NFL Nation: Deion Branch

Deion Branch among Colts' inactives

January, 11, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots previously ruled out only one player for tonight's game against the Colts, leaving six more to declare inactive.

With a largely healthy 53-man roster, there was more question than usual as to who the team would deactivate.

As it turns out, in addition to wide receiver Aaron Dobson, the Patriots deactivated the following players: defensive end Jake Bequette, guard Chris Barker, tight end D.J. Williams, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga, linebacker Steve Beauharnais and cornerback Justin Green.

The Colts declared the following players as inactive: wide receiver Deion Branch, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver Josh Lenz, cornerback Sheldon Price, linebacker Daniel Adongo, center Khaled Holmes, and guard Joe Reitz.

QUICK-HIT THOUGHTS: With Dobson as the only injury-related absence, the Patriots deactivated depth-level players beyond that. None of the players who is inactive has had a major role this season, as Sopoaga has not been a factor of late. Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder) and wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) were both questionable, though each will play tonight. It will be interesting to see if Dennard is inserted as a starter, or if the Patriots stick with rookie Logan Ryan.

On the Colts' front, the biggest news is that Deion Branch is inactive after being signed this week. The former Patriot will not take the field against his old team, though this shouldn't come as a major surprise given how recently he was signed.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It's like new Indianapolis Colts receiver Deion Branch is back in college cramming for a final that's days away. He's spending almost every free minute he has trying to learn his new team's system.

But Branch, who signed on Monday, didn't sound a player who's sure he'll be able to contribute on the field during Saturday's playoff game against the New England Patriots.

"Stuff is just flying around," he said. "I think with the two days, I think I'm okay. I'm not where I want to be as a professional. I know how I am about me getting in and learning the offense and knowing where everybody's at. I won't say I'm up to speed on that part. As far as the things they've been throwing at me, I think I've been doing okay at it."

Branch has one more practice, a walk through and any extra film sessions or one-on-one time with quarterback Andrew Luck to grasp as much of the offense as possible.

Another reason to think Branch may not do much Saturday is because he hasn't played in an NFL game since Jan. 20, 2013.

"Not being active for a couple of months, I've been training on my own but it's totally different when you're competing," he said. "As far as playing the game, that's going to be Coach [Chuck Pagano's] decision. Me personally, I'm just every day trying to do my best to pick up everything I possibly can."

Branch has been spending a lot of time with backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to help him get caught up to speed on things. The two were teammates together with the Seattle Seahawks

"I think Matt's biggest thing is just knowing that the backup is an actual starting quarterback," Branch said. "Just hearing the plays, that's my thing. I need to hear them and I know Luck is so busy right now, he really doesn't have as much time to sit down with me and call these plays out to me. But hearing the plays from a quarterback is what I need and that's what Matt is doing for me right now."

Well Branch can at least help the Colts by giving them tips about the Patriots, right?


"I'm an old school player and I always learned from my coach back in the days," Branch said. "You can always tell somebody what you're doing, but they still got to stop you. If that came about, we still got to stop them, or they still have to stop us. If we knew exactly what they were doing, we still have to stop it. This is the NFL. These guys, the scouts, I think those guys have done a great job. They knew all the ins-and-outs about the Patriots before they thought of bringing me back."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Kicker Adam Vinatieri has only played on two teams during his 18-year career.

The Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots.

Vinatieri spent the first 10 years of his career with the Patriots and the past eight years with the Colts. Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game will be the 25th time that he has played in a game between the two teams.

“It really never gets old,” he said. “Two great organizations, great coaches, great players, obviously. It's one of those ones. It's the Sox-Yankees, if you will. That kind of thing where I think both teams respect each other and know what comes to the table. It's going to be a fun game.”

Vinatieri has scored 122 points in his career against the Colts and 37 points in his career against the Patriots. He's New England's all-time scoring leader with 1,158 points.

“Mentally, he's as tough and as consistent as they come,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “I can't think of anybody, certainly no other kicker, that I've coached that I would put ahead of him in terms of mental toughness, concentration, focus, professionalism, all of those things. ... He's a great player and a Hall of Fame kicker if there ever was one.”

Receiver Deion Branch is the latest former Patriot to join the Colts. Safety Sergio Brown and cornerback Darius Butler are also former Patriots now with Indianapolis. Former Colts receiver Austin Collie is now with the Patriots.

