Branch all but forgotten in Seattle Print
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Thursday, 04 December 2008 13:10
 SEATTLE (AP) -Shifty receiver Deion Branch has made moves far better than this one. So have his Seahawks.
The former Super Bowl MVP held out of the New England Patriots' minicamp in June 2006, then all of training camp. He racked up almost $600,000 in fines from the team until his forced trade to Seattle in early September of that year.
That deal cost the Seahawks a first-round draft choice, plus a $39 million contract with $13 million guaranteed. Branch has since had seasons with 53, 49 and now just 13 receptions. He's also had a badly sprained foot and a strained calf that cost him five games in 2007. Then he blew out his knee in last January's playoff loss at Green Bay.
He didn't return until October, then played one half before bruising his heel. He missed five more games in a long lost season for the Seahawks (2-10), who have the lowest-ranked passing offense in the league.
... up and down. It has been a little strange, but I have been fighting through it and staying positive.''
The Patriots? They come to Seattle for the first time in 15 years on Sunday having won the last five AFC East titles. They went 18-0 last season until the New York Giants denied them a third Super Bowl championship in five years.
And Branch is all but forgotten. New England (7-5) has replaced the diminutive target with electric, 6-foot-4 touchdown-maker Randy Moss and fearless Wes Welker, whose 84 receptions are second in the NFL.
Even that first-round pick Seattle president Tim Ruskell gave up for Branch has worked out well for the Patriots. Brandon Meriweather leads them with four interceptions and is fifth on the team with 55 tackles as a starting safety.
``Deion's a good football player. He did a great job for us,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. ``Seattle paid a good price to get him - a No. 1 draft choice - and gave him a significant contract to go with it, so I think that speaks to what they thought of him. We thought a lot of him, too.''
Branch planned to drop by the Patriots' team hotel in Seattle on Saturday. Yet on the eve of reuniting with his old teammates, about 10 of whom he talks with each week, Branch says he has no regrets on a move that has U-turned his career away from stardom in New England.
t the next day holds for you in this business that we are in. It was very understanding and it was very businesslike. Both sides respect each other. I respect coach Belichick. I respect everything he did. I am pretty sure he respects me and what I did. ... 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. You see a lot of ups and downs in this business.''
The Patriots are seeing some right now.
They are without superstar quarterback Tom Brady, injured since early in the opening game. Backup Matt Cassel came back to reality last week after consecutive 400-yard games: Pittsburgh forced him into four turnovers as New England lost 33-10 at home. That left the Patriots one game out of the final playoff spot in the AFC with four games remaining.
``We just win one, lose one, win one. That's not going to get you anywhere,'' said outside linebacker Mike Vrabel, who has been on all four of New England's Super Bowl teams in this decade. ``We talked about it heading into the Pittsburgh game and it didn't happen. So we kind of have to start over and try to build with a good performance against Seattle.''
What a great place to do that.
ng more.
The Seahawks have lost five consecutive games and are off to their worst start since the 1994 team finished 2-14 to set a franchise record for losses in a season.
The Patriots are a league-best 20-2 in December since 2003, and 17-1 in games following a loss in the last five years. They have won 13 consecutive games against the NFC. And Moss should have a huge day - at 6-foot-4 he is at least 5 inches taller than any Seattle cornerback.
Matt Hasselbeck was sacked a season-high seven times as Dallas routed Seattle 34-9 last week. And the Seahawks will be starting the same three fill-in offensive linemen against the Patriots as they did against the Cowboys. That includes Steve Vallos, who will be making his second career start at center.
Things are so bad in Seattle that Hasselbeck isn't even sure his parents will be rooting for him this weekend. He grew up in Westwood, Mass., and played for Boston College. His dad Don played tight end for the Patriots (1977-83) and is still die-hard Pats fan.
``No, I would hope they are going for the Seahawks,'' Hasselbeck joked. ``You never know any more.''
 

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