FOXBORO -- Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch was missing from the start of Tuesday's practice, which was held inside Gillette Stadium. It was the first practice held on the team's game-day turf since they held a training camp practice for season-ticket holders and Foxboro residents.
Branch was not spotted during the media-availability portion of Thursday's practice last week. He has been coach Bill Belichick's most consistent defensive tackle this season, which Belichick pointed out recently, saying both Malcom Brown and Vincent Valentine should aspire to play at the level of their 10-year veteran teammate.
Branch started all 16 regular-season games for the Patriots and played in 60 percent of the defensive snaps, which was his heighest percentage of defensive snaps he has played since 2011 when he was a member of the Seahawks. Branch turned 32 years old at the end of last month.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has skipped a handful of practices since taking a hard hit from Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor in Week 10, was present for the start of the fully-padded session.
Returning to practice on Tuesday was Patriots corner Cyrus Jones, who had not practiced since the Wednesday before the regular-season finale due to a knee injury.
Martellus Bennett is as good at Twitter as he is at football. Add to that the fact that all eyes are on whether the free agent will stay in New England and the @MartysaurusRex account becomes a must-follow.
On Wednesday, Bennett put his powers to good use and shared a glimpse into his line of thinking regarding free agency.
Bennett, who could very well leave the Pats for more money, responded to a criticism of his desire to get paid and followed it with several more musings.
Bill Belichick, identified as "William Belichick," has been added to the list of potential defense witnesses who could testify during the upcoming double-homicide trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, according to the Boston Herald.
Per the Herald, the new list of potential witnesses for the defense also includes Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who was Hernandez's teammate at the University of Florida.
Belichick, McDaniels and Pouncey aren't guaranteed to testify, but their presence on the civilian witness list makes their presence in court a possibility.
Hernandez's trial is scheduled to start next Wednesday. He's accused of killing Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Furtado back in July of 2012. Hernandez is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of the murder Odin Lloyd in 2013.