Flashing that winning, glowing smile he’s become famous for, Monroe alum and Albany native Deion Branch jokes with throngs of reporters earlier this week as the Patriots opened practice in preparation for next Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Giants. This will be Branch’s third career Big Game with New England.

Flashing that winning, glowing smile he’s become famous for, Monroe alum and Albany native Deion Branch jokes with throngs of reporters earlier this week as the Patriots opened practice in preparation for next Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Giants. This will be Branch’s third career Big Game with New England.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Deion Branch’s MVP trophy he earned in Super Bowl XXXIX with the New England Patriots sits in a glass case in his home. He relishes it. He shows it to his kids once and awhile. And every now and again, he talks about it.

But not this week. He won’t.

Because that’s in the past. And in just seven days against the New York Giants — a game that will mark the third career Super Bowl for the Albany native and former Monroe High School star — he’ll have a chance at another.

“(I don’t think about it that much). Not really, because I’m still playing, and the hunger is there to come in with the same goal,” Branch told NESN Boston earlier this week. “For us to have the opportunity to play in this special game, this special event, it’s a blessing.

“The reason why I’m playing is for this moment right here, to have the opportunity to be in these type of games, to be around these type of guys in the locker room, to go out and share this moment with them. I think when I’m done playing, I can sit back and reminisce on this stuff and brag to my kids about it.”

What a career it’s been.

In his 10th year in the NFL, Branch has become one of the best receivers the game has ever seen — especially in the Big One. His 21 total catches for 276 yards in his first two Super Bowls with New England — 2004 and 2005, both of them ending in a ring — ranks him third all-time in league history behind two other pretty good wideouts you may have heard of: Jerry Rice (33 catches) and Andre Reed (27).

And the most amazing part is this: He doesn’t appear to be slowing down, even at 32 — an age that often marks the end of careers for most NFL receivers.

But not Branch, who just keeps on ticking ... and catching ... and scoring touchdowns.

“I think overall now, the knowledge of the game is there. (Before, early in my career) I was just running around playing off raw ability,’’ Branch told The Boston Globe in an interview Friday. “I’ve always prided myself on knowing my opponents, being a smart player, knowing what I’m doing, that part was there. But now it’s just, I see the game a lot different, everything moves slower as far as me recognizing things. That stuff is there. Back then it took a while to process.’’

During the regular season, Branch — considered the team’s No. 4 receiver this season behind leader Wes Welker and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez — had 51 receptions on 90 targets, for 702 yards and five scores. That’s down only slightly from his 2010 season when he had 61 receptions for 818 yards and six TD grabs, but it doesn’t mean Patriots coach Bill Belichick has any less confidence in the guy who led New England to its second straight Super Bowl win in 2005 with 11 catches for 133 yards — a mark that tied an NFL Super Bowl record and earned Branch that coveted MVP honor.

“Deion is a very instinctive receiver,” Belichick said two weeks ago before the Patriots played Denver in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs — a 45-10 romp during which Branch caught a 61-yard TD pass to finished with three catches for 85 yards, second on the team behind Gronkowski. “He was in college at Louisville and then from day one when he got here. He’s smart, he learns very quickly and he just understands the receiver concepts and techniques. He almost always does what the quarterback would expect him to do. He just has a good instinct and a good feel for what the right decision to make is based on what he’s seeing, and then, so that he can help the quarterback, (gets to) the spot where the quarterback wants him to be and when he wants him to be there.

“Deion has a great sense for that timing.”

And also coming through when his teammates need him most.

Last week — although it wasn’t publicized — Branch played in the AFC Championship game against Baltimore despite suffering from the flu all week. Yet he still managed to contribute with two catches for 18 yards and make several key downfield blocks in the run game during what a somewhat sloppy offensive performance all around by the Pats, who held on to win only after Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard field goal wide left in the closing seconds that would’ve sent the game into overtime.

Branch addressed that performance — and how the Patriots must improve before facing the Giants — this week in an interview with WEEI Radio in Boston.

“I battled the whole game with the flu — had it for about a week. I didn’t even see (the missed field goal). I promise you. I didn’t even see the last 10 plays, I felt so bad,” Branch said. “But as an offensive player, we didn’t put our best football on the field (last Sunday) and we put our defense’s backs against the wall. We put them in that situation and they held up. Those guys, they played a great game.”

Branch even had a message for the media after the game as it made its way around the locker room to speak to the Patriots’ players about the nail-biting win.

“I told the reporters ... they shouldn’t have the cameras in nobody’s face on the offensive side of the ball because we didn’t hold up our part of the stick (in that game),” he said. “Our defense did a great job, (and we’re) truly thankful.

“(And) for all the people who’ve been talking about (how bad) our defense is ... take that. Those guys, they played ball (in the AFC Championship).”

Branch was then asked by WEEI’s hosts — one of which was his former teammate on that 2005 Super Bowl team, Troy Brown — about why he thought quarterback Tom Brady struggled last week, and why the offense seem so ineffective, even against one of the league’s top defenses in the Ravens.

