I’m Back !!

Hi Everyone,

I want to thank everybody for your concerns over the past several months. I did have a family health emergency that required most of my free time. I am happy to say that the problem has been resolved in a very positive way and I can start getting back to normal. I am going to focus on the Patriots once the season starts. I will still write about some other things also but you can look for a new post every week. I will have some quick thoughts after games and then pick a player or topic to focus on for that week. Enjoy, and again thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

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I apologize for not updating the blog for the past ten days. I am dealing with a family health emergency. I hope to be able to post some new material soon. I thank you for your interest and comments.

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Lessons Well Learned By “Doc”

By Alan Segel

When Glenn “Doc” Rivers was just a young lad playing basketball at Illinois power Proviso East High School in Maywood he didn’t necessarily realize the foundation that was being established within himself. It was a foundation that would give him the personal skills that would eventually lead him to the NBA Coach of the Year award in 2000 in Orlando. He deserved another after the Celtics won their 17th banner in 2008 but that is another story for another time.

Doc Rivers has been at the Celtics helm now for seven seasons. He had a 13 year career in the NBA playing for three of the best coaches(Mike Fratello, Pat Riley, Larry Brown) in history. In college, at Marquette, he was exposed to legendary coaches Hank Raymonds and Rick Majerus. However, it was at Proviso East that Rivers played for Gary Whittenberg, a man who not only taught basketball but taught life lessons. He obviously taught them well.

Rivers has a way of treating players with respect. He expects respect back. This is not something he learned at the NBA level or the collegiate level. No, he learned this way of dealing with players, and non-players, from the guy who guided him with military precision.

“I learned that because I was coached by that,” said Rivers after practice on Wednesday. “My high school coach(Whittenberg) was a marine. There was no debating so he was hard. He had the marine cut. I was in the Afro generation but we all had marine cuts and in the inner city people enjoyed making fun of us. But that is how we looked at it and that is how we played.”

There was no mistaking Whittenberg’s words or actions. His methods made an imprint upon Rivers that to this day has never been erased.  Rivers knew, before every game and practice, that if he was told to dribble he dribbled. If he was told to shoot he shot. If he was told to rebound he rebounded and he did not ask questions. Rivers mentioned that his coach told him that if he did not follow directions he would be benched. “He was that direct,” said Rivers. “I always thought it was not that hard to say it was just very hard to do.”

If players are going to listen to a coach there has to be a road map of ability and communication. It is a map easily put into words but not a map that is easily followed in many circles. There are many coaches. However, there are not many coaches that can be described as extremely successful. There is a direct correlation between direct and honesty and Rivers knows that both are important. This is something he learned from a guy Celtics fans have a love-hate relationship with; Pat Riley.

Rivers gives Riley a lot of credit. He points to Riley’s ability to get the players to believe what he was trying to do and have them believe it. Riley, according to Rivers, had no agendas. His agenda was beating the next team(sound familiar ?). Rivers says, “In every sport when they know their coach is thinking about winning, not thinking about some commercial or something else, they buy in.” I suggested to Doc that it seems to go to credibility. However, Doc said,  “I don’t know if you build credibility ever in our league any more. I’m serious about that. I just think you have to keep selling your program everyday.”

He had success in his first coaching stint in Orlando. He was there for four years and made the playoffs three times. He earned the NBA Coach of the year award after his initial season. He guided a team that was picked to finish near the bottom of the league to a .500 record and a playoff spot. There were four undrafted starters on that team and Rivers opened some eyes.

He left the Magic after being released in November of 2003. He provided expert analysis for Al Michaels and ABC the following year. He then brought himself north to Boston. He guided the Celtics to a division title his first year but was dispatched from the playoffs in the first round. The next two years saw very limited success and no playoffs. There was pressure building in Boston to possibly make a change. Celtics ownership and management though would have none of that. Rivers was entrenched and going nowhere. There was and is a reason. His ability in many areas.

“I think Doc is a leader,” says Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge. “I think he has always been a leader. He is very good at dealing with the players. He understands them, having been a player. He understands the challenges they face. I think he takes a great deal of pride recognizing each player’s personality and coaching them accordingly. He has a knack for knowing people.” It is that knack for knowing people that would help put things in motion for a major Celtics turn.

