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Branch excited to face former team; Thu. notebook

He was once a second-round pick of the Patriots. He then became a Super Bowl MVP for New England.

Today, however, Deion Branchis a Seattle Seahawk. On Sunday, when the two teams meet in the Pacific northwest, it will mark the first time Branch has had the chance to face his former team on the field since he was traded to Seattle at the start of the 2006 season.

"It will be a little strange and a little exciting," Branch said via conference call this week. "Just to…man, it is crazy. I was looking at my playbook this morning and I saw the New England Patriots helmet. Knowing where I am at and knowing that we are going against the guys that I played with my first four years, won two Super Bowls with, and have shared a lot of memories with ... Most of all it will be a little strange but a little exciting to be out there playing against all my friends."

Despite Branch's unceremonious departure from New England, the wide receiver insists he harbors no ill will toward the organization that gave him his first taste of NFL success.

"I think each party had to do what was best," told reporters on the call. "They had to do what was best for the organization. I had to do what was best for my family. There is no love lost at all. It was just a business move. It was understanding. You see a lot of ups and downs in this business.

"I never think about how it ended," Branch continued. "You never know what the next day holds for you in this business that we are in. It was very understanding and it was very business-like. Both sides respect each other. I respect Coach[Bill] Belichick. I respect everything he did. I am pretty sure he respects me and what I did."

That was evident when Belichick was asked about Branch during his daily press conference on Wednesday.

"I think we all know what kind of receiver Deion is," Belichick began. "He is a quality receiver. He missed some games. He primarily plays the Z on the strong side. [Koren] Robinson plays the weak side and [Bobby] Engram comes in the slot when they go to three receivers.

"Deion is a good football player. He is a good route runner. He has good hands, good quickness. He is smart and he understands coverages and route adjustments. He is a real good football player."

Branch hasn't been quite the impact player for the Seahawks that he was for the Patriots, in large part because he's been injured for most of his time in Seattle.

"It has been different for me," he acknowledged. "My first four years were all good. Everything was good for me except for the MCL injury I had. When I came here, my first year here was good even though I was kind of thrown into the mix with the trade situation. Last year, I suffered three injuries. It was kind of weird. They were weird injuries."

Branch suffered a lisfranc (a fracture or dislocation of the midfoot), a strained calf, and a torn ACL in the playoffs. Coming into this season, he had another fluke injury to his heel.

"It has been a little strange but I have been fighting through it and staying positive. The team has been supporting me. All of my teammates have been supporting me and standing behind me. Other than that, I feel like I don't take anything for granted. I take the field each and every day to go out and play hard and try to help my team win."

Branch revealed that he still keeps in touch with many of his former Pats teammates, including Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Rodney Harrison, Benjamin Watson, and Kevin Faulk. He plans to try to catch up with them prior to the game this weekend.

"I will go to the hotel and sit in with them. Hopefully, Coach [Belichick] won't cut me off from going upstairs to the room. I don't think he will," Branch laughed.

Thursday locker room/practice notebook

Branch isn't the only player in this game with ties to the other team. Patriots QB Matt Casseland Seahawks linebacker **Lofa Tatupu *were teammates in college at USC.

"He is one of my close friends," Cassel told reporters today. "We actually talk all the time. We had a great relationship in college and continue to have a great relationship. Every offseason, we usually spend some time together. He is a great player, a great friend and he's doing his thing."

Cassel said he hasn't yet had a chance to talk with Tatupu (whose father, Mosi, is a former Patriots running back) this week.

"But I am sure I will see him come Sunday," Cassel added.

Practice update

The five players absent from the start of practice on Wednesday were also missing on Thursday: WR Kelley Washington, LBs Vince Redd, Adalius Thomas, and Pierre Woods, and DL Ty Warren.

For the second straight day, WR Wes Welkerwas dressed and participating in practice. He wasn't even listed on the injury report Wednesday, just a few days after the devastating hit by Pittsburgh's **Ryan Clark *that knocked Welker out of that game.

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