Branch didn’t dodge the question, and followed by saying that type of outing won’t cut it next Sunday when New England squares off at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis against New York.

“You know what? I think all of us ... it’s that point in the game where we wanted it so bad; guys are out there trying to make every play, whether it be Tom, myself, Wes, Gronkowski, all the guys, man,” he said. “.... We expect all the guys to make those plays, like last week, I’ve got to make that catch (for a 61-yard score against Denver). You only get so many opportunities. On the offensive side of the ball, we didn’t cash in like we normally do. We drove the ball up and down the field on them all day long, but when we got in the red area, we just couldn’t put it in.

“We got away with it (last Sunday) but that performance won’t get us a victory (against the Giants).”

Sunday’s game, as everyone knows, will be a rematch of the 2008 Super Bowl won by the Giants in stunning fashion, 17-14. The New York victory not only shocked the pro football world — considering New England entered the game 19-0 and was on the verge of becoming just the second franchise in NFL history to go unbeaten since the 1972 Dolphins — but it was one that Branch was not a part of. He was traded to the Seattle Seahawks after the 2005-2006 season following a bitter contract dispute with the Patriots.

Nonetheless, Branch says he remembers the 2008 game well because it pained him to watch “guys I still loved” lose.

“I was watching, I was hoping my guys won. I was sitting in my basement, pulling for them. I had a bunch of guys I still loved and truly appreciated playing with on that team,” he told WEEI. “I felt bad when they didn’t win it.”

So what does the 2008 game have to do with the 2012 rematch?

Nothing, according to Branch.

“This is a totally different game now — totally different compared to this year and that last game,” he said. “Different styles, different players on the team. It’s going to be a different game.”

The Patriots, who eerily lost to the Giants in Week 9, 24-20, in similar last-second fashion, had better hope so. Although, Branch said he doesn’t think that defeat — one of just three all season for the Pats (15-3) — will play much of a role come next Sunday.

“Yeah, there’s some things we can do (differently this time against New York). We’re going to look at that film, get down and critique it pretty hard, but I think overall, once (the Super Bowl game time of) 6:20 p.m. hits, it’s time to get down and play football — regardless of what happened when we played them 2 months ago,” Branch said. “That game won’t matter.”

Branch, the only native of Albany to ever play in and win a Super Bowl — much less two — has been limited in practice this week as he continues to recover from the flu and soreness in both his knees, but there’s little doubt he’ll be on the field in Indy as he seeks his third Super Bowl ring in three tries. His role was crucial in the Patriots’ first win in 2004 — 10 catches for 143 yards — and he then came up huge a year later in 2005 when he won the MVP. And now that he’s back for the first time after a seven-year drought, he’s been reciting the same message to himself, and his teammates, this week as they prepare.

“Put all your eggs in one basket. It’s the last game, no more practices after this. We need everyone’s best game. Period,” he said. “You have to put everything in perspective and realize this may be it. This may be your last chance to play in a championship.

“Some guys never get an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, and it’s a blessing to be in this position. We need to maximize this opportunity and take advantage of it.”

Comments

coachjohnson42 2 years, 6 months ago

ITS ABOUT TIME!!!! I HAVE WONDERING HOW LONG IT WAS GONNA TAKE!!! THANK YOU HERALD.....ALBANY NEEDS TO SEE YOUR SUPPORT FOR ITS OWN, AND THIS LOOKS GOOD!!! GO PATS!!!!

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Somebody 2 years, 6 months ago

They should have had the story featuring Branch & Tom Brady. Without Tom Brady, Branch would have been a below average receiver. Branch didn't exactly burn the yard markers at Seattle.

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 6 months ago

you are wrong.....You don't win a Superbowl MVP by being "below average" fool.....

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bubbasmithredneck 2 years, 6 months ago

Without Branch, Brady would not be in the Superbowl. Remember, Brady wanted Branch back with the Patriots because he knew his team couldn't get their with just Welker.

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Somebody 2 years, 6 months ago

And without Brady, Branch wouldn't be in the super bowl. How many Super Bowls did Branch win at Seattle, let's see...O. Seattle was a mediocre team at best. At least New England was still competitive without Branch.

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bubbasmithredneck 2 years, 6 months ago

Deion Branch & chemistry lesson January, 12, 2012 JAN 12 3:22 PM ET EmailPrintComments 98 By Steven Krasner FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The chemistry between quarterback Tom Brady and receiver Deion Branch was under the spotlight Thursday, in part because of Bill Belichick's glowing remarks about Branch.

"There are things Deion does that are hard to coach. He almost always does the right thing, like Troy Brown,” Belichick said, referring to the former Patriots great. "... You want your receiver to be open when your quarterback is ready to deliver the ball and Deion is very good at that. He almost always does what the quarterback expects him to do."

Branch addressed the topic in a visit to the media workroom Thursday.

