FOXBORO -- Deion Branch did not deny he spoke with other teams during 2012's free agency period. Not that it mattered in the end.
"The conversation was there," he said after Tuesday's OTA session. "I think everyone knew exactly what was what. This is where I want to be, this is where I want to retire. Coach Belichick and I, and his staff, the organization, made sure we tried to head in that direction."
Branch is one of 10 receivers currently on the roster. He does have at least one advantage over the rest: an enviable connection with quarterback Tom Brady, built on six seasons with the Patriots.
But Branch assumes nothing. The 32-year old knows he'll have to step into the ring with the rest and is content to do so.
"Always -- and I wouldn't want it no other way. I'm here to compete; show the coaches why I'm here; why they have me on this team. That's my job is to go out and compete and try to help my team.
"I think competition is always good," Branch said. "There's so much in and out and a lot of exchanging that goes on throughout this business. You never know until it's done, until the entire roster is set. The guys here, we're all cool. We're all here for one thing and that's to win."
New England's top-gear attitude has been reflected in every player who's met with the media since April 16; they're all happily beaten up. Of the OTA's, Branch described strength coach Harold Nash's workouts as "crazy," and laughed to say Nash is "killing" him.
All part of the fun. Branch stressed how important team-building and camaraderie are during these early workouts. Just as much as earning the exhaustion.
"It's fun. You really get to see the guys who really love the game, who love to be around each other.
"After a while, after four, five, six months of it we get tired of each other," Branch joked. "But at the beginning phase it's always good to see who's here, who's excited about the upcoming season.You see the urge that the guys have and I think we're all looking forward to the season."