Jackie MacMullan writes on Patriots receiver Deion Branch in a piece now posted on ESPNBoston.com. The story is headlined: "For Branch, so many reasons to smile."
MacMullan charts Branch's journey from New England to Seattle and back to New England again. She talks with receiver Nate Burleson, a former teammate of Branch's in Seattle.
"When he talked about New England, you could see the passion in his eyes,'' Burleson says in the piece. "The way he built it up, sometimes it felt like the Patriots were the huge college program and the rest of us [in the NFL] were a community college.''
Branch shares his regrets about things not working out in Seattle and how he wasn't always on the same page with Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. He also talks about his exit from New England in 2006.
"It was bad,'' Branch says in the piece. "It was sour how it ended, but I was never involved in any of it. My agent handled the negotiations. I prayed every night it would get done. ... But the business side of it kept getting in the way. There was no hatred. The conversations I had with Bill [Belichick] and Mr. [Robert] Kraft were decent, respectful. Coach Belichick told me, 'I wish we could get it done, but I understand your side.' ... That's why it was so easy for me to return. It never got personal.'"
Branch was never bitter, in part because of what he experienced in his personal life.
Writes MacMullan, "He was only 21 years old when his sons were born prematurely. One, Deiontey, was small, but healthy, squirming and squealing his way into the world. The other, Deiondre, was silent, listless. He contracted viral meningitis and the prognosis was poor."
Now that he's back in New England, Branch is closer to Deiontey and Deiondre, who live in Louisville.
That has been an added bonus for Branch in his return to the Patriots. He calls himself "lucky" and "truly blessed."