Sportress of Blogitude

Bill Belichick and Chuck Pagano both seem to downplay Colts signing Deion Branch

When the Indianapolis Colts signed veteran wide receiver Deion Branch on Monday, questions unsurprisingly emerged exactly what the motivation was behind the personnel move. Of course, Branch spent a considerable portion of his NFL career — including the past two seasons — playing for the New England Patriots. And with the Colts and Patriots squaring off on Saturday in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, speculation that the Colts are engaging in some kind of Belichickian-inspired roster gamesmanship invariably has occurred.

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano admitted that he expected questions to arise about Branch immediately upon the wide receiver, who hasn’t played an NFL snap all season, was signed by the team. With Branch’s extensive knowledge of the Patriots system, any inside information he could provide to the Colts would be viewed as a major coup.

“We figured the questions were going to come up,” Pagano said, according to a report in the Indianapolis Star. ” Hey you’re signing this guy who spent time in New England. Is it just a coincidence or do you need the guy to help you win a football game?’

The Colts do in fact need another receiver on the roster after the team learned that Darrius Heyward-Bey’s hamstring injury will cause him to be unavailable for Saturday’s showdown.

Branch lives in nearby Caramel, Ind., and was put through the paces last month by the Colts during a workout.

Pagano insists that’s all there is to the story: The Colts needed a wide receiver and Branch fit the bill.

“Again, every decision we make is based on what’s best for this team and what gives us the best chance to win,” Pagano said. “We just think we got one heck of a football player.”

And for what it’s worth, Bill Belichick, when asked to comment on the roster move, appeared to all-out refuse to bite and lend credence to such speculation as well.

Belichick instead opted to praise Branch, eluding any trap in which he would be forced to speculate on any kind of underhanded and nefarious motivations behind the signing.

“Deion had a great career here. I think he was here for seven years or north thereof. Very smart, professional player. Great leader,” Belichick stated during a conference call with the Indianapolis media on Tuesday, according to an CSNNE.com report. “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.”

So there you have it. Even if Belichick does suspect some sneaky shenanigans, he wasn’t about to let on that someone bested him at his own game.

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