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Branch Wants to Play

September 17, 2006|From the Associated Press

KIRKLAND, Wash. — Mike Holmgren prefers that new Seahawks players get weeks of preparation in his intricate offense.

Normally, the mastermind of Seattle's myriad formations, pre-snap motions and poem-like play calls wouldn't consider playing a receiver who has had just three practices -- especially one who hadn't practiced or played in eight months because of a contract holdout with another team.

Normally. But until this week's preparations for today's home opener against Arizona, Holmgren had never coached Deion Branch.

"I think it's a little unrealistic for anybody to come in with a couple days of practice and play after he hasn't in a long time. But he's a special kid," Holmgren said Friday. "We're going to make that decision [today], at the last second."

Minutes earlier, Monday's acquisition from New England finished doing a little of everything. Branch did scout-team work. He also ran routes with the first-team offense in extra-wide receiver sets.

Since Wednesday morning, Holmgren has gone from saying it was unlikely that Branch would play today for the first time since a Patriots playoff loss Jan. 14 to considering when he might use Branch, Darrell Jackson, Nate Burleson and Bobby Engram on the same plays.

"I've been going back and forth on it, to be honest with you," Holmgren said, knowing his indecision creates headaches for Cardinals defensive game planners.

Holmgren has seen Branch come into team headquarters early each morning this week, before most of his teammates, to study plays with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. He denied Branch's request to fax him the Seahawks playbook at the airport before he flew west Monday night.

Holmgren has also watched Branch volunteer for scout-team duty, to get his legs back in playing shape. He's seen Branch glide effortlessly across the field and snare passes for and against the starters during three impressive practices.

And maybe the coach even noticed that Branch -- aware his touted arrival could potentially ruffle some of his receiving mates' egos -- called those new pals together after Friday's practice.

"I told the guys I really appreciated their openness in welcoming me," Branch said. "It would be pretty easy for guys to go sideways and for people to put the wrong perceptions on me and why I'm here.

"I'm here to win a Super Bowl. Period. I'm not hear to see how many catches I'm going to get, or anything."

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