Albany native and 2005 Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch was added back to the Patriots' active roster Wednesday in hopes he had add some veteran experience to a New England receiving corps that is young and hobbled right now.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick wanted someone reliable.
Deion Branch didn’t want to play for anyone else.
And just like that, the Patriots are bringing back an old vet just in time for New England’s latest playoff run.
The Patriots re-signed the former Monroe star and Albany native — the franchise’s 2005 Super Bowl MVP — on Wednesday in hopes he can help out the team’s battered corps of receivers.
“Same thing he brought to the team before: Good level of experience, knows our system, has played for us,” Belichick told boston.com late Wednesday when asked about why the team chose to re-sign Branch back and what he brings to the table.
They signed him for the second time this season Wednesday after Donte’ Stallworth joined Julian Edelman on injured reserve. Stallworth hurt his ankle in Monday night’s 42-14 win against the Houston Texans, while Edelman suffered a foot injury in the previous game, a 23-16 victory against the Miami Dolphins.
News of Branch’s imminent re-signing — dubbed “the worst-kept secret” by ESPN’s Patriots writer Mike Reiss — started to leak Tuesday on Twitter when reports began circling around the practice facility that Branch, whose locker room nameplate was never taken down last month, despite being cut, was returning.
Branch, who has said all along he would rather play for New England than anyone else and even turned offers the first time he was cut in hopes of returning to Foxborough, even eluded to some good fortune coming his way on Twitter late Tuesday night.
“Stay Focused and Trust God and Everything Will Be Alright,” he wrote from his official Twitter feed, @deionbranch84.
Branch, 33, was originally selected by the Patriots in the second round (65th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft out of Louisville. He has been to three Super Bowls with the Patriots — winning in 2005, when he was named the MVP for his Super Bowl record-tying 11 receptions. Branch, however, was traded by the Patriots to the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 11, 2006 and then reacquired through a trade with Seattle on Oct. 12, 2010.
Branch was released by the Patriots on Aug. 31 and re-signed on Sept. 19 before being released again on Nov. 17 due to a nagging hamstring injury and to make room for defensive addition Aqib Talib.
Branch has played in seven games with three starts and caught nine passes for 80 yards in 2012. Branch, 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, has played in 137 games with 110 starts and accumulated 511 receptions for 6,579 yards and 39 touchdowns. He has played in 15 postseason games with 13 starts and has 62 receptions for 932 yards and four touchdowns. His 24 receptions in three Super Bowls are third all time to the 33 by Jerry Rice (four Super Bowls) and the 27 by Andre Reed (four Super Bowls).
Twitter was abuzz once word of Branch’s return became official as Patriots expressed their approval.
“Prayers answered, boys & girls: Deion Branch is coming back,” wrote Pats fan @caplannfl.
Branch was seen arriving at the Patriots’ practice facility Wednesday, but he did not speak to reporters.