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Patriots WR Branch skips mandatory practice

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (June 13, 2006) -- Deion Branch, the 2005 Super Bowl MVP, stayed away from the New England Patriots mandatory minicamp because he is upset with his contract.

The team's top wide receiver, in the final year of a five-year contract he signed after New England drafted him in the second round in 2002, would like an extension.

"I'm not going to talk about anybody who's not here," coach Bill Belichick said.

Branch was the MVP in the 2005 Super Bowl, the Patriots third title in four seasons. He caught 11 passes for 133 yards in the championship game against Philadelphia.

But he was absent when the Patriots held their first session of the minicamp, which will end June 15.

"Obviously, it's tough not having him here, but that's the business," quarterback Tom Brady said. "That gives us a chance to really work on other things."

The Patriots lost their No. 2 wide receiver in the offseason when David Givens signed as a free agent with Tennessee. Without Branch, the Patriots' top two wide receivers appear to be Troy Brown and Reche Caldwell, who left San Diego as a free agent after last season.

Last year, All-Pro defensive lineman Richard Seymour stayed out of minicamps. He eventually reported for training camp and signed a long-term deal.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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