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Competition committee: Patriots’ veteran receivers welcome positional battle

05.31.12 at 4:55 pm ET
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Deion Branch is part of an intriguing positional battle at wide receiver. (AP)

FOXBORO — Deion Branch isn’t the receiver he used to be, but that doesn’t mean he’s about to shy away from what’s looking like a tremendous positional battle at the wide receiver spot this year.

Branch is one of 11 receivers currently on the Patriots’ roster, and while the 32-year-old (he’ll turn 33 before the start of training camp) doesn’t have the same quicks he used to possess earlier in his career, he’s had no problem transitioning to the next phase of his career: savvy veteran.

“I’m enjoying it. I love it each and every day I’m out there with the guys,” Branch said Thursday after the latest OTA session on the fields behind Gillette Stadium. “I’m still running around and having fun, daily. They make me feel young — you know what I’m saying?”

Truth be told, the bulk of the New England receiving corps is in the same boat. Branch (32), Wes Welker (31), Donte Stallworth (31), Jabar Gaffney (31) and Chad Ochocinco (34) are all on the plus-side of 30 — even heralded newcomer Brandon Lloyd will turn 31 in July.

It’s not exactly the cast of “Cocoon,” but the veteran group has already developed a good rapport with each other, one fueled in one instance by a familiarity that dates all the way back to college: Branch, Gaffney and Stallworth were all members of the 2002 draft class. Branch calls the chance to finally play together “great.”

“We’re always competing — we go through the bag drill, and we’re always competing,” said Branch, who had 51 catches for 702 yards and five touchdowns last season. “First of all, we’re teammates; we have one goal. We’re all on the same side of the ball. We’re all trying to make plays. They’re going to give everybody the opportunity to make plays. Now it’s just time to cash in.

“It’s always good. It’s a lot of fun too — a lot of fun. We’re having a lot of fun,” he added. “We’re enjoying it.”

Of the new wide receivers, the one who made the biggest splash this offseason was Lloyd. Lloyd, who was acquired via free agency after a stint with the Rams, has impressed through the early stages of the offseason workout program and recent round of OTA’s.

“The guy is everything I thought he was,” Branch said of Lloyd, who has averaged 74 catches a season the last two years. “I [saw] him on film, Played against him. Played against him in college. He’s pretty much the player I always thought he was. It’s just good to have him over here with us.”

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