Arrington returns home

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Arrington returns home

FOXBORO -- When the Patriots take to FedEx Field, Kyle Arrington will have a chance to show his hometown just how far he has come.

Born in Accokeek, Maryland, Arrington attended Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, just a 30-minute drive from the Redskins' home stadium. He'll have 20 or more family members in the crowd on Sunday as the Pats and 'Skins square off.

Others in the stands may remember Arrington as the 150-pound high school junior who separated his shoulder twice trying to make big hits that his body couldn't withstand. Or maybe they'll remember him as the lightly-recruited senior who didn't know how to get into a proper corner back stance or backpedal in the correct manner. Maybe to them he's a kid who got lucky. With just one year of high school varsity football under his belt, Division 1-AA Hofstra took a chance on Arrington and gave him a scholarship to play college football in upstate New York.

Seven years later and 40 pounds heavier, Arrington has made a complete transformation. He's a starting corner on one of the best teams in the NFL and his seven interceptions lead the league. For those who watched him get beat up as a scrawny Gwynn Park defensive back, Arrington's first game as a pro in Washington, DC is cause for celebration.

"When Kyle wants to do something and puts his mind to it, he can do anything he wants to," said Gwynn Park coach Danny Haley. "We're very excited for him. It makes us proud to see him."

Arrington's last month has been a bit of a stroll down memory lane. In Week 12, the Patriots took on the Eagles, Arrington's first NFL team. He joined Philadelphia in 2008 as an undrafted free agent, but didn't last long. He did what he could to stick around -- he studied and tried to sleep while his friends DeSean Jackson and Quintin Demps played video games in his room -- but he got cut from the Eagles practice squad soon after training camp ended.

"I guess coming from a D1-AA, it was a little bit bigger pond," Arrington said before facing the Eagles this season. "Just a tad bit bigger. It was a little adjustment period."

Now that he's with the Patriots, the adjustment period is behind him. Arrington has become one of the rocks of a Patriots secondary that seems to change every week. With Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty going down with injuries at different points in the season, the 25-year-old Arrington has been a stabilizing presence in the Patriots' defensive backfield.

The Patriots have been statistically the worst pass defense in the NFL, but Arrington has been a pleasant surprise. He appeared in all 16 regular season games last season and made 71 tackles, but he had just one career pick before this season.

Despite the increased media attention he's received and the number of Facebook messages from old friends he's found in his inbox, he's not taking time to sit back and think about his unlikely journey.

"As far as reflecting on everything, I really haven't had time to," Arrington said. "I'm trying to stay focused. We have a long way to go as far as where we want to be as a team so when it's all said and done, and we're where we wanna be, then I'll reflect."

Arrington's drive is something he's had since his days at Gwynn Park. He wasn't always focused on football -- a score-first point guard, he fancied himself as more of a basketball player -- but he did want to make himself into the best athlete he could be. As a result, he began to spend hours upon hours in the weight room.

Even when he's back in Maryland visiting family, he'll return to his old gym at the YMCA in Fort Washington to work out.

"He eats weights. He sleeps weights," said Haley. "He hasn't forgotten. He knows exactly what he has to do and how he'll do it. He'll always out-work the guy who's going against him. He has that mindset that he was taught in high school."

Haley remembers how Arrington made himself into an All-County cornerback in Prince George's County and took Gwynn Park to within one game of the state finals in his senior year. He was a quiet kid with great athletic ability.

And though now he's looking like a Pro Bowl player, Haley says Arrington is the same guy.

During the Patriots' bye week, Arrington returned to Gwynn Park to speak to visit his old teachers and speak to their students.

"He was just being Kyle," Haley said. "Down to earth. Very mild-mannered. Very respectful. Nothing's changed."

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Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch knew he had a good case, otherwise he wouldn't have appealed. It was just a question of when that appeal might be heard. 

As of Wednesday, the Patriots defensive tackle hadnt heard anything as it related to the appeal of his four-game suspension. But by Saturday morning, according to Field Yates of ESPN, Branch had won the appeal and been cleared of the league's ban. 

Branch's agent later confirmed the news on Twitter.

Word of Branch's punishment, which stemmed from what was reported as a positive marijuana test, became public when reported by ESPN on Nov. 21. Per the league's substance abuse policy, appeal hearings are typically scheduled for the fourth Tuesday after a player has been informed of his penalty. The policy notes that it is possible for appeals to be heard on another date should the two sides be able to work out different schedule, but Branch was not optimistic that would be the case earlier this week. 

Good news came quickly, though. 

Had Branch been forced to miss any time, it would have docked the Patriots arguably their top interior defensive lineman. Branch has started every game, and he leads all Patriots defensive tackles with 457 snaps played. 

The Patriots recently waived running back DJ Foster and signed defensive tackle Darius Kilgo, seemingly as a way to build some depth on the roster if Branch had been suspended. 

By having his four-game suspension wiped away not only are the Patriots saved from having to deal without one of their top players in the trenches, but Branch saved himself a relatively hefty financial penalty.

A four-game ban would have cost him nearly $300,000 in base salary as well as four game-day bonuses adding to $100,000. He also stood to lose as much as $750,000 in season-long playing-time incentives. In all, had the suspension stood, it could have cost him about $1.1 million. Patriots salary-cap expert Miguel Benzan goes into more detail about the potential financial impact of Branch's suspension here

Thankfully for Branch, he doesn't have to worry about that any longer. With this situation in the rear view, he can now focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.