This brother looks happy to me. Honestly, it’s nice to see. It’s refreshing to see a professional (regardless of the field) win a principled conflict and live to tell about it. Branch took a risk…not a big risk…not a fighting environmental toxins with five kids and no prospects for a job with another employer in a small town risk, but a risk that is worth acknowledging. The risk that Branch took is instructive because it begs comparison to the ongoing fiasco that is #81 in Dallas. Branch has won Super Bowls; has performed as an MVP in the Super Bowl; and has been a tremendous leader and valued teammate in the clubhouse. While similar things can be said of #81, a number of other things will precede these affirmations. Why?
It could be as simple as Branch being professional and making a personal commitment to getting the best deal. His tactics were not widely criticized – and yet…many of the factors are the same. When underpaid elite athletes seek fair market value, while under contract, the media tends to universally blast these players. Sometimes you even get mental patients like Brett Favre to side with management against teammates (and drive those elite players away from the franchise). That, admittedly, is rare. Branch’s case is even less frequent. In fact, his approach worked so well that the national media are openly questioning the genius of Bill Belichick and Scott Paoli. This team has won three of the last five Super Bowls. Paoli was a miracle worker not too long ago. Now, with Branch and Vinatieri and McGinest and so many others gone, people are beginning to wonder.
In Seattle, no one is wondering. Branch is a character player who will be sorely missed in New England. Ask Tom Brady.
Former New England Patriots receiver Deion Branch smiles at a news conference after signing a $39 million dollar 6-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks at the NFL Team’s headquarters in Kirkland, Wash. on Tuesday Sept. 12, 2006.(AP Photo/Kevin P. Casey)