On draft night, June 28th, in 2007 Danny Ainge(thanks to earlier bad ping-pong ball luck) put in motion the changing of the guard. He made a draft night deal for Ray Allen. This in turn triggered the events that brought Kevin Garnett. The Celts traded for KG on July 31st in 2007. There is no doubt that the deal could not have been made if Doc Rivers had not used his communication skills to assure KG what was expected as a person and as a team.

From that start of the  “New Big Three”(Allen, Garnett and Paul Pierce) Doc Rivers was always on point. His morning Duck Boat tour in the summer of 2007 put in motion the events that led to the Celtics 17th championship in June of 2008. There is no doubt that two more championships may have followed if Kevin Garnett was not injured the following year and Kendrick Perkins during game six of the finals last year. The constant though has been Doc Rivers and his ability to communicate and build respect. He knows basketball but he KNOWS people.

I asked Danny Ainge what he thought was more important basketball knowledge or communication ability in terms of being a successful coach ? He mentioned that Red Auerbach, as noted as he was, was a “people genius”. He said knowing people, managing and leading is way more important than X and O’s. Doc agrees in some respects.

“I think you must have both,” says Rivers. “Obviously X and O’s wise I do a very good job and all that. But if I had to give up one I would give up the X and O’s right now. I can draw up the best play in the world. However, if nobody is paying attention or listening or doing the right thing it is not going to work. So, at the end of the day, you have got to get them to do what you ask them to do.”

The Celtics do just that. They pay attention to their leader and very rarely does he ever lead them astray. Doc Rivers, as of this writing, has won 356 career games as coach of the Celtics. There is no doubt that many more will follow. He has a knack.

AUDIO: Here is the audio interview with Doc Rivers. https://seegsboston.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/doc-rivers-blog-audio.mp3

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Random Thoughts

By Alan Segel

A few things to talk about as I continue to hope that someone will remember to close the snow faucet. I don’t think I remember what bare ground looks like–where is the January thaw ? Maybe it will get here in February.

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I found it very interesting to follow the story out of Storrs, Connecticut the past ten days. Robert Burton, a wealthy University of Connecticut booster, sent a letter to UConn demanding money back that he donated to the school. We are not talking chump change here. Burton, who is reportedly UConn’s largest donor, wants $3 million dollars back. In total he has given $7 million dollars to the school. He has his name on a building(which he wants taken off) and he has threatened to stop giving to the school. The reason is that he is upset with UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway’s hiring of former Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni to replace Randy Edsall who became Maryland’s new coach after UConn was beaten in the Orange Bowl 48-20 by Oklahoma. Burton says that he was not kept in the loop. He says he did not want to play a part in the decision but just wanted to be kept informed. He chastised Hathaway saying he was not fit to be a division one AD. He also blamed Hathaway for Edsall’s departure and said Hathaway did not know how to cultivate and manage new donors.

I am not taking sides here although I have heard some things from people I know at UConn that suggest where there is smoke there is fire. I find myself thinking about modern-day athletic directors. Yes, they run, in some cases, multi-million dollar athletic organizations. However, their main job is to make donors lighter in their wallets. If an athletic director does not know how to communicate with alums he or she will eventually run into trouble.

The largest athletic program in Boston belongs to Boston College. There is no doubt BC has a long list of wealthy and influential donors. However, I don’t think we will ever see a situation like this on Chestnut Hill. Gene DeFilippo, BC’s superb AD, is first class all of the way. In fact Bob Scalise at Harvard and Mike Lynch at Boston University also fall into that category. They know that in today’s world being a class human being first and an athletic director second will do one well. They espouse, honesty, integrity and class. Their schools are lucky to have them.

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Never have I been so thankful for the Celtics and the Lakers being on television. The late start coincided with the NHL All-Star game and gave me an excuse not to watch hockey(which I very much enjoy). The National hockey League never ceases to amaze me. They have a great sport but they just don’t do things right. For instance, the game is played in the middle of a Sunday afternoon opposite the NBA, figure-skating, and golf. Don’t laugh about figure skating or golf being competition for viewers. Tiger Woods was in the field this week and had he been in contention in San Diego the CBS ratings would be much higher than they probably were. I also will suggest that the US figure-skating championship on NBC will come close, if not pass, what the Celtics and Lakers did. The NHL All-Star game was on Versus.

