At 12:40 p.m. Tuesday, the Patriots organization confirmed their trade with Seattle for wide receiver Deion Branch. The official announcement did not specify what New England gave the Seahawks in return, but media reports suggest it was a fourth-round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.
At 3 o'clock, just after his first practice with the Patriots in five years, New England's MVP in Super Bowl XXXIX was reintroduced to the local media during a press conference at Gillette Stadium.
Looking a little haggard from his cross-country journey and having just come off a two-hour, full-pads practice, Branch nonetheless was all smiles as he answered questions for 10 minutes.
Saying that he "sort of" felt like he never left, Branch admitted that he has considered the idea that he would one day be back in a Patriots uniform.
"Last year more than this year, actually. Probably the year before that, too," he revealed with his trademark grin. "There were a lot of things going on in Seattle last year, with [former Seahawks GM Tim] Ruskell stepping down, and I thought they would make changes [to the roster], and I actually thought I would be one of the guys. But I wasn't, stayed there, and everything's cool."
Branch opened by thanking Divine Providence for being back with his original club, but he was quick to add that he is not here as a substitute for Randy Moss.
"I'm not Randy Moss, I wasn't Randy Moss when I was here. I'm not here to replace him," the 5-9, 195-pounder insisted. "I'm going to do what the offense asks me to do."
What the Patriots coaches ask him to do and what he is capable of doing after a few years away remain to be seen. Branch, as he indicated, offers a different skill set than Moss, who was more of a downfield threat. Injuries, too, have been an issue for Branch since he left New England, but he feels he has gained in other ways that will be beneficial to the Patriots the second time around.
"A lot more knowledge. I understand the game of football. I understand how to study an opponent," said Branch. "My first few years here, I was preparing off all athleticism, and I was getting away with it for a little bit. Now, I sit down and break down the film."
Before practice, a handful of Branch's Patriots teammates, new and old, spoke about his return to New England. The theme of their reaction was "excitement."
"It's exciting," said center Dan Koppen. "Deion's a good player, good guy to have in the locker room, and another guy to throw the football to.
"He's just a good player. Made a lot of plays for us in big-time games. You want those type of players on your team."
"I'm excited," added wide receiver Julian Edelman. "He's been here when they won Super Bowls, and I'll be able to learn from another veteran. We're happy to have him.
"I watched some of his film in the offseason. He's a phenomenal playmaker and a guy you strive to be like. He's going to be awesome to have here."
Tue 10/12 Practice Notebook
For news and notes from Tuesday's practice, please visit the PFW Blog.