“It's kind of the nature of the league,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said, laughing. “There's a lot of guys that switch teams. There's coaches that switch teams. We've had guys from the Colts that have been on the Patriots and vice versa, so I think we're just used to it at this point.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- New Indianapolis Colts receiver Deion Branch was on the practice field with his teammates for the first time Tuesday afternoon. Branch didn’t address the media because he was in a cram session trying to learn as much of the offense as possible before Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game against his former team, the New England Patriots.

But two guys who know Branch well -- Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady -- talked about him Tuesday.

The Colts signed Branch on Monday to give them some added depth at the receiver spot.

“He’s a great player,” Brady said. “He’s been one of the best players I’ve ever played with. He’s the best teammate, a great person, a great friend. He’s so smart and dependable, consistent. He’s everything you look for in a football player. I’ve always kept in contact with him.”

Branch, MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX, had two separate stints with the Patriots, totaling 4,297 yards and 24 touchdowns. His best season in New England was in 2005 when he had 79 receptions for 998 yards.

“Deion had a great career here,” Belichick said. “I think he was here for seven years or north thereof. Very smart, professional player, one of the top guys we’ve had here in terms of off the field work ethic, leadership, intelligence, preparation, all those things. He had some very productive seasons here. He’s a tremendous person.”

Belichick praises Branch, Vinatieri

January, 7, 2014
In a conference call with Indianapolis-based reporters on Tuesday morning, Patriots coach Bill Belichick had high praise for receiver Deion Branch and kicker Adam Vinatieri.

Both former Patriots are now Colts.

On Branch: "Deion had a great career here. Very smart, professional player. Great leader. One of the top guys we've had here in terms of off-the-field work ethic, leadership, intelligence, preparation, all those things. He had some very productive seasons here. He's a tremendous person. He's had a great career."

On Vinatieri: "Adam, when he was here, trained very hard in the offseason, was one of our hardest workers. He worked out with all the other position players and he was never really looked at as a kicker in terms of his offseason program and what he did as far as training, that kind of thing. He was a very well-conditioned athlete. Mentally, he's as tough and as consistent as they come. I can't think of anybody, certainly no other kicker, that I've coached that I would put ahead of him in terms of mental toughness, concentration, focus, professionalism, all of those things. He just did his job as well as he could possibly do it every day that I was here. I was here in '96 when he came in as a rookie and then as the head coach when I came back [in 2000]. I have the utmost respect for Adam and the way he approaches his job, the way he does his job. It really seems like every year, you turn on the film and he's making 50-yard field goals and kicking them right down the middle and doing the same things that he did 17, 18 years ago, however long it's been since '96. He's a great player and a Hall of Fame kicker if there ever was one."
INDIANPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts receiver Deion Branch will catch 10 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns against his former team, the New England Patriots, in Saturday's AFC divisional round playoff game.

Come on now, that's probably one of the first things you thought about when you heard the news of the Colts signing Branch late Monday afternoon.

Sorry, I don't see that happening. In fact, I'd be surprised if Branch has much of a presence on the field against New England.

[+] EnlargeDeion Branch
Rob Tringali/Getty ImagesDeion Branch, who has not played since last season's AFC Championship Game, has 39 career touchdowns in 11 seasons with the Seahawks and Patriots.
He has only three days to learn the Colts' system and try to develop some timing with quarterback Andrew Luck.

“I think it'll be a seamless transition for him,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Again, time will tell with that. [We'll find out] when we get him in here, when we get him in meetings and get him out [on the practice field]. It's probably a matter from a terminology standpoint. I'm sure he's run all the concepts that we've run. It's just a matter of becoming familiar with the play calls and terminology, which I don't think he will have a problem with.”

The Colts didn't sign Branch to suddenly become T.Y. Hilton's sidekick as the No. 2 receiver. Branch, a former Super Bowl MVP, hasn't played in a game since having two catches for 16 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 20, 2013, while he was with the Patriots. He has 518 receptions for 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns in his career.

Pagano mentioned signing Branch because of injury concerns at receiver. Darrius Heyward-Bey will miss Saturday's game with a hamstring injury, prompting the Colts to elevate wide receiver Josh Lenz from the practice squad Monday.

Heyward-Bey had been relegated to mainly special teams the past few weeks. The Colts are set at the top four receiver spots with Hilton, Da'Rick Rogers, Griff Whalen and LaVon Brazill. There would be a reason to have more optimism about Branch passing those guys on the depth chart if he had actually played during the 2013 season.