The game of hockey is an incredible sport–when it is played right. The NHL All-Star game does not come close to the wonderful spectacle that hockey is. Team Lindstrom defeated Team Staal(do you know 3 guys who played for either team) 11-10. There were 91 total shots on goal, no penalties and officially no hits on either side. This is not hockey and not the way this great game should be celebrated. I did catch a few moments at the end and even the announcers were not into it. Mike “Doc” Emrick is the best announcer of the sport in the world and one of its most passionate ambassadors. His play-by-play calls on NBC and Versus during the regular season and playoffs are the best one can hear anywhere. So, if this guy can’t make something interesting you have a major problem.

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It has now been two weeks since the Patriots were beaten the Jets 28-21. The season is over yet Patriots Nation refuses to let the game go. I am amazed, and fully understand, that it is still a hot topic on talk shows. I am not amazed though for reasons you might think. It has nothing to do with how much the loss hurt. Nothing to do with how badly the Patriots were outplayed. It has nothing to do with the attempted fake punt or other Bill Belichick or Tom Brady decisions. Nope, none of those.

It has to do with the fact that here in 2011 football fans are as passionate as they are. I have been following the Patriots since they came into being. I saw my first game in 1963 and remember the ups and the downs. The most controversial moment for this team came in 1976 during a playoff game in Oakland. The Pats had the game taken away by a bad call from referee Ben Dreith. It was an outrageous moment. My point is that, as bad as that call was, it did not have the shelf life that this game did. Yes, there was heavy talk for a few days but it ceased after that.

Boston was not a hot bed for football back then. It is now. The success of the Patriots, since Robert Kraft bought the team, has ignited the football passion that the rest of the nation always had. Boston is still a baseball town but the past two weeks have shown that football is now on equal footing. The Kraft Family should be very thankful. The Patriots fan base is now as passionate as any other base in the NFL.

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As every day passes we get closer to March 4th. The day before, unless the NFL players and owners can agree to a new contract, the Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire. We continue to hear posturing on both sides. We continue to hear threats of a lockout. We hear talk of impasse. The Super Bowl has not even been played yet and already NFL labor talk is front and center. I wonder how much football talk we will hear this week and how much labor talk we will be bombarded with. I will make a small wager that Roger Goodell’s state of the NFL press conference next Friday will be 95% about labor.

This is a battle between billionaires and millionaires. Both sides mention the fans but I wonder if they really care. Listen carefully, with a wide open mind this week, and you will hear some interesting things–From both sides.

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The Celtics Did Perk Up(Early)

By Alan Segel

UPDATE: During my talk with Kendrick Perkins it became very apparent just how passionate he was and is about playing basketball. He talked about working hard and wanting to get in the line-up as soon as possible. He mentioned February 4th as the date for his return but something interesting happened on the way to his return. The doctors cleared him and Perkins made his way back on Tuesday against the Cavaliers.

He entered the game about 5 minutes in and received a long and loud standing ovation. He acknowledged the crowd and it was then time for business. He scored almost immediately and when the dust cleared Perkins played just over 17 minutes. He finished with 7 points(3-5)6 rebounds and 3 assists. He certainly was rusty. However, he looked healthy. If he stays that way, and there is no reason to think he won’t, he will get better each time out.

His return will allow Doc Rivers to cut Shaq’s minutes and in turn he will be even more effective than he has been. The return comes just in time for the Celtics hard West Coast trip that includes a game with the Lakers on Sunday January 30th.



When Kendrick Perkins returns to the line-up, as he hopes, on or about February 4th Celtics management and their fans can say a very big thank you to Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker.  The Pats dynamo knowingly did not do anything  to help Perkins recover from his torn ACL surgery. Rather, just by doing his job, as Bill Belichick likes to say, Welker got the ball rolling in a very positive direction.

