Receiver Deion Branch wanted to keep playing football. The Patriots didn't want him to play for them.
For those who might be inclined to condemn the one-time fan favorite for signing a contract with the Indianapolis Colts today -- and we've heard from a few on Twitter -- those are the bottom-line facts to consider. The Patriots could have signed Branch at any point over the course of the season and they declined, instead bringing in veteran Austin Collie three different times when there was an emergency need at the position.
These situations are always a two-way street.
Now Branch, who was getting his head around the idea of beginning his post-playing career before the Colts called, has one more chance to do what he loves. I just don't see the compelling case for him to decline that opportunity -- in addition to at least a $23,000 playoff share -- based on the way things unfolded this year.
My guess is that the Patriots, from owner Robert Kraft to Bill Belichick and all the players in the locker room, see it the same way. They also realize that Branch's on-field impact, in addition to what he might be able to add from a Patriots-based intelligence standpoint, figures to be limited.
This is just part of the business, different from a situation such as when veteran receiver Troy Brown visited the Jets as a free agent before retiring. Had Brown joined the Jets that year, and ultimately not retired as a lifetime Patriot, that one would have stung because there were different dynamics in play.
Branch's case is different. He wasn't a lifetime Patriot, his contract dispute and trade to Seattle in 2006 a reminder that he's already been part of the can't-get-caught-up-in-the-emotions business side of the game.