Deion Branch has played six of his 11 NFL seasons in New England, with a four-plus season stint with the Seattle Seahawks in between. In 2011, Branch started 15 games as Tom Brady's fourth-most-targeted receiver, finishing with 51 receptions for 702 yards and five touchdowns.
ALBANY — Welcome home, Deion.
According to multiple reports, Albany native Deion Branch returned Tuesday to the New England Patriots, the team he won Super Bowl rings with in 2003 and 2005 and was the MVP for in the latter.
Branch, the former Monroe star who was cut by the team when it trimmed to a 53-man roster to start the season, was brought back Tuesday amid the injury to star playmaker Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez, a tight end who also plays at running back and wideout, injured his ankle in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals and did not return. He is expected to miss a month.
Branch was on hand in Foxboro over the weekend for former teammate Troy Brown’s Hall of Fame induction, and he made it clear he was open to returning to New England even before the injury to Hernandez.
He told reporters that he was in contact with other teams since being released in Augusta but he was holding out in hopes of returning to New England.
“If I’m there, I’d love to be back,” Branch said, according to cbssports.com. “I’d embrace it and pick up right where I left off at.”
The news of Branch returning was first reported by The Boston Globe on Tuesday afternoon.
To make room for Branch, the Pats released receiver Greg Salas, as well as fullback Lex Hilliard and linebacker Mike Rivera and also signed free-agent tight end Kellen Winslow.
Branch has played six of his 11 NFL seasons in New England, with a four-plus season stint with the Seattle Seahawks in between. In 2011, Branch started 15 games as Tom Brady’s fourth-most-targeted receiver, finishing with 51 receptions for 702 yards and five touchdowns.
Branch remained unsigned after being cut in the offseason because the word around Patriots headquarters was the team intended to bring him back at some point.
Drafted 65th overall in 2002, Branch was a key piece of the three Patriot teams that made it to Super Bowls. In the 2005 Super Bowl, Branch had 10 receptions — tying the record for the Big Game — for 143 yards and a touchdown, earning him MVP honors.