The timing of Perkins’ injury and surgery very much had a hand in creating this scenario. Perkins was hurt during game six of the NBA finals against the Lakers on June 15th, 2010 . He went up for a rebound of a Rajon Rondo miss with 5:30 left in the first quarter. He jumped between Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum and landed awkwardly tearing his anterior cruciate ligament(ACL) and damaging two other ligaments. He underwent surgery on July 12th and was home soon after. He also, as one could expect, was not in the greatest of moods. During this initial recovery time, which also signaled the start of rehab for the long road back, the Patriots were getting into camp. Here is where the two events came together and provided Perkins the biggest motivation he could have imagined.

“Luckily for me the time I started rehabbing  I happened to turn on my TV and see Wes Welker, ” said Perkins. “He was on there cutting without a brace and back on the field and cutting hard in five months and so I think that motivated me a lot. Just to see him out there healthy, looking in great shape, like he never missed a beat. So, I know he is a lot shorter and a lot smaller than me but at the same time I felt like if he could do it, I could do it. So I think that just  motivated me to not really sit around and feel sorry for myself.” 

Welker of course suffered a devastating knee injury in the final regular season game of the 2009 season in Houston against the Texans. He made it back to have a great season in 2010 and Perkins is hoping for the same kind of results for the rest of this season.

The day after the injury, as the Celtics were getting ready for game 7 of the finals, Perkins was at his lowest. He was at the Celtics practice at the Staples Center and talked to the media about the injury. He said that day that “he probably would never get a chance to make it back to the finals and that he was doing better physically than mentally.” It was of course the words of an athlete that was distraught. It is not an easy road to achieve greatness as a team and reach the finals, in any sport. Perkins knows that and the fact he could not play in game seven and help his team try to win a championship played a part in his somber mood. As he thinks of those moments now though, about possibly not reaching the finals again, he can put it in perspective.

“I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Perkins suggests. “Sometimes you have to go through bad times to get to the good times. So, I try not think about it and try to keep moving forward. But in the back of my mind it is always there.”

Perkins was extremely dedicated to doing his rehab right. He asked many doctors for their opinions and he followed the advice. He rehabbed a bit before surgery because they suggested it would make recovery shorter and more effective. The first month after surgery was the hardest. He had to deal with the pain and the fact he could not walk. However, he still went into the weight room to work on his body. He also paid attention to his diet. The results have been spectacular. Perkins is back working with his team and I think he is in tremendous shape.

It is not just me though. The NEW Perk has been noticed by the guys that mattered most-his teammates. He has a had chance to talk with Kevin Garnett and KG’s words have come through loud and clear.

“KG told me that you’re improved so much,” said Perkins. “Your body looks better than when you got hurt. You’re moving a whole lot better, even after the surgery. What you put into something is what you get out of it.”

Perkins mentioned to me that KG also told him not to be infatuated with the money or the fame. He advised him rather to be infatuated with getting better everyday. He is listening and using the words to guide him. He also is motivated by the fact the Celtics signed Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal. Perkins knew he had to stay on top of his game because nothing is set in stone in sports. There was never a guarantee that when he was ready to come back his position would be automatically handed to him.

Perkins has been itching to get back on the court and his patience and hard work was finally rewarded on January 16th. He returned to full practice for the first time and by all accounts looked great. “My first day of practice guys were telling me how good I looked. Doc was saying how good I looked. He was saying it looked like I could give him 15-20 minutes the next game. I think that motivates you. Just getting [plaudits] from your teammates telling you man it felt good to be out there. Our starting five was in tact and just for them to embrace me into that role just means a lot.”

 Doc Rivers and everyone else realizes that to find out just where Perkins is will not be known until he is back on the active roster and playing in games. However, while this is only the preliminary stage of his comeback Doc can’t help but be impressed by everything he has seen. There was initial worry that Perkins might get out of shape and gain weight but none of that has happened. In fact it has been completely the opposite.

“As far as a guy that has done his rehab he has done it as hard as any guy I have seen,” said the Celtics coach. “He has done everything he can possibly do to get right. He has lost weight and he has lost body fat. And that is very impressive.”

If the February 4th date(Perkins timetable) does materialize Perkins will return to the floor just short of 8 months from that fateful night in Los Angeles. He has seen much during this time and like many athletes forced to sit he has watched and absorbed.

