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Friday, January 20, 2012
Branch: 'We've been underdog all year'

By Brendan Hall

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick hits from Deion Branch's press conference this afternoon inside the media workroom at Gillette Stadium. Once again, he was donning his familiar University of Louisville hoodie -- "I've got to represent my school, man."

On Ravens safety Ed Reed's strengths: "Everything, I've been saying that throughout my entire career. We came in together [to the league, in 2002], this guy's a playmaker. He's all over the football field, you know, taking chances, doing whatever he can for his football team. And his will -- he said the other day he's banged up, but he's, you know, giving it his all, each and every play."

On Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis: "Ray, he's everything. I mean, this guy's been [in the league] what, 15 years? From the looks of it on the field, he hasn't lost a step. He's the same way. And I think that entire team, they surround themselves by Ray, they push themselves, he pushes guys. He does a great job doing it, they follow his lead. He's a great leader."

Ravens as underdogs?: A reporter told Branch that the Patriots have earned the right to be favorites headed into Sunday, but Branch wouldn't have any of it, throwing the question right back and asking the reporter, "When?"

"We've been the underdog all year. Just let it stay that way, we'll be cool," he said with a grin.

When reminded that they are at home in the AFC Championship game, Branch stood firm.

"According to you guys, we're not even supposed to be here," he said. "You know, this team wasn't supposed to make it. We're cool with that. I think the only folks we worry about is the guys in the locker room. We worry about our game plan, and execution. We don't worry about the rest of the stuff.

"That's my first time hearing it, you saying that, I promise you. My teammates, we don't even go on ESPN, any sports channel -- not to single out ESPN, but any sports channel. I think the guys in the locker room have one focus -- and that's taking care of business."

Expect an even better Gillette crowd: "It's going to be better than last week. It was great last week. Now, you know, this might be the highest. We've got the best fans in the world, and I promise you I know they'll be there, full in effect, loud, and ready to go, backing the team."

Winning for the Krafts: Branch was asked if there's been extra motivation to win for the Kraft family, especially with the season dedicated to Myra Kraft, who died in July. The answer was "absolutely."

"The things that have happened around here lately, that's nothing we need to talk about," Branch said. "It's there, it's evident, starting with Miss Myra. Nobody can really stand in Mr. Kraft's shoes right now, because it's hard to tell how he's doing. I've never been in that position. But he knows that we truly love him, and we're going to try to do our job to go out and execute and do the things he wants our team to do.

"And yes, I mean, we all know what we're playing for. We all know what we're playing for, and it's a bigger picture than just playing the game of football. That's what we're here for, and we're very thankful that he gave us the opportunity to do it for him."