the things overheard was Brady telling Moss, ‘You’ve got to cut your beard.’ And Moss counters, ‘You’ve got to get your hair cut. You look like a girl.’”

There is some history between Casserly and Belichick. Casserly reported on Jan. 3 that Brady was playing with three broken ribs. The Patriots head coach was asked about the accuracy of the report the following day on The Big Show.

“Who’s been wrong more than Charley Casserly since he left the Redskins? His percentage is like a meteorologist,” Belichick said. ”He has no relationship to this team. I’d say less than zero. Based on what? He’s never at a practice, never at a game. … At least he put his name on it which is more than a lot of guys. But, like he usually is, he was 100 percent wrong.”

Several people have weighed in on Casserly’s report, including Sports Illustrated writer Peter King and NBC analyst Rodney Harrison, both of who roundly dismissed the report,

“I have two very highly-placed sources in the Patriots organization tell me this afternoon that the story is not true,” King said. “In fact, one of them said to me, ‘Someone is lying to CBS.’”

“You think Tom Brady is going to get in anybody’s face? You’re talking about Tom Brady,” said Harrison, a former teammate of both Brady and Moss. “I don’t think it happened and if it happened, the information wouldn’t get outside that locker room.”

However, fellow CBS analyst Boomer Esiason came to Casserly’s defense. Speaking with “Dennis & Callahan” on Monday morning, he sided with Casserly.

“[Casserly] has been accurate almost every single time,” Esiason said. “I don’t remember a time where he was inaccurate. … Charley does not go in front of millions of people on Sunday and make a fool out of himself unless he has something on lockdown. I would stake my own reputation on it.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, boomer esiason, Charley Casserly, Peter King
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