“I learned a lot,” says Perkins. “I see what Doc goes through in a day just coaching the  team. You see your worth, your value, when you are not out there. You see the things you can go out and do that the team is missing, different little things. You try to drop your bad habits. You just pick up a lot.”

Perkins has been through a long period of time without the sport he loves. He is ready to finally get back to playing and being around his teammates. He knows the night of his return could be emotional. He is counting the days but as he says, “These days are not going by fast enough.”

HERE IS THE AUDIO OF THE INTERVIEW I DID WITH KENDRICK PERKINS: https://seegsboston.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/kendrick-perkins-interview.mp3

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A Tough Way To End The Season

By Alan Segel

From the start of yesterday’s 28-21 playoff loss to the New York Jets something was off. The 68,756 at Gillette Stadium and the millions more watching on TV saw things from the Patriots that had not been seen in weeks and for most of the season. For instance, Tom Brady’s fifth pass of the game, a screen attempt to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, ended up in the hands of Jets linebacker David Harris. It was the first time that one of Brady’s offerings landed in foreign territory since October 17th. It signaled something was up and in this case it was definitely not a positive signal.

However, there was a fool’s gold kind of moment as the interception led to a missed Nick Folk 30 yard field goal. In turn the Patriots took a 3-0 lead on a  Shayne Graham 34 yard field goal. But, that event too gave an indication of what was to follow. The Patriots had marched to the Jets 12 and seemed ready to punch it in.

Since their last loss in Cleveland, on November 7th, these kind of moments usually launched an onslaught of points that had brought forth eight straight wins. However, yesterday Brady threw an incomplete pass to Alge Crumpler and then was sacked back the 16 yard line by Shaun Ellis bringing the field goal attempt. The negative gates were opened and they never seemed to close completely.

The Jets deserved this game pure and simple. They had the better game plan. They had the better execution. They also played, it seemed, at a much more poised and consistent level than the Patriots did. The Patriots, for the most part, are a young team(especially defensively) and it brings the question did their playoff inexperience help produce this season ender ? In my opinion it is a resounding yes.

The Patriots were comfortable with their two weeks of preparation leading up to yesterday’s game. However, when the curtain went up something happened. The players expected more from themselves and were surprised they did not get it.

“You’re always surprised and disappointed when you lose a game, especially the way we’ve been playing,” said Pats linebacker Jerrod Mayo. “I think the coaches did a good job getting us prepared and getting us ready for the game. We just didn’t go out and execute. I was disappointed we couldn’t get it done today.”

Tom Brady’s numbers have been off the charts the past several weeks. In fact he should be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. However, yesterday he was 29-45 for 299 yards. He had two touchdowns and the interception but his quarterback rating was only 89.0. He mentioned that he was not surprised by anything the Jets did but at the same time the Jets were not the blitzing team Pats fans or players had come to know.

“I think they played a lot more coverage today–probably similar to what they did last week, ” said Brady. “They mixed it up quite a bit. They certainly have a lot of calls. It was a good plan by them and you’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”

The Jets did mix it up. There were too many times that Brady was standing in the pocket looking for an open receiver. Instead of watching for Jets pressure, which did come on a few occasions, Brady was seeing Jets defensive backs all over his receivers. Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie took Wes Welker and Deion Branch out of the game long enough to build 14-3 and 21-11 leads. At the half Branch had no catches and Welker had just one. Brady’s other passes went to his tight ends and backs. And while Alge Crumpler,Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are talented, without production from Welker and Branch the Pats, more times than not, get into trouble.

Brady thought that the Patriots handled the Jets defense well at times and not so well at other times. He just feels that the Patriots didn’t make enough plays. Why did that happen ?

“Just a lack of execution,” suggested Brady. “In order to score points, you have to be able to put together plays and we could never really do that or find a rhythm. They made a lot of plays and didn’t make many mistakes. We made too many mistakes. There were too many plays that weren’t the way we drew them up”

The biggest example of what Brady just mentioned came in the second quarter. The half was coming to a close and the Pats found themselves at their own 38. They trailed 7-3 with 1:14 left. Zoltan Mesko, on a 4th and 4, was ready to punt it away but a direct snap, and fake attempt, went to safety Patrick Chung. He fumbled it and recovered. However, the Jets were set up on the Pats 37 and 4 plays later Mark Sanchez hit Braylon Edwards for one of his three touchdown passes.

