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Kraft sounds positive note regarding possible new CBA

10.12.10 at 8:10 pm ET
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the Associated Press on Tuesday it’s a realistic goal that the owners and players will reach a new collective bargaining agreement before the end of the 2010 season. Speaking at the NFL owners’ meetings in Chicago, Kraft sounded an optimistic note about the state of the negotiations, saying “we’re moving ahead” and he’d “like to see this get done before the season ends.” Asked if that was a realistic objective, he added, “to me it is.”

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Deion Branch Q&A, 10/12

10.12.10 at 6:40 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here’s the compete transcript of today’s Q&A between the media and wide receiver Deion Branch:

DB: First of all I’d like to thank God for one, for blessing me with the opportunity to come back and be a part of a great organization, and also be a part of another great organization back in Seattle. Unfortunately things didn’t work out, but that’s part of the business, and I’m very thankful to be back.

Q: Does it look the same as when you left?
DB: Yeah, sort of. Except for all the new stuff Mr. [Robert] Kraft put out here in the parking lot. That stuff wasn’t here when I was here. All the hotels. What is this a mall now? Strip mall. You got a cinema. It’s a lot of stuff I think. There’s a lot of great things that are going on around here that are pretty new. But it feels pretty good though.

Q: How does it feel to be back?
DB: It feels good. Still going through a lot of things. Today was pretty rough for me. A lot of traveling, I’ve been on two or three flights in less than 72 hours. Coach [Bill Belichick] is helping me feel through . Tom [Brady] is throwing a lot of stuff at me as usual, and I’m just taking everything in as much as I can.

Q: Is the playbook different than when you left?
DB: It’s a little different. It’s a little different, but some of the concepts are still the same. I still remember some plays. The crazy part is they didn’t call those plays today. The ones I remember I thought I could just get in there, but they didn’t call those plays. Coach had to pretty much filled me in before I ran in practice.

Q: Are you going to be ready for Sunday?
DB: Yeah, I hope so. I hope I’m showing Coach Belichick enough today. I know there’s going to be a little bit more tomorrow and Thursday and Friday. He makes that decision.

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Branch: ‘I’m just a piece of the puzzle’

10.12.10 at 4:27 pm ET
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FOXBORO - Deion Branch had a feeling that a return to New England was a possibility.

Why not? He maintained a good relationship with Bill Belichick, always understood that Business First is how it goes in Foxboro. No hard feelings from 2006, though he wishes leaving the Patriots “never happened.” And he knew that there might be a time when it made business and football sense for the Patriots to bring him back to the place where he won a Super Bowl MVP and made 213 catches, good for 13th on the all-time list.

A reunion was always in the back of Branch’s mind.

He just never thought it was going to be this year.

“I thought last year more than this year, actually,” said Branch on Tuesday. “Probably the year before that, too. I actually thought that last year [a trade] could happen a little bit more … it’s hard to say in this business what happens. I’m sure they asked Moss the same thing [in Minnesota]. So much stuff happens during the course of time you’re playing this game. You have to take it with a grain of salt and keep moving. Things can happen and there will be changes on every team, every year.”

And that change happened Monday, and now Branch is back with the franchise he started his career with in 2002. The timing of the trade for the wideout might seem obvious at first glance, but Branch wanted to make it clear that he’s not here to fill the shoes of Randy Moss, who leaves New England after the most prolific three-year TD reception total in NFL history.

“That’s the first thing I want to let you all know — I am not Randy Moss,” said Branch, who participated in practice on Tuesday and will wear No. 84. “I wasn’t Randy Moss when I was here and I’m not here to replace him. I’m going to do what the offense asks of me and that’s what I’ll do … I’m just a piece of the puzzle. I’m not the answer to anything. I’m just a piece of the puzzle.”

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Branch practices, Wheatley returns

10.12.10 at 1:45 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Wide receiver Deion Branch, acquired Monday from the Seahawks, was on the practice field Tuesday in Foxboro as he began his second tour with the Patriots.

Wearing No. 84, Branch walked onto the field with practice field with Tom Brady. The Patriots dealt a fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft for the Super Bowl XXXIX MVP, who ranks 13th in franchise history with 213 catches.

In other practice news, Fred Taylor (foot) was not spotted on the field but cornerback Terrence Wheatley (foot) and defensive lineman Mike Wright were on the field. Wheatley has not played in a game or practiced since injuring his foot in the preseason.

Branch deal official as Kaczur goes to IR

10.12.10 at 12:57 pm ET
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Deion Branch is back with the team that drafted him in the second round of 2002.

Deion Branch is back with the team that drafted him in the second round of 2002.

The Patriots made the acquisition of wide receiver Deion Branch official, announcing that the trade with the Seahawks had been completed in exchange for an undisclosed draft choice, reportedly the better of the team’s two fourth-round picks in the 2011 draft. In order to free a roster spot for Branch, the Patriots placed tackle Nick Kaczur on injured reserve with a back injury.

