Today, the New England Patriots hold their final training camp practice in front of a home crowd. With the other sessions over the next weeks either taking place on the road or behind closed doors (or both), fans have the final chance to view the defending world champions play football at home before the preseason finale on August 31.
And among the players to be spotted is one who had just returned off the physically unable to perform list, as first reported by NESN's Zack Cox:
Alan Branch is practicing today for the first time this summer. Wearing a helmet and shell like the rest of the Patriots.
Prior to the start of training camp, New England placed two players on the PUP list. Defensive captain Dont'a Hightower was one, Branch was the other. And while Hightower remains sidelined, Branch has now returned to the practice fields – which is obviously good news for the team. After all, the 32-year old he has been its best interior defensive lineman last season.
With Branch, who started his last two training camps on the sidelines as well, back in action, New England's defensive tackle depth chart is set: Branch is joined by Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy and Vincent Valentine as locks to be on the team's opening day roster – a group lacking super stars but one that is deep and talented across the board.