INDIANAPOLIS – When the news crossed the wires on a chilly Monday in Central Indiana, there seemed a main reason for this player’s signing.
After all, Deion Branch spent seven seasons with the team which the Colts are preparing to face in the AFC Divisional Playoff. The receiver hasn’t played in the 2013 season and he was signed by Ryan Grigson just five days before the Colts were to meet the Patriots in New England.
So could this be move to use the receiver-who spent seven years playing under Bill Belichick-be used more for his brain than his brawn? Even the receiver admits that’s a bit much.
“I will say that,” said Branch of the notion that he could provide a lot of inside info to the Colts about the Patriots before the Saturday night playoff game maybe a bit overblown. “I’m an old school player and I always learned from my coach back in the days. You can always tell somebody what you’re doing, but they still got to stop you.
“This is the NFL. These guys, the scouts, I think those guys have done a great job. They knew all the ins-and-outs about the Patriots before they thought of bringing me back.”
It’s been a notion on the Colts’ minds since they brought Branch in for a workout in December. Doing so was pretty easy since Branch resides in Carmel and works out at nearby St. Vincent Sports Performance Centers. Despite not being on a roster since the start of the season, the Colts saw enough to bring him in.
“He’s in great shape. He had a great workout,” said Pagano of Branch. “Obviously he’s a proven guy and played at a high level for a long time in this league. With him being right here in our backyard and us having some familiarity with him, from just working him out and things like that, it made sense to bring him on board at this point.”
Anytime would have made sense for Branch, who was itching for a chance to return to the field after departing the Patriots at the end of the 2012 season. An eleven-year veteran, Branch has 518 receptions for 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns during time with the Patriots and the Seahawks while playing in three Super Bowls in New England.
He was named the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX with 11 catches for 133 yards for the Patriots in a 24-21 win over the Eagles in Jacksonville but despite the history, Branch never considered himself finished.
“I never retired. I wasn’t thinking about it because I know I can play,” said Branch of his mentality as he worked out at St. Vincent’s this winter. “My biggest thing as a professional is just to make sure I’m staying prepared, staying in shape so if I do get the phone call, that would be great. If I didn’t, I would continue on with my life taking care of my kids and my family, and listen to my wife nag every day about being at home (laughs).
“But other than that, it was just me carrying out my daily activities.”
Now with that call Branch plans to take advantage anyway he can-but he has some catching up to do. He walks into a group of receivers who have been together learning Pep Hamilton’s offense since the beginning of training camp in August so the transition has been a bit hectic.
“Stuff is just flying around. There’s a lot of stuff flying around,” said Branch of his first two days of practice. “I think with the two days, I think I’m okay. I’m not where I want to be as a professional. I know how I am about me getting in and learning the offense and knowing where everybody’s at. I won’t say I’m up to speed on that part.
“As far as the things they’ve been throwing at me, I think I’ve been doing okay at it.”
If he’s doing well enough he could play but according to Hamilton it’s up to Pagano if he actually does. Branch said he wouldn’t be disappointed one way or the other, pleased with the chance to put on a uniform no matter what.
“I’m just here to help out any way I can,” said Branch. “Whether we’re short a man on the scout team, for me to go out and help the guys on the scout team, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Perhaps a tidbit or two on his former team might be beneficial as well.