Branch, 34, will provide any information he can about the Patriots and he'll also help the receiving group prepare for the biggest game of their young NFL careers. Anything he provides on the field will be a bonus.

There's nothing wrong with the Colts signing Branch. Just don't expect an out-of-this-world performance by him against the Patriots on Saturday.

“If you look at as far as bringing in a veteran guy that's played at a level he's played at for such a long period of time, I don't see how it could hurt you,” Pagano said. “Again, we'll see how fast he picks up the terminology in the offense. We all know he's more than capable of making plays. Again with DHB being out for a period of time, all those types of things, just adding him to the mix, it can't hurt.”

What next at wide receiver for Patriots?

September, 13, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Where do the New England Patriots go from here at wide receiver?

[+] EnlargeAaron Dobson
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaAaron Dobson was targeted 10 times Thursday night but finished with only three catches.
That has been a popular question after Thursday night's win over the Jets -- one of the more inept performances for the team’s passing game since Tom Brady became the starting quarterback in 2001.

Too many drops. Too much miscommunication and too many fundamental breakdowns. Too much frustration for Brady.

So now, many who panned veteran receiver Brandon Lloyd during the 2012 season are wondering if a comeback might be possible. Others are asking if Deion Branch might be an upgrade. Or Donte' Stallworth.

Maybe Bill Belichick ultimately decides that’s the way to go. Maybe he saw how uncomfortable Brady looked early on Thursday, considers that Danny Amendola is currently sidelined with a groin injury and determines there is value in bringing back a veteran with knowledge of the system, even if the initial intention was to move on from them.

Still, I’d be surprised if he does that at this point.

As ugly as it was on Thursday night, and no one is saying otherwise, the feeling here is that this is no time to abort the team’s "re-do" with youthful receivers. Instead, the smarter play is to invest further in youth and realize that almost all of the mistakes made Thursday are correctable – the numerous drops, the failure of Aaron Dobson to get his head around at the top of his route and Kenbrell Thompkins not getting enough depth on his routes among them.


What should the Patriots do about their struggling passing game?


Discuss (Total votes: 20,549)

No one said this would be seamless. We all knew there would be growing pains, even if the ones we’ve seen the first two games have been a bit more extreme than anticipated. Brady previously said he’s had to be more of a teacher this year, which requires more patience because this might be the greatest challenge of his career, breaking in the young guys.

As for the topic that lit up some parts of Boston sports radio on Friday -- whether the Patriots have done enough to surround a once-in-a-lifetime quarterback with potent weapons -- it seems fair to ask the question.

But here’s another thought: Perhaps those who are thinking along those lines have lost some perspective of how the Patriots used to win games in their championship days. Those days weren’t always filled with offensive fireworks, as former Patriot and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi brought up on “NFL Live” Friday.

“Tom Brady is holding them to a standard that they can’t maintain, and that’s Tom Brady’s standard. He expects them to be perfect because at times he rarely makes mistakes,” Bruschi said. “He has to lower his standards for these receivers right now. The defense is good and will buy him some time.

“I remember back in 2001, we had a quality defense and we had to pick up our weight a little bit more, pick up the slack, because we had a young quarterback by the name of Tom Brady. We had to wait for him. Now he has to wait for them.”

[+] EnlargeKenbrell Thompkins
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesKenbrell Thompkins couldn't hold on to a pass in the end zone just before halftime.
Belichick does, too.

Part of grooming and cultivating young talent is enduring some early struggles. It’s a different sport, but I often wonder how the course of Dustin Pedroia’s Boston Red Sox career might be different had manager Terry Francona not stuck with him in 2007 when Pedroia was batting .172 with no home runs and two RBIs after a month in his first full season in the big leagues. It’s laughable to think back now and remember that some were calling for Pedroia to be sent down to Pawtucket in favor of Alex Cora.

There is a fine line here, and as Patriots captain Logan Mankins said Thursday night, “This is the NFL, you can’t be too patient for too long. You have to produce. You can’t wait forever.”

Two games in five days isn’t forever.

If the 2-0 Patriots are in the same spot two weeks from now, a quarter of the way into the season, maybe then it’ll be time to start thinking about reinforcements at wide receiver.

