Report: Pats to work out Houshmandzadeh, Sharper

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Report: Pats to work out Houshmandzadeh, Sharper

By Phil Perry
CSNNE.com

According to multiple reports, free agent wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh will visit Foxboro on Monday for a workout with the Patriots.

The Patriots will also work out free agent safeties Darren Sharper and Renaldo Hill, according to SportsXchange.

In 2009 Sharper made nine interceptions and helped lead the Saints to a Super Bowl championship. Last season he played in eight games after undergoing microfracture surgery on his knee.

Houshmandzadeh is coming off of a disappointing season with the Ravens in 2010, his tenth season in the NFL, when he caught 30 balls for 398 yards and three touchdowns.

The 33-year-old had his best years in Cincinnati playing alongside new Patriots wideout and former Bengal Chad Ochocinco. Houshmandzadeh's career year came in 2007 when he tied with Wes Welker for the league lead in receptions (112).

He left Cincinnati in 2009 to sign with the Seahawks where he made 79 catches for 911 yards and three touchdowns.

The connection between Ochocinco and Houshmandzadeh runs deeper than their years together in Cincinnati. The two played together at Oregon State and were drafted by the Bengals in 2001.

It will be interesting to see if the Patriots, who already have wide receiver depth, keep Houshmandzadeh around. It's likely just the Patriots doing their due diligence, but perhaps they're hoping he will bring out the best in Ochocinco. With Houshmandzadeh as a teammate, Ochocinco (who until 2008 was officially known as Chad Johnson) made five Pro Bowls, was named an All-Pro four times, and set several Bengals franchise records.

Ochocinco also made the Pro Bowl in 2009, the year Houshmandzadeh left Cincinnati for Seattle as a free agent.

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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.