Before we even start, the answer is "no."
As in "no [expletive] way."
Wide receiver Deion Branch returns to Foxborough as a member of the Colts just in time for Saturday night's playoff loss to the Patriots.
So, should Patriots' fan "boo" him.
The answer is clear, "no."
At least not until he makes a catch.
It's unlikely Branch will be a part of much of Indy's offense, say for perhaps one or two plays.
Good for Branch. He was unemployed and now has a job, even if it's only for one week.
He's the Colts' version of Austin Collie, who was re-signed by the Patriots for the third time this season last week. Collie began his career with the Colts, before eventually ending up in New England.
No word if the Colts got Branch's Patriots iPad. Branch has not played all season. He was not re-signed by the Patriots, or by anyone else, in the off-season or during the season.
This is a move the Patriots should love. It's truly Belichickian. Get the guy who lived inside Tom Brady's head the last time the Patriots won a Super Bowl. Branch, in case you weren't alive the last time the Patriots won a Super Bowl, was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX.
That was nine years ago this February.
The "Curse of The Branchino" lives.
The question isn't whether or not you can trust Branch's hands, it's can you trust his legs? Branch hasn't seen game action in nearly a calendar year, walking off the field after the AFC championship game last January against the Ravens with his tail between his legs along with the rest of his battered and embarrassed teammates.
Some may wonder why Branch would do this? Well, he'll be getting some money, but not much by NFL standards. Players get $23,000 for being on the active roster in a divisional round playoff game. Standard NFL contracts don't cover the postseason. In most contract situations, player salaries are divided by 16. Many get performance bonuses. Branch is 34. He no doubt misses life in the NFL and has a shot to suit up, in a playoff game, with Andrew Luck as his QB, and play against the team that let him go not once but five times [at least] in his career.
It probably took Branch all of two Red Auerbach seconds to make up his mind.
Branch's professionalism has never been questioned by anyone with credibility. And the NFL is a business, as Jonathan and Bob Kraft remind us at each opportunity when they let a name player walk [see Willie McGinest, Adam Vinatieri, Wes Welker] because his salary demands and/or market value doesn't fit within the "Patriot Way."
Branch is doing what any professional would do if they weren't able to land a job and were offered a job - he would take it.
Perhaps this is "Karma" - Deion Branch style.
Maybe he and Collie are both double agents. The Spygate Truthers would have us believe that his is part of some diabolical plan by Belichick, and indeed Branch is a spy for the Patriots and will be relaying all the quirks of Indy's offense directly to Brady's headset.
Branch's first exit from New England was fraught with Belichickian and Krafty intrigue. The Patriots offered him a three-year contract extension following the 2005 season which was worth a total of $14.45 million, with another $4 million as club option. Branch held out and skipped camp and the preseason. After a series of back-and-forth sniping with the team, which included Branch filing a grievance against the Patriots, he was eventually given permission [don't you love that] to seek a trade. He ended up in Seattle signing a six-year, $39 million extension after being traded to the Seahawks.
Do that math. Patriots offer $14.45 million, plus a shot at $4 million more. $18.45 million. Seahawks end up putting $39 million on the table. It usually pays to hold out on the Patriots.
Branch was restless and struggled in Seattle. All was forgiven and he was traded back to New England in October of 2010. He was let go four times by the Patriots between 2011 and his final exit after the 2013 season.
Branch was part of the post-season purge last spring which also included Danny Woodhead - lost to San Diego, Brandon Lloyd - who was last seen in the Direct-To DVD flick "After Effect," Welker - lost to Denver and Aaron Hernandez - lost to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' criminal justice system.
When it comes to Branch, judge him on what he did for the Patriots and what he might do for the Colts Sunday. He's on the other team, so there's no reason for unlimited love. But Branch is doing nothing sinister or disloyal here. And there's no reason to boo anyone who not only helped the Patriots win two Super Bowls, but did what the Patriots do whenever they're in the same situation - side with the money over "loyalty."
At very least, wait until he does something.
If Branch does any damage to New England, direct any anger toward the team that let him go so many times. Not toward the player who wanted to play and/or have some fun screwing with his old boss. And chances are he'll be available again after the Colts lose on Saturday. The Patriots will have likely another chance at Branch this time next week.
He's an unemployed former NFL wide receiver. He got a call and answered it. If the Patriots are so turned out by Branch signing with the Colts, why didn't they bring him back?
Because they thought Austin Collie [and several others] was a better choice.
For them, it was strictly business.
And Michael Corleone, Bill Belichick or Bob Kraft would not have it any other way.
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