Previewing Patriots' top free agents

January, 21, 2013
Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker obviously is the biggest name. But that's not the only key player the reigning AFC East champion New England Patriots could lose in free agency.

Here is an early look at New England's top players who are scheduled to hit the open market this offseason:

[+] EnlargeAqib Talib
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellAqib Talib came to the Patriots with a lot of baggage, but he was their best cornerback when healthy.
Aqib Talib, cornerback

2012 stats: 19 tackles, one interception, one touchdown

Analysis: Talib will be a very interesting case for the Patriots. He was a good midseason addition to New England's defense. The Patriots acquired Talib in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who wanted to get rid of the often-troubled corner. But Talib was a model citizen for several months in New England, and the Patriots must decide if that is enough to warrant offering him a long-term contract. On the field, Talib was easily New England's best cornerback. It was obvious when the Patriots’ pass coverage fell apart following Talib’s first-quarter injury in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots need Talib or another corner of his caliber in the secondary, or it could be another long year for the pass defense.

Sebastian Vollmer, right tackle

2012 stats: 15 starts

Analysis: Vollmer is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. He is extremely steady and does an excellent job protecting the front side for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Vollmer also is tough and plays through pain. I think he’s the best right tackle in the AFC East. Vollmer has been a bargain find for the Patriots and he deservedly will look to get a sizable raise this offseason. New England must consider his injury history before committing to him with a long-term contract.

Julian Edelman, wide receiver

2012 stats: 21 receptions, 235 yards, three touchdowns

Analysis: The Patriots could have an interesting cat-and-mouse game in free agency with Edelman and Welker. These are New England’s best slot receivers, and the Patriots need to bring one back in the fold. However, the team may use one player against the other in order to get the best value in free agency. Most likely, the Patriots will re-sign Edelman because he is younger and much cheaper. Edelman split time with Welker in the slot this year and did pretty well. Edelman also is great on special teams. Welker had 112 receptions last year and made $9.5 million. His asking price could be too much for the Patriots.

Patrick Chung, safety

2012 stats: 44 tackles, two interceptions

Analysis: Chung was a disappointment this season. He continued dealing with injuries and was not consistent in pass coverage. The Patriots kept waiting for Chung to stay healthy and turn the corner, but he never developed into the playmaking safety they envisioned. In a contract year, Chung slid down the depth chart behind converted corner Devin McCourty and veteran Steve Gregory. It’s probably best for Chung and the Patriots to part ways.

Danny Woodhead, running back

2012 stats: 301 rushing yards, four touchdowns

Analysis: Woodhead is the type of player the Patriots like. He’s dependable and won’t make many mistakes. Woodhead has proved to be a valuable backup behind tailbacks Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. Woodhead also will come relatively cheap. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots bring him back with a team-friendly contract.

Kyle Arrington, cornerback

2012 stats: 74 tackles

Analysis: Arrington may have played his last game as a Patriot. He has good hands, as evidenced by his seven interceptions in 2011. But Arrington struggles mightily in man-to-man coverage. Often, Arrington was a liability this season that the Patriots tried to hide. New England played a lot of zone before the Talib trade and moved Arrington to the slot after the trade. Arrington also failed to step up when Talib was injured in Sunday’s AFC title game. The Patriots need better cover corners.

Deion Branch, wide receiver

2012 stats: 16 receptions, 145 yards

Analysis: Branch is at the point of his career where he won’t be a priority for the Patriots, but he’s usually on the waiting list. I don’t expect New England to re-sign Branch early in the offseason. He may get a job somewhere else. But the Patriots would only bring him back next season if they need his leadership. Branch doesn't bring much value in terms of production at this stage in his career. New England needs to find youth and athleticism at receiver.
Players in the New England Patriots' locker room are not taking the route of Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy this week. The reigning AFC champs are showing the Houston Texans plenty of respect leading into Sunday's playoff game, despite trouncing Houston, 42-14, in Week 14.

"Trust me, you're going to see a different Texans team," Patriots veteran receiver Deion Branch explained. "That we all know, I promise you that. They're a great team. They've been a great team all season long. Unfortunately they ran into a couple stumbles but that's football. Trust me, it won't be the same team that we played five weeks ago."

New England knows it is difficult to beat the same team in both the regular season and postseason. The Patriots failed to pull that off during the 2010 season, when the New York Jets upset New England in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium after a blowout loss there in Week 13.

