Patriots gridiron news: Alan Branch takes ‘ask Bill’ approach to reduced role

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04: Alan Branch
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04: Alan Branch /

Veteran defensive lineman Alan Branch is suddenly experiencing a reduced role in the New England Patriots defense. 

Forget Malcolm Butler, Alan Branch may me the biggest developing story at the beginning of the 2017 NFL season for the New England Patriots.

The veteran defensive tackle saw just six snaps during the team’s 36-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.  This was a contrast to the 62 percent of the snaps he saw against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1.

After receiving much praise from Bill Belichick last season as one of the team’s most consistent performers, has the 32-year-old veteran suddenly found himself in the dog house?

Ask Bill

When asked about his reduced role on Wednesday, Branch said the answer to that question is only something Belichick can answer.

"“That’s something you’ll have to ask Bill,” he said, as transcribed by WEEI.  “That’s not my pay grade or for me to talk about.  That’s a question to ask Bill.  Every player wants to be on the field.  It is what it is.”"

Perhaps this is just a case of a veteran player taking a few weeks to get going.  Branch does have a history of being a slow starter.  He said as much telling reporters that he doesn’t want to “peak at the beginning of the season.”  He also noted that it will take more consistency on the field to get going.

FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 04: Alan Branch
FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 04: Alan Branch /

Like Jabaal Sheard and so many other players throughout the seasons, Belichick is most likely sending a message to Branch as a fuel to motivation.  With the two-year deal the team gave the big defensive end in the offseason, they definitely expect more.

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While Alan Branch doesn’t know what’s in store for him against the Houston Texans this week, he does know he has to keep working his way back on the field and back in the good graces of the coaching staff.

The team will certainly need him against a Texans team that will be looking to run the ball.

Danny Amendola cleared from concussion protocol

According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, Patriots veteran wide receiver Danny Amendola was cleared from the concussion protocol and was seen on the practice field on Wednesday.

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While his status Sunday is still uncertain, this is good news for the team and their sudden lack of depth at wide receiver.  If he is able to play, Amendola provides another reliable target for Brady in short-yardage situations.

With the pass rush of the Houston Texans, the team is sure to utilize the quick passing game.  Amendola could certainly help in that area. 

Return to good health? 

Danny Amendola was not the only player to return to the practice field Wednesday.  Linebacker Dont’a Hightower was also back on the field following a MCL sprain he suffered in Week 1.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Phillip Dorsett and cornerback Eric Rowe were on the field following injuries they suffered in the Saints game.  However, running back Rex Burkhead and right tackle Marcus Cannon was not seen at practice.

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Cannon’s absence is more of a concern considering the pass rush of the Houston Texans.  Cannon has a history of playing well against the very dangerous J.J. Watt.