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What's Everyone So Worried About?

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Chicken Little Doesn't Work Here
If Branch Leaves, Who Cares?

The Boston media kills me with its Chicken Little mentality. Even after a couple back-to-back dominating performances against Arizona and Washington this preseason (which, admittedly, mean nothing once the "real" games start), I still hear all kinds of sky-is-falling blather.

"What will they do without Deion Branch?" "What if Tedy Bruschi's wrist is worse than they say?" "What if Junior Seau is too old?" "What if Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison are still not ready?" "Will Corey Dillon pull a nutty like he did in Cincinnati if Laurence Maroney plays too much?" "How will we live without Adam Vinatieri? Or Willie McGinest?"

Geez! Relax!

Let's start with Branch, because that's 90 percent of what anyone seems to be able to talk about.

By now, Branch should be finding out that the Patriots are offering him a pretty fair deal. He's good, even excellent, but he's 5-foot-9, and no one's going to pay him like a top-five receiver. If we're lucky, he's starting to realize that his agent is like all other agents, looking out for his own interests and not the player's.

It's unlikely he'll find a deal that will satisfy him, his agent and the Patriots; and, eventually, he'll be in a Patriots uniform by opening day. Whether he signs a contract extension or decides to just play out this year remains to be seen, but that's a fairly secondary concern right now.

And you know what? With the performances of Tom Brady and the receivers and tight ends over the last couple weeks, if Branch goes, I don't think I'll shed any tears. (You think Branch watched these last two games? I wonder if that might be one reason New England passed so much.)

As far as Bruschi, he's has a broken wrist. Even in a worst-case scenario, he should be ready to practice by opening day. I seriously doubt he'll end up on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He'd be there now. Maybe he'll play with a cast for a while, but he'll be back, and he'll be hungry.

I still wonder about Mike Vrabel playing inside in the interim. If Bruschi is expected back, and Seau is playing inside, why keep Vrabel there? Is it because Seau traditionally plays outside, and they want to keep Vrabel next to him while he adjusts? Or is there a chance that Bruschi has more than a broken wrist?

Either way, I'm not too worried. Yes, it would be great to have Vrabel outside where he's best and where he absolutely wreaks havoc in opponents' backfields. Imagine Vrabel on one side and Roosevelt Colvin on the other with Bruschi and Seau in the middle!

But Tully Banta-Cain has looked pretty good. He's certainly improved over last season, pretty much as the coaches expected -- and they're they guys who judge the talent. They obviously saw potential in Banta-Cain, maybe like they saw it previously in Bruschi.

So if we end up with Vrabel and Seau inside and Colvin and Banta-Cain outside, that's no reason to panic. It's pretty darn good.

OK, maybe Seau has been injury prone and maybe he won't play all season like he did Saturday night, but Bruschi should be ready some time, and even if he's not 100 percent, Seau and Bruschi can spell each other.

Seymour's injuries over the last couple years worry me just in the very slightest bit. He's a great player, and he draws a lot of attention. Constant double-teaming can increase the chances of further injury, but the development of the rest of the defensive line, and the improving status of the linebackers may help alleviate the situation.

Strangely enough, the NFL Network replayed Saturday's game. No really sure why, since they didn't replay the Arizona game, which they actuall carried; but I digress.

So, I watched the first half, and I watched Harrison as much as I could. He didn't make a lot of hits -- it seemed Washington was staying away from him -- but he was there at the end of most plays, and I'd have to judge that he was going at about 80-percent full speed or better. I'm sure the Patriots wouldn't even have let him on the field if his injury were not completely healed, so I'm not worried about him. And, in the interviews I've heard with him, he sounds excited and confident.

The rest of the concerns mentioned earlier are so minor as to be insignificant. No, Stephen Gostkowski hasn't attempted a field goal longer than 40 yards (37 yards has been the longest in a preseason game), and his kickoffs were much shorter this week (average of 64.3 yards this week vs. 73.7 yards last week). But he has certainly looked good, and, again, I trust that the coaches knew what they were getting when they drafted him.

And the whole thing about Dillon getting upset if his play time gets cut for Maroney? Well, the media keeps saying Dillon is getting old, so he'll probably be satisfied with not having to carry the running game by himself.

Quite honestly, this is the best deal for Dillon. Maroney's presence and Brady's abilities keeps defenses honest and guessnig. They won't be able to key on Dillon, not will they be able to prepare for one style of running. Dillon may not get as many touches, his stat totals might not be career numbers; but he has a better chance of going through the season injury-free, and he will very likely be more effective and successful when he is less predictable.

Besides, while the schedule is far from a cakewalk, it's not nearly comparable to the first six weeks of 2005, especially opening the season with Buffalo and the New York Jets.

So, relax. The sky is not falling.

Poll

The sky is ...

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    ... falling!
    (1 vote)
  • 16%
    ... rising!
    (4 votes)
  • 12%
    ... unnervingly stable.
    (3 votes)
  • 12%
    ... sort of bluish.
    (3 votes)
  • 16%
    ... a little on the cloudy side.
    (4 votes)
  • 37%
    ... um, what kind of a question is this?
    (9 votes)
24 votes total Vote Now