The Patriots cannot get overconfident against Houston and must prove they have learned from that experience .

"We expect it to be a totally different ballgame," Patriots special-teams ace Matthew Slater said. "We expect this to be a different team that shows up here this weekend and we know we’re in for a fight."

Starting fast will be important. New England took a 21-0 lead at halftime and was never in danger in Week 14. Houston must be sharper and set the tone early in this playoff rematch and let New England know it's going to be a much tougher contest.

"They didn’t play their best game," Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "They know that and we know that. Come Sunday we are expecting their best."

Patriots activate CB Aqib Talib

November, 17, 2012
Newly acquired Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib will make his New England debut Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots announced Saturday evening that they have activated the talented but troubled cornerback.

New England worked out a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Talib in an effort to fix its struggling pass defense. The Patriots are ranked 28th against the pass, which is the team’s biggest hole.

Coming off a suspension this week, Talib apparently impressed New England’s coaching staff enough to be activated. It's unknown how big a role Talib will play on Sunday, whether as a starter or a backup.

The Patriots also signed receiver Greg Salas off the practice squad. To make room for the moves, New England released veteran receiver Deion Branch and defensive back Malcolm Williams.

Wrap-up: Seahawks 24, Patriots 23

October, 14, 2012

Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 24-23 victory against the New England Patriots in Week 6:

What it means: The Seahawks improved to 4-2 with a comeback victory that should at least temporarily silence calls for the team to replace rookie quarterback Russell Wilson with backup Matt Flynn. Wilson connected on big plays early, then found Sidney Rice for the winning 46-yard touchdown pass with 1:18 remaining. This was exactly what Wilson and the Seahawks needed heading into a road game against the San Francisco 49ers.

What I liked: Wilson completed passes for 50 and 24 yards to Doug Baldwin, the latter for a touchdown, as Seattle jumped to an early lead. Wilson also scrambled for a 9-yard gain on third-and-4 to sustain that scoring drive. The decision to try a trick play in the second half, when the offense was struggling, worked out when Golden Tate drew a pass-interference call on a deep ball from Rice. The fourth-down scoring pass from Wilson to Tate was a big positive.

Seattle’s defense shut down the Patriots’ running game most of the time after New England had hurt opponents with a balanced attack. Richard Sherman put his size to use against Deion Branch in picking off a Tom Brady pass in the third quarter. Fellow cornerback Brandon Browner also made an impact with a huge hit on Patriots receiver Wes Welker. Sherman seemed to have a strong game. Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas picked off passes.

The Seahawks forced Brady into two grounding penalties at critical times. One prevented the Patriots from attempting a chip-shot field goal before halftime. Another forced the Patriots into third-and-20 with 4:47 left in the fourth quarter and the Patriots holding a 23-17 lead.

What I didn’t like: The Seahawks too frequently couldn’t stop Welker before or after the catch. That was a key variable heading into the game. Seattle figured Welker would get his catches, but coach Pete Carroll hoped the Seahawks could stop him from doing damage after the catch. Seattle had ranked third in fewest yards allowed after the catch (per reception).

Seattle’s run game had trouble getting traction. The Patriots were the first team this season able to control Marshawn Lynch from the beginning. That put additional pressure on the Seahawks in other areas, where the team hasn’t been as strong.

What’s next: The Seahawks visit the 49ers for a Thursday night game in Week 7.
Click here for a complete list of New England Patriots' roster moves.

Most significant move: New England cut three veterans who were important pieces the past few seasons: wide receiver Deion Branch, center Dan Koppen and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. Koppen wasn't a huge surprise. New England played the veteran lineman extensively in the fourth preseason game -- and he was part of the issue with struggles on the offensive line this summer. But Branch and Hoyer were surprises. Branch battled some injuries but is reliable and brings plenty of leadership. The Patriots spent the past several years developing Hoyer behind quarterback Tom Brady and decided this was the time to go in another direction. Granted, Hoyer struggled this preseason and second-year quarterback Ryan Mallett played a little better. But it's a little surprising that New England didn't keep him as at least the third quarterback. Hoyer's salary probably has a lot to do with it.

Onward and upward: Jeff Demps' first attempt at the NFL was a short one. The Olympic sprinter suffered an unfortunate leg injury in the fourth quarter of the final preseason game and was put on injured reserve. Demps showed flashes in his limited time this preseason. New England signed him to a three-year contract, and now Demps has to rehab to get healthy for another try. Potential is there for 2013 with New England. I also expect Branch to be on the short list with New England if a receiver gets injured during the season. Branch might know this and not accept an offer from just any team unless it's a viable contender.

