Late-game preseason action fine with focused Branch

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Late-game preseason action fine with focused Branch

FOXBORO -- Deion Branch had never been here before.

It was the fourth quarter of a preseason game. Most of the Patriots' top offensive unit didn't even play. And here's Branch, on the field, waiting to return punts.

Branch had two punts kicked in his direction on Monday night -- both in the fourth quarter -- but he let them fly over his head inside the 10-yard line.

Still, the fact that he was out there that late in such a meaningless game was new to him. He said afterwards that he knew it was coming.

"It wasn't strange," said Branch. "We spoke about it before the game."

Belichick had previously told Branch that he was going to get him the extra playing time on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was a way to make up for him missing the team's preseason opener. But it was also a sign of what the Patriots have on their roster, which is, a plethora of wide receivers.

Even without Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots still have receivers battling for roster spots. And with the numbers New England presents at the position, the veteran Branch isn't necessarily guaranteed anything.

Still, even having to play in the fourth quarter of a preseason game, some veterans would see that as a sign of disrespect. Not Branch. He knows the deal in New England.

"I'm just controlling my job to come here and play ball, and help the team," said Branch after New England's 27-17 loss to the Eagles.

"Every year there's competition. You know, every year. It doesn't change."

Branch finished the game with three receptions for a team-high 51 yards. Afterwards, he was saying all the right things. But perhaps, that state of mind is exactly why he shouldn't be worried.

"I feel good about my situation, as far as everybody's role," said Branch. "Nobody has a role right now. Nobody's made the team.

"Right now, it's just all about me going out, doing what I have to do to make the team."

Patriots won’t have to deal with Bills WR Sammy Watkins on Sunday.

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Patriots won’t have to deal with Bills WR Sammy Watkins on Sunday.

FOXBORO - Scratch the estimable Sammy Watkins from the Bills roster for Sunday. 

Buffalo shared via Twitter that their long, tall wideout is out for Sunday with a foot injury. Also down are wideout Greg Salas and left tackle Cyrus Kouandijo.

The Bills' starting left tackle Cordy Glenn has been dealing with an ankle injury that caused him to miss last week's game. 

Robert Woods will be the Bills best outside threat with Watkins taking Sunday off. The Bills' talented corner Ronald Darby is also trying to get back this week from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss last week's game with Arizona. 

 

 

No intel gathering on Garoppolo at Patriots practice

No intel gathering on Garoppolo at Patriots practice

FOXBORO - There were no tells about the Patriots quarterback situation for Sunday during the portion of Friday practice the media was allowed to watch. 

Jimmy Garoppolo, who on Wednesday was seen throwing short and medium-range passes without a lot of zip, hasn't thrown a ball with media in attendance since. Friday morning, after stretching and jogging, Garoppolo began a session feigning taking a snap from a center and going into a drop. But he did so without a football in his hands. 

Rookie Jacoby Brissett did flip a few passes during the jogging and stretching portion and, while he was wearing gloves, he is showing no signs of favoring his right thumb. 

So the question isn't whether the Patriots have any quarterbacks for Sunday against the Bills, it's whether or not they'll have Garoppolo. Certainly, it's a question that's been on the mind of Bills head coach Rex Ryan who keeps speaking the truth in jest by referencing the uncertainty around the Patriots situation. 

After being on the field in limited capacity all week, it's a certainty that Garoppolo dresses for the Bills game. Whether he plays and how effective he might be remains anything but certain.