|Tom Brady (12) has Deion Branch (84) on his side on the field, and has the receiver’s back off of it. (Robert E. Klein for The Boston Globe)|
'Tis the season
Branch comfortable with what he’ll be receiving from Brady
FOXBOROUGH - Deion Branch was only targeted twice by Tom Brady in three preseason games, and didn’t record a catch.
If you’re thinking that might be an indictment of Branch’s importance to the offense this season or a sign of a larger problem, don’t.
“Trust me, I’m not worried,’’ Branch said yesterday. “As long as Tom’s not worried, I’m not worried.’’
As if to underscore the point, when asked if he and Brady are on the same page, Branch looked to his immediate right, where Brady was sitting at his locker, and asked the quarterback’s opinion.
Brady, who was checking messages on his phone, replied that Branch’s answer was his, too.
Branch said the team worked on a lot during the preseason and that there was a lot accomplished during camp.
“That’s the only thing that matters,’’ that he and Brady are on the same page, Branch said. “If you have 15, 20 catches in the preseason, in four preseason games, and then start the regular season off with no catches, it don’t matter what you did in preseason. It’s all about what happens now. It’s all about the camaraderie. We build that in practice and everything, now it’s time to put that on the football field.’’
When Brady was asked recently about the lack of catches for Branch and Chad Ochocinco in the preseason, he blamed himself.
“I have to do a better job getting those guys the football, because they are very consistent playmakers for us, and I have to really make sure they are getting the football,’’ he said. “That’s the point of playing quarterback - to get the ball to the guys who can do things with it. They are great players, they’ve been great players for a long time, and we’re going to find ways to get those guys the ball.’’
And while Branch, who is in his 10th season, joked that he’s good as long as Brady is good, it helped that coach Bill Belichick had some good things to say about him this week, as well.
“He certainly had his share of reps out there in training camp and I thought he looked good doing it,’’ Belichick said, noting that the team managed Branch a bit during the sessions, likely because of his history of knee problems. “I think he’s in position, based on what I’ve seen so far . . . I think he’s ready to have a good year. He works hard, gives us good leadership at that position, very smart player, instinctive player, knows what to do, does the right thing, and is dependable.
“I think everybody in the organization feels good about counting on Deion. He’s a very consistent guy every day. Every time the ball is snapped, he almost always does the right thing, does it the way you want him to do it. We all have a lot of confidence in Deion.’’
Last month, Branch said that even though the playbook was largely the same when he returned to the Patriots last season as it had been when he left the team in 2006, it was still a difficult transition. There were plays the coaches were hesitant to call in his first few games back because he hadn’t been with the team from the start of the season.
Even three weeks ago, Branch acknowledged still regaining a lot of the familiarity he had.
Now, Branch is much more comfortable, and points to the foundation he got from training camp.
“Even though I know the offense, I knew it when I got back, there were probably some things I didn’t know that they worked on last year that I had the opportunity to get involved with and see what was what and feel a whole lot [more] comfortable now,’’ he said.
Branch said he was even learning the tight end position, but quickly smiled to show that he was joking.
Branch gave assurances that things are fine going into Monday night’s opener against the Dolphins and that his role is secure, but in the end, he said, “The biggest thing to me is winning. If we win the game, I’m happy.’’