Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

January 7, 2014

Colts sign former Patriot WR Branch

By Tom James Tribune-Star correspondent
Greensburg Daily News

---- — INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis Colts made some news off the field Monday with the announcement that former New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch had been signed to the active roster.

Branch, who played collegiately at Louisville, currently lives in Carmel, Ind., and had gone through a workout for the Colts last month. He wasn’t signed then, but after wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was sidelined by a hamstring injury in last Saturday’s AFC wild-card playoff over Kansas City, Indianapolis officials looked to improve their depth at the position.

Branch had two stints with the Patriots (2002-05 and 2010-12). He also played five seasons with Seattle (2006-10). He was a teammate of Colts placekicker Adam Vinatieri at New England and backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle. He has caught 518 passes for 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns in 140 regular-season National Football League games. He has started 111 of those games.

The Colts also added wide receiver Josh Lentz, who was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster. Lentz had been signed by Indianapolis on Nov. 11. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Chicago last spring. Lentz has also spent time on Seattle’s practice squad.

Heyward-Bey is expected to be sidelined for at least a week. He might be available to return if the Colts are able to beat New England Saturday night in Foxboro.

“We needed some legs at the wide receiver position. With DHB being in question, so we brought Josh Lentz up off the practice squad and signed Deion Branch,” Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano said in a teleconference Monday afternoon.

“We work out guys every week. [General manager] Ryan [Grigson] and his staff bring in players every week for workouts. The [defensive tackle] Jeris Pendleton’s of the world that we end up signing either right away or work them out and get physicals on guys. And we have a pool of guys in case we have injuries and things like that. And so Deion was one of those guys that we worked out a couple of weeks ago. He’s a local guy, lives right here in Carmel. He’s in great shape. He had a great workout. Obviously he’s a proven guy and played at a high level for a long time in this league. With him being right here in our backyard and us having some familiarity with him from just working him out and things like that, it made sense to bring him on board at this point.”

Whether the addition of Branch was just to shore up the depth or to give the Patriots something extra to think about remains uncertain. But Pagano thinks that the veteran NFL receiver will be able to contribute to the Colts if and when needed.

“He’s a smart guy and he’s been in couple different [offensive] systems. West Coast system in Seattle. Matt [Hasselbeck] has some familiarity with him. I think it will be a seamless transition for him. Again time will tell on that when we get him in here, get him in meetings and get him out there [on the practice field],” the Colts coach said.

“It’s just probably from a terminology standpoint. I’m sure he’s run all the concepts that we’ve run. Now it’s just a matter of becoming familiar with the play calls and the terminology, which I don’t think he’ll have a problem with.”

In one other roster move, defensive tackle Christian Tupou was released from the Colts’ practice squad. Tupou had been signed late last week.

Toler, Moala to injured reserve -- Cornerback Greg Toler (groin) has been placed on injured reserve. Toler has been bothered by a strained groin since the Colts Oct. 20 game with Denver. He missed several weeks of practice and games but was brought back four weeks ago against Kansas City.

The veteran defensive back saw limited work against the Chiefs and Jaguars. Toler started against Kansas City in the AFC wild-card playoff game but was limited. He was taken out of the game after giving up a 63-yard pass to wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and a 71-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Donnie Avery.

Defensive tackle Fili Moala (knee) has been placed on injured reserve. Moala was hurt against Jacksonville in the final regular season game. He experienced swelling in his knee last week and did not play against Kansas City in the Colts’ AFC wild-card playoff game. Team doctors recommended shutting him down for the season.

Short week for the Colts -- With a Saturday night game against New England (8:15 p.m., CBS Sports), Indianapolis had Monday as the team’s usual off day.

Practices resume today and the Colts will have workouts Wednesday and Thursday. After a short walkthrough session on Friday morning, the team will head east.

Getting through the snow, freeze -- Indianapolis players and coaches made it to the team’s practice complex Monday despite the record snowfall and bone-chilling temperatures.

Although it was an off-day, practice-wise, players met with trainers for routine after-game medical checkups and to spend time with the Colts’ strength and conditioning staff.

Members of the Colts’ building maintenance staff helped to shuttle players and coaches from their homes to the practice facility.