Branch, the Super Bowl XXXIX MVP, is expected to practice with the Patriots this afternoon. He had started three games for Seattle this year, catching 13 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown.

Kaczur, a mainstay of the offensive line, has missed all of the Patriots’ preseason and regular season games this year after suffering an injury in training camp. The 2005 third-rounder had started at least 13 games in each of the previous three seasons.

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Tuesday Locker Room Notes: Branch reaction

10.12.10 at 12:30 pm ET
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No reason to bury the lede — Deion Branch was not seen in the locker room (media had access from 11:15-noon). There was, however, confirmation from several Patriots that Branch was at Gillette Stadium undergoing a physical this morning. It appears that he will be wearing No. 84 and will be using the locker next to Tom Brady. There is a chance Branch will speak to the media after practice this afternoon.

The news of Branch’s return was welcomed by the few players who spoke to the media Wednesday morning, including Dan Koppen, who played with the wideout during his first tenure in New England.

“I’m excited, Deion’s a good player, a good guy,” said Koppen. “A good guy to have in the locker room. Another guy to throw the ball to. Just a good player, made a lot of plays for us in big-time games. You want those kind of players on your team.”

Julian Edelman hasn’t been the factor in the offense that many predicted — and the addition of a wideout with Day One chemistry with Brady might not help him get more touches — but he’s on board with the acquisition.

“He’s been here when they won Super Bowls and I’m going to be able to learn from another guy, another veteran. We’re happy to have him.

I watched some of his film in the offseason, he’s a phenomenal playmaker. He’s a guy that you strive to try and be like. We have the same size and stature, you know. He’s going to be awesome to have here.”

Kevin Faulk – who said his impending ACL surgery is a couple of weeks away — feels the Branch move is “about the game. Guys go, guys come back to places. He’s familiar with the organization and offense.”

The other popular topic was Monday night’s Vikings-Jets game and the performance of Randy Moss. Koppen said he didn’t watch the game — “I slept” — but Edelman tuned in for the first three quarters and said he was “rooting for Moss.”

“It’s always good to see Randy,” said Edelman. “He’s taught me a bunch, I learned a lot from him, played with him. It was good to see him get that long touchdown, always want him to do well.”

Faulk called Moss “his best friend” and said he watched the entire game.

“A lot easier when you don’t have to get up as early anymore,” Faulk said with a laugh.

WEEI NFL Power Rankings: Week 6

10.12.10 at 12:29 pm ET
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The 1972 Dolphins can rest easy. Parity rules in the NFL and for the first time since 1970, there are no 4-0 teams. However, there are some teams that are finally starting to pull away and look like the league’s best. For the second straight week, the Baltimore Ravens are No. 1, the New York Jets are No. 2, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are No. 3 in WEEI’s NFL Power Rankings. The Ravens have three big road wins, two against divisional opponents, and they look like the most complete team in the NFL. The Jets are enjoying a 3-0 record in the AFC East and are playing well in all three phases of the game.

After a long run, the Saints fall out of the top five to No. 7. Drew Brees has thrown five interceptions already and is certainly feeling the effects of a weak running game. The Giants squeeze into the top ten at No. 9 after back-to-back wins and a defensive line that has looked dynamic.

The Cowboys drop all the way to No. 20 after another mistake-ridden game. Wade Phillips and Dallas’ coaching staff have done a horrendous job to this point. Dallas has yet to win at home in 2010. Another underachieving team is the Cincinnati Bengals. After an amazing 2009 season, the Bengals have been awful this season and are going into Week 6 having suffered back-to-back losses to the Browns and Bucs.

The Panthers and the Bills remain winless and in the cellar.

1. (Last week, 1) 4-1 The dual rushing attack of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee, complemented by a relentless defense, has the Ravens atop the NFL as the best team in the league.

New York Jets2. (2) 4-1 Through five weeks, this Jets team looks as good as advertised. The Jets have posted a takeaway-giveaway differential of 11; that leads the league. This team has turned the ball over just once this season. Meanwhile, quarterback Mark Sanchez has thrown zero interceptions. Last year, he had 20.

Pittsburgh Steelers 3. (3) 3-1 The Steelers will be licking their chops Sunday when a rookie quarterback will lead a struggling offense into Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s defense is one of the best in the league and with Ben Roethlisberger returning, the Steelers are in great position to do some damage as the season progresses.

4. (5) 4-1 The first-place Atlanta Falcons have put together a nice winning streak after losing in Week 1 to the Steelers. One of the keys to Atlanta’s success has been scoring points off their takeaways. The team’s rushing attack, led by Michael Turner, is second only to the New York Jets.

5. (8) 3-2 The Colts proved they can win without Peyton Manning having a Peyton Manning-like game. Against the Chiefs, it was Indy’s defense that stepped up in the red zone. The Colts also allowed just a field goal following a Manning interception that put Kansas City in great field position.

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