Patriots to visit with Andre Gurode

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Patriots to visit with Andre Gurode

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran So Albert Haynesworth tried to put out a non-existent fire on Andre Gurode's head a few years back? Not Bill Belichick's problem. "Just trying to make the football team better," will be the inevitable response if a planned visit with Gurode comes to pass and the former Dallas Pro Bowler is signed to beef up the interior of the Patriots' offensive line. To Bill, what happens in Tennessee stays in Tennessee. Or Washington. Or wherever something untoward occurred with a current Patriot at a former address. Stick around long enough and you see that the impossible becomes the inevitable where Belichick is concerned. When I saw that Gurode was in danger of being released by the Cowboys, I threw it out there that, "Center Andre Gurode appears to be on the outs in Dallas. Couldn't you just see Belichick signing him?"Who quotes himself in his own story? Nostra-Thomas, baby. It was October of 2006 when Haynesworth took exception to Gurode going at his knees in a game between the Cowboys and Titans. Haynesworth pried the helmet off Gurode and stepped on his head. The ensuing wound meant 30 stitches for Gurode and a five-game suspension for Haynesworth. The two buried the hatchet days later with Gurode saying, "He called me, we spoke on the phone and that was pretty much it. He just apologized. I don't really need a reason. You have to forgive a guy for doing something like that. Just move on and play football." Immediately after the game, Haynesworth said, "For what I did, whatever they give me, I deserve it. I did it, and it's wrong."Let's look at this visit (Gurode won't work out; he had knee surgery in June) on another level. How does it sit with Haynesworth? He knows the interaction between he and Gurode if Gurode signs is going to be a source of intense curiosity. How can it not be? And he also knows that it dredges up an ugly moment from five years ago he will face questions about all over again. While Belichick wouldn't have Gurode in for a looksee if he was an absolute stiff, the fact Belichick will ponder a move that could make Haynesworth's life uncomfortable is further evidence that Belichick's concern is having the best players available on his football team. In Gurode's case, you find out if he's healthy and can help. Then you worry about any other issues later. One can presume that Gurode knows Haynesworth is here and that he could have declined the invitation if he wanted to. And one can also presume that Belichick will ask whether being in the same locker room with Haynesworth poses an issue. Hell, he might have already given Haynesworth a heads-up it. Not asking permission, just letting him know.Football-wise, the 32-year-old Gurode is a five-time Pro Bowler who was due to make 5.5 million with the Cowboys in 2011. Dallas was remaking their line and going young. Gurode, who didn't practice in the first three weeks of camp, was a money and age decision. He's got versatility and can play either center or guard. Currently, the Patriots are thin at the right guard spot with an injury to Dan Connolly. Gurode could also be a backup to Dan Koppen. Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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.