Another fan of Branch;Hasselbeck predicts big things
FOXBORO – NFL quarterbacks talk, and Matt Hasselbeck is no
Over the past five seasons, the Seahawks signal-caller has
spoken on-and-off with
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and
they often came back to the same topic: Deion Branch.
And Brady kept making the same observation.
”(Brady) would say, `Wow, I watch you guys on offense and,
you’re not really using him like we used him,’ ” Hasselbeck told
the Herald this week. ”But we had to do it that way, by default.
Deion was talented enough to play inside, play outside, and we had
other guys who could only play inside, so we moved Deion around (to
By the time Branch was traded from the Pats to Seattle in 2006,
he had wracked up 213 catches for 2,744 receiving yards with 14
scores. An up-and-down, injury-plagued tenure in the Northwest for
a team in transition led Branch home this week with great optimism
– especially from Hasselbeck.
”If anybody knows how to use him, it’s the
Patriots,” Hasselbeck said. ”If
anybody knows how to throw him the ball, it’s Tom Brady. I expect
that he has a good year this year.”
Branch has battled injuries, including a torn ACL, and his
production waned. Yet Hasselbeck raved about his health after an
”He’s probably the same guy when (the
Patriots) last had him,” said
Hasselbeck, the former Xaverian and Boston College star. ”He looks
great. He’s very quick, he’s very explosive. I don’t know about
just a track race, but he’s very quick. And if guys try to get
physical with him, he’s strong enough.” ”And if the quarterback
believes in you,” he continued, ”that’s huge.”
Brady does. He was the one who called Hasselbeck in 2006 to tell
him he’d love Branch. The love continued in Seattle.
”If you were to ask the young receivers on our team, `What guys
in your career did you learn a lot from?’ I guarantee every one
would mention Deion Branch,” Hasselbeck said.
In earning Super Bowl MVP honors and stardom before being traded
to sign a big contract with the Seahawks, Branch excelled by
playing every position. Sometimes, Brady would simply move him
around in the huddle to find the right matchup, and the option
routes featured two minds thinking like one.
It wasn’t like that in Seattle. In the rigid West Coast offense,
Branch was pegged as the deep threat and outside receiver. His
assignment was rarely adjusted or ad-libbed. For a receiver
Hasselbeck described as ”more quick than fast,” it didn’t best
utilize his talents.
Thanks to the ACL tear and some woeful teams, Branch’s
contributions in Seattle never lived up to anyone’s expectations.
He missed 10 games over the past two seasons, then was a bit player
in four games before the trade.
For a Seahawks team that went a combined 9-23 in 2008 and 2009,
the highly compensated Branch was a scapegoat. Hasselbeck, who
claimed his team made ”217 roster moves” since coach Pete Carroll
arrived, took the blame off Branch.
”We let him go in part because we’re just changing over this
roster. It wasn’t because of him, it was more because of our
team,” Hasselbeck said. ”He got caught in a regime shift where
there was a lot of revolving door type stuff. But we would’ve been
way worse had he not been here.”
Coach Bill Belichick has not yet specified how he’ll use Branch,
saying, ”He will help our football team.”
Brady developed a serious rapport with Branch while earning two
of the Super Bowl rings. This week, he was cautiously optimistic
”(He was) reliable, consistent, tough, competitive,” Brady
said. ”I wouldn’t think he would forget how to do those
After three days of practice, Branch is putting the emotional
side of his return aside. He’s intent on not making it a situation
where players are ”hugging each other because I’m back.” He wants
to work, though most will be mental.
”As far as me being healthy and able to run around for 60
minutes,” Branch said, ”I can do that.”
Hasselbeck believes that, too. He appears as excited as anyone
to see Brady and Branch team up again.
”There are guys that I’ve played with that you feel like you
could throw to them with your eyes closed,” Hasselbeck said. ”I
know that Deion Branch is one of Tom’s favorite receivers of all