“I think if you’ve got a group of guys working with the quarterback for a long time you’ll get a lot of production,” he said, adding that the chemistry begins in the meeting room, moves over to the practice field, and culminates in completions on game day,

“Tom is a perfectionist,” Branch said. “He may say in practice, ‘Deion, I want you at 6 yards (on a particular pattern)’ or “I want you to be here on this slant.’ We all work on these plays a lot to get confident that the guys will be in the places they need to be.”

Belichick said Branch is one of the best at being at the right place at the right time: “Deion has been a very instinctive receiver. He’s smart. He learns quickly. He understands receiver concepts and techniques."

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 6 months ago

See.....without Deion, Brady cant always get it done....he needs the kid from Monroe!!!

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Keyshia7 2 years, 6 months ago

@ Somebody, I'm thinking this article about Mr. Branch was to show hometown support!! We all know that one person does not win a football game, and that it's a TEAM Effort!! But some of us would like to show our SUPPORT and take our hats off to this GUY!! I can't seem to remember Tom Brady coming to Albany, to give back to the under privilege kids!?!Congratulations Deion and keep doing what you do!! You are DEFINITELY "OUR" MVP!! Let"s go Patriots!! TEAM BRANCH #84!

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VSU 2 years, 6 months ago

Tom Brady is not from Albany! Why on God's green earth would he come to this town?

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Keyshia7 2 years, 6 months ago

My words exactly!!! Tom Brady is NOT from Albany.....So with that being said.... Why not let THE ALBANY HERALD write their Article on SOMEONE whose actually from Albany!!! Let's go Deion!! TEAM BRANCH #84!!!

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VSU 2 years, 6 months ago

I never said they shouldn't! I'm proud that Albany has someone locally that is in the NFL and on a super bowl contending team. Albany has their own Neon Deion. I think the Patriots will wipe the mat with the Giants, but at the same time, you can't underestimate the Giants. They've gotten hot at the right time.

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 6 months ago

Believe it or not, you will have some haters from right here in Albany against the Patriots just to see our local hero (DEION BRANCH) lose in the Superbowl. FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN HE IS __.

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Somebody 2 years, 6 months ago

But what did Branch do at seattle? Answer me that? How many Super Bowls did Branch win at Seattle? So without Brady, branch would not be going to the super bowl.

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Keyshia7 2 years, 6 months ago

How many Superbowls have Seattle won without Branch since he's been back with the Patriots? Answer ME that? So obviously Deion Branch was not the problem there!! I'm just saying?!?!!

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Somebody 2 years, 6 months ago

None, but it just shows that Branch has to be on a talented team to get to the super bowl. Branch didn't do it alone.

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Keyshia7 2 years, 6 months ago

Apparently you have missed the entire issue at hand... No,ONE person can win a football,basketball or baseball game when it's known as a TEAM SPORT!! The issue at hand here was to support and rally behind our OWN, hometown 2005 Super Bowl XXXIX MVP!!!! Because i'm pretty sure everyone that watches sports knows that no one person can win a team sport alone! TEAM BRANCH #84!! Let's Go Deion/Patriots!!

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 6 months ago

("MISS SOMEBODY" SOUNDS LIKE A "NOBODY") Who cares what happened in Seattle? You sound like a "hater" and a "envious fool." Seattle has nothing to do with this Superbowl. Seattle had no quarterback to throw to Deion who was any good. Its pretty ignorant of you to bring up Seattle when they have nothing with Deion and Brady. Brady saw that his talents were not being utilized properly in Seattle and he wanted him back in New England. CASE CLOSED!

GO PATS!!!

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VSU 2 years, 6 months ago

It's that team chemistry...White quarterback throwing to black receiver. Black & whites working together...right coach? What's that you say Ebony & Ivory working together in perfect harmony? Tell 'em coach!

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 6 months ago

HERE'S PROOF FOR ALL YOU HATERS!!!! READ BELOW (if you can) Report: Brady knew trade was in works EmailPrintComments ESPNBoston.com Patriots quarterback Tom Brady recently was in touch with Seattle Seahawks receiver Deion Branch about the possibility of having him rejoin New England to fill the void created by the trade of Randy Moss to Minnesota, a league source told the Boston Globe.

Branch

Brady The source also told the Globe that Brady had been in touch with Branch during the past week because he knew the Moss trade was in the works.

And according to the Boston Herald, the Patriots and Seahawks have had preliminary talks about the possibility of a Branch trade.

Branch, who has 13 catches for 112 yards and one touchdown this season as part of a deep receiving corps in Seattle, will meet with Seahawks general manager John Schneider to discuss his future with the team, the source told the Globe.

Branch played for the Patriots from 2002 to 2005 and was named MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX. He was traded to Seattle for a first-round draft pick before the 2006 season after a contract dispute with the Patriots.

He told the Boston Herald earlier this year he would welcome a return to New England.

"That'd be interesting to see," Branch said. "You know what, I talk to guys all the time. I never wanted to leave, nor did coach [Bill] Belichick and his staff and the organization want me to leave, either. We just couldn't get the contractual part down. We just couldn't come to an agreement. And that stuff happens.

"I still love Coach Belichick and if the opportunity presents itself to come back, I would love to be there."

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