Branch, Faulk hungry for another Super Bowl
|01.27.12 at 5:42 pm ET|
The core of the Patriots has largely changed since they last won a championship in the 2004-05 season. Only five players from that team remain on the active roster set to take on the Giants in the Super Bowl a week from Sunday: Tom Brady, Matt Light, Vince Wilfork, Kevin Faulk, and Deion Branch.
Faulk and Branch, in particular, have had an interesting journey back to being on the cusp of another championship. Faulk, the longest tenured Patriot, suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 2 of the 2010-11 season. Many believed the injury could be career ending for the 35 year-old running back, but he rehabbed his way back and after spending six weeks on the Physically Unable to Perform list, made his regular season debut Week 7 against the Steelers.
Meanwhile, Branch spent four lackluster seasons in Seattle after signing there as a free agent before New England brought him back via a trade last season.
Since New England advanced to the Super Bowl last Sunday, Branch and Faulk have talked to former teammates who reached out to the veterans expressing congratulations. “Once you’ve been a part of something like this and you win, that friendship lasts a long time,” said Branch. “It’s pretty much forever. Those are special guys to me.”
Despite that bond neither Branch or Faulk would share favorite memories of past Super Bowl triumphs. “Lets wait until next week and I’ll answer that question,” said Faulk.
And that was the enduring attitude of each player — gratitude and appreciation, but hunger for more glory. The journeys are irrelevant to the two stalwarts. They are focused on the present, and helping the franchise capture a fourth Super Bowl trophy.
“This is what you train for,” said Faulk. “When you’re training the goal in your mind is to make it to the Super Bowl. Every year, the goal is the Super Bowl. If that isn’t on your mind then you probably should change your profession.”
Each have had their hand in contributing to prior championships. Faulk converted a critical 2-point conversion against the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII. In two Super Bowl appearances, Branch has amassed 21 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown. He became a household name after his MVP performance in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles.
Although both veterans have seen their production wane this season compared to previous years, their experience in dealing with the hype surrounding the Super Bowl is something they can pass along to the younger players.
“Just don’t try to go out and do anything spectacular,” Branch said about the advice he has given to younger players. “Do what you’ve been doing all year.”
On the other hand, Faulk stressed accountability and procuring a mentally tough mindset in terms of dealing with possible distractions. “Distractions is what you put on yourself,” said Faulk. “How you handle and respond to them is all on you.”
With so much emphasis on business and winning, Branch did say he also stressed to players to realize the rarity of the situation. “Embrace the moment,” he said he told younger players. “You may not get this opportunity again, that goes for all of us.”