|‘Patient’ Deion Branch comes back and comforts Donte’ Stallworth: ‘He’s one of my guys’||12.14.12 at 12:12 am ET|
Deion Branch was ready to come back – for a third time this season.
The 33-year-old veteran was released on Nov. 17, shortly after straining his hamstring. What did he do?
He spent time with his family, picking up his 7-year-old daughter D’Ahni at school.
‘‘She said, ‘Dad, what happened? Why aren’t you playing?’’’ Branch told reporters Thursday. ‘‘I said, ‘Baby, daddy can’t play right now. I don’t have a job.’ And she said, ‘aw, you’ll get one.’ And I said, ‘I know, baby.’’’
As fate would have it, Donte’ Stallworth, brought in to replace the injured Julian Edelman, joined Edelman on injured reserve with a high right ankle sprain on his 63-yard TD play Monday night.
Branch got the call Tuesday morning from Bill Belichick. While he was happy for himself and his daughter, he felt badly for Stallworth.
‘‘He’s one of my guys,’’ Branch said. ‘‘We came in the  draft class together.’’
Standing near his walking boot in his locker, Stallworth confirmed he injured his right ankle on his touchdown catch and said he doesn’t regret going on injured reserve since he wants it to heal properly.
‘‘There’s no rush, so I want to make sure that I get it back right,’’ Stallworth said.
Branch said Thursday that he feels healthy and right back at home, ready to contribute again.
‘‘Nothing’s changed,’’ he said. ‘‘All the guys just walked past my locker like nothing ever happened, so I didn’t get any hugs, just ‘Hey, how you doing? What’s up?’’’
The Patriots never took down his nameplate, nor did they clean out his locker, leaving his “Team Branch” family picture in his locker. The team took the same approach earlier in the season, when he was cut before the season, only to be brought back the first two games of the season after he was cut shortly before it began. He was back for Game 3.
The Super Bowl XXXIX MVP repeated a declaration on Thursday – he wants to retire with the Patriots and won’t be playing for anyone else.
‘‘It was a long time ago, but that stuff is in the past,” Branch said. “It’s behind us. I think we all need to be grateful, be thankful just to play the game that we play. I’m thankful. I seize every moment that I get. I’m just glad to be back.’’
The Patriots let him go after the 2011 season, making him a free agent on March 13. But 17 days later, Branch returned, signing a one-year contract. Branch was asked what would be his fate this season if Stallworth hadn’t injured his ankle.
‘‘I don’t know,’’ he said. ‘‘Everything happens for a reason and with guys that are patient, stuff happens for them. I’m a patient guy.’’
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