“We just made a bad mistake on the play. Just a bad mistake,” said Bill Belichick. He was then asked if the bad mistake was in calling it or was it a bad mistake in execution. He said simply,  “I’m not even going into it.” I personally think this is one of those times when Bill Belichick needed to explain further. I know it is not his M.O. but sometimes there needs to be an explanation. Of course, if Patrick Chung had a flawless execution and was able to run for a first down the thoughts of Patriots fans would be different from where they are now. However, as President Harry Truman once said, The buck stops here. Was the fake punt a bad call or just bad execution ? There is no shame in admitting a mistake if one is made.  It also would not diminish anything that has been accomplished in the past or will be accomplished in the future. In this case that play delivered a chance for the Jets that probably turned the game for good.

The play was a microcosm of the game as a whole. There were mistakes all around. Brady saw passes go through the usually able and sure hands of Wes Welker and Deion Branch. He also was sacked five times for 40 yards. All season long he had been brought down just 25 times(4 in San Diego). The Pats rushed for just 113 yards and had 6 penalties for 44 yards. Defensively, the Jets found room over the middle. They rushed for 120 yards and were 6-13 on third downs. When all was added up the Patriots season came to a sudden halt.

“It’s like you’re on a treadmill running at 10 miles an hour and then someone just hits the stop button,” said Brady. “I think we certainly expected to play better today. I think we’re a pretty good football team, but not when we play like today. Like I said, a lot of the credit goes to the Jets and the way their players performed. It’s disappointing the way we performed. I certainly wish I did a better job.”

So do the many members of Patriots Nation.

NOTES: Alge Crumpler’s 28 yard reception in the first quarter was his longest as a Patriot. His previous high was 27 yards in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day……..Tom Brady now has 17 straight playoff games with at least one touchdown pass….Rob Gronkowski’s 37 yard third quarter reception was the longest in his brief Patriots career. His previous high was 28 against Miami on January 2nd……….16 Patriots made their playoff debut; Sergio Brown, Landon Cohen, Dan Connolly, Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Deaderick, Dane Fletcher, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Kyle Love, Devin McCourty, Zoltan Mesko, Eric Moore, Quinn Ojunnaka, Brandon Spikes, and Brandon Tate…..The Patriots, after 11 straight home playoff wins, have now dropped two in a row. They lost to Baltimore 33-14 last season……They are now 11-3 at home in the post-season….

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Pats Have A Strong Branch To Lean On !

By Alan Segel

Back in August, as training camp began for the Seattle Seahawks in the Pacific Northwest, Deion Branch had no idea what would lie ahead for him two months down the road. He may have had some wayward thoughts back to his previous days as a New England Patriot. He may have reminisced about Tom Brady throwing to him or of his Super Bowl MVP in 2003. He also may have let some thoughts drift to colorful and crisp New England fall days. However, the main train cognitive thought was to help the Seahawks prepare for the season. In fact if someone dared to dream and asked him back then about any chance to come back East he says “it would have been kind of crazy.”

The deal to make him a Patriot once again came into fruition on October 12th. Branch says “it was a blessing” that he got a chance to become a target for Tom Brady once again. However, it did not mean that every member of the Branch household was all smiles. Branch’s wife did not greet the news with smiles. It is not that she has anything against the Patriots. Her thoughts were much more mundane and practical.

“I think I was at home when my agent finally called me and told me it was done,” says Branch. “I told my wife and she was kind of shocked and then the next thing you know, the tears come out. I asked her ‘are you happy or what’? And she’s like. ‘We have to move again? We have been here for four years.’ I’m like, ‘Baby, we’ve got to go. It’s time to go. I enjoyed my four years here, but it’s time to go. I think we need to move on.’ And she kind of straightened out, but I think she took it the hardest. I love her to death, but she took it the hardest. She said, ‘We have to move the kids and stuff?’ I’m like, ‘They’ll be ok. Trust me, they’ll be alright.’

