Branch explored market before return

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Speaking to reporters at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch said that he was in contact with other teams as a free agent last month before re-signing with the Patriots.

"The conversation was there," Branch said when asked if other teams were involved in his free agency. "I think everyone knew exactly what was what. This is where I wanted to be, this is where I want to retire. Coach Belichick and I, and his staff, the organization, made sure we tried to head in that direction."

Before bringing Branch back, the Patriots signed a trio of free agent receivers: Brandon Lloyd, Donte' Stallworth, and Anthony Gonzalez. Even with franchise player Wes Welker's status heading into training camp in question, Branch will face stiff competition at the position, after returning on a one-year, $1.575 million deal on Mar. 30.

"I think competition is always good," Branch said. "There's so much in and out and a lot of exchanging that goes on throughout this business. You never know until it's done, until the entire roster is set. The guys here, we're all cool. We're all here for one thing: that's [to] win."

Branch said he will embrace the enhanced competition this summer at the position.

"I don't want it any other way. I'm here to compete, to show the coaches why I'm here, why I'm on this team," Branch said. "That's my job; to compete and try to help the team."

After cornerback Will Allen spoke earlier Tuesday about the intensity of the first offseason conditioning program run by head strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash, Branch echoed the sentiments.

"Crazy. Harold's crazy," Branch laughed, joking that he was late for the interview because of Nash's workout. "Most importantly, this is the time when you build the camaraderie with your teammates. You really get to see the guys who love the game, who really like to love to be around each other."

While Branch is in town for the offseason program at the moment, he shared with reporters his schedule for the next few months, which includes Branch and his disabled son Deiondre participating in a portion of the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon. Branch's wife and a group of other runners are also entered into the race to support the Deion Branch Foundation and the Home of the Innocents, a charity for children with special needs.