Branch all but forgotten in Seattle Print
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Friday, 05 December 2008 16:24
NFL Headline News

 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.
est-ranked passing offense in the league.
``It has been a little crazy,'' Branch said. ``To sum it up, it has been different for me ... 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 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.''
U-turned his career away from stardom in New England.
``I never think about how it ended,'' he said. ``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 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.
ce 2001 entering this season, but is 1-5 at home in '08. Its renowned ``12th Man'' crowd is leaving games early rather than booing 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. He is unlikely to play because of lingering pain in his back, which he missed five games to rest earlier this season. Seneca Wallace would replace him.
The Seahawks likely will be starting four fill-in offensive linemen against the Patriots. That includes Steve Vallos, who will be making his second career start at center. Star left tackle Walter Jones is doubtful because of knee pain.
Things are so bad in Seattle that Hasselbeck isn't even sure his parents will be rooting for his team 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 a die-hard Pats fan.
now any more.''
 

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