Chung focused on team in contract year

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Chung focused on team in contract year

FOXBORO -- Patrick Chung enters 2012 on the last year of his rookie contract.

Asked Thursday if he's happy to have another season, Chung missed the point.

"Who's not excited for that?" he laughed. "I love playing football. It's always exciting."

The moment provides an interesting glimpse as to his state of mind. It seems Chung is happily absorbed in OTAs, in the immediacy of New England's present moment.

You cant think about that stuff now, he said, once directed to contract talk. Thats when you make mistakes. Youve got to go into every season like everything is the same and nothing has changed.

Every year is the same. Youve got to ball out, regardless if its year one to year four. Youve got to play hard. Im not really worried about it.

So money isn't on the man's mind? Yeah, right. Any athlete would be a fool not to consider his future. It's just that Chung has plenty else to consider in the here and now.

More responsibility in a leadership role, for one thing.

"Coaches on the sideline give us information; youve got to have someone to relay it out there. I have to take charge and be mentally prepared," he said. "Everybody is physical, fast, strong, big, but the smarter guy always wins. So Im trying to be smarter than everybody."

Second round pick Tavon Wilson will need schooling at safety. Offseason acquisition Steve Gregory is a seven-year veteran, but new to the Patriots system. And there are other changes -- more vets, more pups -- to the rest of what was a much-maligned secondary last season.

We all help each other. Regardless of who is safety or whos at corner. If CB Devin McCourty sees something I dont see, hell tell me. If I see something that he doesnt see, Ill tell him. Its kind of like a brotherhood, youre going to tell your brothers what your going to tell them, whether its bad or its good."

There was too much of the bad, too much inconsistency overall last year. Beyond the group's struggles, Chung's personal development was derailed by a foot injury that forced him to miss half the regular season.

He said he's put it all -- Super Bowl disappointment included -- behind him.

The offseason is the offseason. You get out of it, but youre ready to get back into it. Im glad to be back with my boys. Its time to play some ball.

This is an important year for the Patriots safety. In more ways than one.

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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.