Branch’s comments underscore how many forget that athletes are human beings first and athletes second. Fans tend to forget that while a trade or a free agent signing may be a great thing in the long run. It brings human emotions and logistical situations that all people go through when there is some upheaval. In that sense every professional athlete is like anyone else.

The thing that made it easy and exciting for Branch to look at the football side of things is the success he had in his first stint in red, white, and blue. After being drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2002 draft from Louisville, Branch had an extremely successful 4 years. He caught a lot of passes and scored a lot of touchdowns. He thought he deserved more than the Patriots were offering. A squabble ensued and Branch was given permission to seek a trade and try to negotiate a new contract with another team. The talks led him to Seattle on September 11, 2006.

As things turned out it ended up being a case of “be careful what you wish for” and “the grass is always greener”. Branch walked into a system with the Seahawks that was not the best for him. Statistically speaking the numbers were not bad in some respects. But Branch never achieved the kind of stardom out west that brought him the Pete Rozelle Trophy(Super Bowl MVP) in 2003. He had some injuries but he did not have Tom Brady throwing to him. It led, overall, to a less than successful several years.

Everything is relative of course. It has been a few days short of seven years since Branch was earning his way into the Super Bowl XXXVIII history books. However to him it seems as if it was not that long ago. It also presents cause to drift back to a scenario where he never changed the laundry.

“It does not seem that far away, honestly,” suggests Branch. “I wouldn’t say it’s a thousand years. I’m always thankful. I always think of that moment. I think about what could have been. You always have those moments. I think the biggest thing is that you can’t dwell on it and you can’t focus on it. The only thing you can do is take advantage of right now.”

It does not mean Branch severed ties with the Patriots. He did not. He kept in contact with his then former and now present team. He watched what transpired during the 2007 season and Super Bowl. “Great game. It didn’t turn out the way they wanted, but great game”.

Branch is now primed and ready to try to help the Patriots march back to Super Bowl greatness. He knows though, through experience, that while the big picture is there it is the object right in front that gets all of the attention.

The Jets are here on Sunday. He knows he is headed to football battle with a much younger team than the group of experienced warriors he fought with in February of 2004. He knows he is one of the leaders who has to help establish an atmosphere where players such as Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and others will be in control of their emotions. He thinks there is a definite value on experience.

“A lot. A lot,” says Branch when asked about whether postseason experience can help. “I think it starts with Coach Belichick and then it trickles down to the players. A lot of it is a credit to your experience and most of it is how you are playing going into the postseason. I think you take a little bit from that as well. I think we are hitting all cylinders at the right time going into the postseason”.

The Pats have won eight straight heading into Sunday. They have averaged 37.4 points offensively and given up just 15.6 defensively during the eight game stretch. Branch knows though those numbers do not necessarily translate to the postseason. He says, “It is not the same”.

The last time the Patriots were in the playoffs was a year ago of course. The Patriots hosted the Ravens and all of them remember the feeling when they walked off the field after being blown out 33-14 on January 10,2010. Branch was watching what happened that day but he has a sense that the game a year ago will be a motivating factor on Sunday.

“You could say that,” says Branch. “I think the biggest thing is we try not to focus on the stuff that happened in the past. That’s why you don’t hear a lot of guys talking about the Super Bowl”. When he was with Seattle he heard many guys dwelling on the ultimate prize but they eventually lost. He said that is the big difference between the two franchises. “I think here, we’ve won in the past, but guys don’t harp on it. They don’t talk about it. That doesn’t matter; the game is over”.

To a man it will be that kind of attitude that drives the Patriots through practice and onto the Gillette Stadium field at 4:30 on Sunday. There will be no talk of rings, no talk of Baltimore, Pittsburgh, or seeing the new stadium in Dallas in person on the first Sunday in February.

The focus will be on the J-E-T-S. Fireman Ed might as well be here in Foxboro this week. The Patriots will be hearing J-E-T-S—Jets,Jets,Jets in the locker-room, on the practice field, and in their sleep. It is their only focus and it doesn’t matter who calls who an expletive deleted. However, that is another story for another time.

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