FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Ping pong.

Apparently, that’s something Tom Brady has to work on. At least according to Deion Branch, the veteran wide receiver for the New England Patriots and a close friend of Brady’s.

The two apparently play all the time. Brady apparently doesn’t like to lose, which, according to Branch, the celebrity quarterback does often when the two play.

“I’m better and he hates it. My man breaks his paddle and everything,” said Branch. “He’s going to get mad when he hears this. He’s going to break another paddle.”

Branch, entering his 11th NFL season, was entertaining the media following the first practice of the preseason for the Patriots, a practice attended by 12,163 fans at the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. That set an attendance record for a single-session practice.

“That’s crazy,” said Branch. “That’s the love and support of the New England area and we truly appreciate it. That’s why we try our best and give them everything we have, each and every week, every year.”

The always-affable Branch did a lot of smiling Thursday afternoon. He’s thrilled to be back with the Patriots, with Brady, with Bill Belichick. He made it clear in the offseason, even as the Patriots were bringing in veteran receivers like Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth, that this was the place he wanted to be.

He had left New England before, after the 2005 season, when his contract demands were deemed too high by the Patriots. They traded him to Seattle for a first-round pick. Four years later, he was traded back to the Patriots, this time for a fourth-round pick.

He didn’t want to leave again, even if he was a free agent. So he signed a one-year, $1.325 million contract to come back on March 30.

“This is home,” he said. “This is where I started. This is where I want to finish, whether it be this year, next year, two years from now.”

Branch looks at the Patriots’ receiving corp and knows how deep and talented it is. Wes Welker, Branch, Lloyd, Gaffney and Stallworth — two other returning former Patriots — make this one of the deepest corps in the NFL. They have 51 combined years of NFL experience.

The 33-year-old Branch likes that.

“The thing is, that’s what the organization has to do,” he said. “They’ve got to do what’s best for them, for the team and it’s all about building. When you’re adding great receivers, good receivers, however you want to say it, it adds a lot more depth to your team, makes your team a lot better. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Asked if he feels like he’s fighting for a spot on the roster, Branch shook his head and smiled. Even though he caught 51 passes for 702 yards and five touchdowns a year ago, he was often overlooked.

“I’ve been fighting for my job since I came into the league,” he said. “If you think that you’ve got a job then something is wrong. And that’s true. Nobody’s a guaranteed lock. It’s a competitive training camp. We’re out here trying to take advantage of every opportunity we get and then it’s up to the coaches to make the decisions.”

As tight as the competition is, Branch said all the receivers are working well together.

“Once we get in the meeting room and we’re looking at film, we’re always bouncing ideas off each other, trying to make each other better,” said Branch. “They take something from me, I take a lot of stuff from the other guys.”

Branch hesitated to say how good this team could be. “That’s for you all to determine that,” he said to the group surrounding him.

But later on, he admitted that this season could be special.

“I’m very excited about this team,” he said. “Now it’s all about putting it on the football field.

“Do we look good on paper? You could say that. But now we’ve got to put it out on the football field.”

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

 


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