What’s next: There’s not much left to do for the reigning AFC champions. This roster is stacked and, based on their cuts, it's clear the Patriots like some of their young players. Cuts like Branch, Koppen and Hoyer prove that New England has a lot of confidence in its youngsters filling key roles.

'Plax' to the Pats? No thanks

August, 12, 2012
The New England Patriots really are leaving no stone unturned this year.

The latest example is the reigning AFC champ's surprising interest in free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress. The veteran receiver is working out with the Patriots on Sunday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Today happens to be Burress' 35th birthday.

Credit the Patriots for always looking for talent. But New England is fine on offense. Its passing game will be elite with or without Burress.

New England has more than enough receivers. The Patriots have a deep and talented group that includes Pro Bowler Wes Welker, deep threat Brandon Lloyd and veterans Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, Donte Stallworth and Julian Edelman.

At best, Burress would be fourth or fifth on New England's depth chart. Why take on another aging receiver if you're the Patriots? This possible signing would have "Chad Ochocinco circa 2011" written all over it.

The only plus I can see for the Patriots is Burress might come cheap. Burress is still looking for work and may be willing to play on the veteran minimum. If so, New England might take flier on a potential red zone threat. But other than that, New England should pass on adding another receiver.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The throws in team drills were crisp and on the money.

There were completions with zip to receiver Wes Welker for two deep touchdowns. Tight end Aaron Hernandez made vertical catches, and several timing routes to Jabar Gaffney and Deion Branch were precise.

Still, the future Hall of Fame quarterback throwing those passes was not satisfied.

"I got a long way to go," Tom Brady said after Wednesday's practice. "So, I'm nowhere near where I want to be."

Brady is a perfectionist. He looked great in practice and made plenty of plays, especially compared to the two quarterbacks I saw up close Tuesday: Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets. Brady's arm looks strong and accurate. Brady also says he is sitting at his ideal playing weight of 228 pounds.

But Brady and the Patriots are not letting up. They want to improve. They want to be near perfect by the time the regular season begins.

Want proof? On a soggy, rainy day at Gillette Stadium, Patriots coach Bill Belichick practiced outside. The Jets had a similar dilemma on Tuesday and chose to practice inside the fieldhouse.

"Rain or shine, whatever it is," Belichick said. "Rain, wind, hot, we have a little bit of everything. So it’s been good. Sooner or later, we will have to play in those conditions."

Belichick said the players are aware that most of the evaluations will happen next month in training camp. This time is more about teaching than anything else.

Mistakes were made Wednesday, but overall I thought the Patriots looked pretty good for a June practice. Brady and the first-team offense were particularly sharp in team drills. But you can't tell that to New England's starting quarterback.

"No one is ready to play a game yet, I can assure you of that," Brady said. "We got a lot of work."
The New England Patriots cut former six-time Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco Thursday. Along with Anthony Gonzalez, Ochocinco was the second receiver cut before training camp who had a shot to make the team.

This reshuffles a crowded field of receivers for the reigning AFC champs. Let's take a look at the updated roster at the position:

Locks: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney

Skinny: Welker and Lloyd are the two starters and guaranteed locks to make the team. Gaffney was an underrated free-agent signing who should help the Patriots. He is one of quarterback Tom Brady's favorite receivers, and that carries a lot of weight in New England.

Solid footing: Deion Branch, Matthew Slater

Skinny: Branch is a veteran who knows the system well and continues to produce. A starter in 2011, Branch is a good receiver to have around for depth and knowledge. Slater is New England's best special-teams player and a captain. Slater might not help much on offense, but he's one of the NFL's best in the third phase of the game. That's enough for him to stick.

Work to do: Julian Edelman, Donte' Stallworth, Jeremy Ebert

Skinny: The Patriots are probably going to keep six or seven receivers on their 53-man roster. The recent release of Ochocinco and Gonzalez helps relieve some of the pressure. But these are the three receivers fighting for the final one or two roster spots. The easy prediction is Edelman and Stallworth if New England keeps seven receivers; Ebert is a seventh-round pick and a long shot. If the Patriots choose only six, Edelman might have an advantage with his versatility.