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Seahawks WR Branch readying for camp after third knee surgery

RENTON, Wash. -- Another offseason, another left knee operation for Deion Branch.

It seems as if that's all the wide receiver has done since joining the Seattle Seahawks four seasons ago.

But Branch was back on the field this week for the Seahawks' final minicamp, doing individual drills. He didn't participate in any 11-on-11 activities. That will wait for another month when training camp begins, and Branch said he will be a full-go with his left knee.

"I feel good," Branch said Wednesday after the Seahawks wrapped up their minicamp. "Last year (I) did the same thing and had it cleaned out. This year was probably a little lighter, not as intense as last year's surgery. It's just a normal clean-out, nothing major. It's nothing that nobody is worried about."

Despite Branch's confidence that his knee is fine and it shouldn't be a concern, the April surgery was his third in the last two years. And it comes at a time when Branch likely will need to be at his best to ensure himself a spot on Seattle's roster when the season begins.

Branch has experience and a track record in the NFL. The 2005 Super Bowl MVP has had seasons with 53, 49, 30 and 45 catches for the Seahawks since they acquired him 2006 from the New England Patriots -- and then gave him a $39 million contract with $13 million guaranteed.

The Seahawks drafted former Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate in the second round because of their need for a playmaker outside. Yet new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said last month that he saw enough from Branch in a minicamp before his latest surgery to carve out a role for the oft-injured veteran.

"Deion had a really good minicamp the first time out, so we had some real good information on him," Carroll said.

Carroll had said Branch's arthroscopic surgery almost two months ago in Philadelphia was a "very minor" cleanup. The receiver's problems started when he injured his left knee on a snowy field during a playoff game at Green Bay in January 2008. He had reconstructive surgery one month later.

Branch had a follow-up procedure in March 2009, but he downplayed it as a minor clean-out that he said is common following knee reconstruction. He said the surgery in April was similar but less invasive than a year ago.

Branch said he could have participated in all segments of the two days of minicamp this week, but trainers didn't want him to push too hard in his recovery.

"I think the thing is I listen and do what the trainers say and follow the guidelines," Branch said. "You know the rehab the last two offseason (and) we try and stick to that and doing it that way."

Branch will need to be able to stay on the field when training camp begins. Carroll's mantra of competition has led to massive roster turnover this offseason and a glut of receivers vying for only a handful of spots on the final 53-man roster. Carroll said just having Branch and fellow receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh for a couple of days this week helps him get an idea of how quickly they are grasping the new offense brought in by coordinator Jeremy Bates.

For Branch, this will be the fourth offense he has played in and third in Seattle.

"I've pretty much seen it all," Branch said. "... It's all about where (Bates) wants to put us. We've got a lot of flexibility depending on where they want to put us. He's got a lot of guys to work with. He's got the hard job. We just have to go out and make some plays."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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