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.