Belichick appreciates Bulman's smarts, conditioning

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Belichick appreciates Bulman's smarts, conditioning

The stories circulated quickly when Tim Bulman was a senior captain on the Boston College High School football team. And as he led both the offensive and defensive lines of the eventual Division 1 state champions, some of those stories became legend.

I was a freshman at the school at the time, and I'd hear stories that he would wake up in the middle of the night just to lift weights, then go back to sleep. Kids said he would snag sewer covers off the streets in Milton, Mass. when he ran out of 45-pound plates at home. They said that he once snapped a bench-press bar in half because it was overloaded with weight.

Whether the stories were true didn't matter. The boys at BC High listened, saw him dominate on the field, and thought he could do anything.

But never did we think he'd play for the Patriots. Even for the kids who passed him in the hallways on the Dorchester campus, it would have seemed too far-fetched. But here he is nonetheless, 12 years after his senior fall at BC High, on a one-year deal with his hometown team after spending the last six seasons in Houston.

"Tim had some production for the Texans," Bill Belichick said today. "He led their team in sacks, or was second in sacks . . . a couple years ago. You know, active guy, smart. Had a good workout, he's in good condition, so we'll see how it goes."

Bulman played in 41 games in Houston, including 10 last season. He was undrafted out of Boston College in 2005 but was signed by Arizona and played eight games for the Cardinals.

He's versatile -- he has experience in both 4-3 and 3-4 sets, which should benefit him -- but a roster spot at the end of camp is far from certain.

Until then, we'll see how it goes. The boys who remember him from BC High -- not to mention the folks from who know him from BC or back in Milton -- will certainly be watching.

Report: Patriots DT Branch wins appeal of four-game suspension

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Report: 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. 

Word of Branch's punishment stemming from 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, apparently. 

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 behind Branch 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. And he 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 focus on helping the Patriots win games during the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs.