0

Branch ready for another playoff run with N.E., despite rocky regular season

Albany native and longtime New England wideout Deion Branch works out Saturday during the Patriots’ final practice in preparation for today’s AFC divisional playoff game in Foxborough, Mass., against the Texans. This is Branch’s seven career trip to the postseason.

Albany native and longtime New England wideout Deion Branch works out Saturday during the Patriots’ final practice in preparation for today’s AFC divisional playoff game in Foxborough, Mass., against the Texans. This is Branch’s seven career trip to the postseason.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Just over a month ago, Albany native Deion Branch was sitting alongside his wife, Shola, in his basement, watching and waiting.

Watching the New England Patriots rout the Houston Texans and waiting for the call that would bring him back home.

He didn’t have to wait long.

Two days after the Patriots demolished the Texans, 42-14, in that Dec. 10 game in Foxborough, Mass., Branch re-signed with New England after being released for the second time this year back on Nov. 17.

Branch is back in New England, and so are the Texans for today’s AFC divisional playoff game, which Branch doesn’t expect to be anything like what he watched from the basement of his North Attleboro, Mass., home.

“No, trust me, you’re going to see a different Texans team,” Branch told pool reporters after practice Tuesday. “That we all know, I promise you that. They’re a great team. They’ve been a great team all season long. Unfortunately they ran into a couple stumbles, but that’s football. Trust me, it won’t be the same team that we played five weeks ago.”

Branch, a two-time Super Bowl champion, is in the postseason for the seventh time in his career, and the 2005 Super Bowl MVP has had plenty of success in the playoffs since being drafted by New England in 2002. In 14 postseason games with the Patriots and Seahawks, Branch has caught 62 passes for 932 yards and four touchdowns.

The Monroe grad says he still gets “pumped up” during playoff time.

“Always. I get pumped up for the regular season games, all of it,” he said. “It’s a blessing just to play this game and now to be in the position that we’re in.”

Branch added: “I think that’s the most important thing that you just said, going into my 11th year and I’m still having a lot of fun. I love playing the game. I enjoy being in the locker room, being around my teammates and I think this is what it’s all about. We spend so much time together as players. This is where we want to be, this is the position we want to be in and hopefully we can better ourselves as the postseason goes on.”

Branch caught just 16 passes for 145 yards and was held without a touchdown this season for the first time in his career, which is winding down and could come to an end after this season.

He insists that isn’t on his mind as he prepares for today’s game.

“No, I don’t think about that part,” he said. “I don’t think about, especially ending as far as the postseason. Each year, whatever team you’re on, that may not be the first goal. Your first goal is winning the division, if you win the division, you’re in the postseason. No I don’t really think about that. I’m just year-to-year.”

Branch and the Patriots were denied another Super Bowl ring last season with a loss to the New York Giants in his third career trip to the Big Game, and Branch said this year’s New England team is hungry to atone for last season.

“We want to make this team, the 2012 Patriots team, a special team,” Branch said. “Each year is going to be something different. We’re a lot better than we were last year. We don’t have the same players. That team, the 2011 team, was totally different from this year.”