FOXBORO, Mass. — A grab bag of notes from Wednesday’s New England Patriots practice:
— Defensive tackle Alan Branch was back on the practice field after missing last Thursday’s and Tuesday’s sessions.
He declined to discuss the reasons behind his absences, but Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal and Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald both reported Branch was not at practice because his wife had given birth to their son last Thursday.
Branch has been the Patriots’ best interior defensive lineman this season, starting all 16 games and racking up a career-high 49 tackles.
“It’s nice, you know, to put those types of numbers up still, later on in my career,” the 32-year-old said after practice Wednesday. “I definitely feel like I could’ve done a lot more when I was a rookie, my first four years, but didn’t have those opportunities. I don’t think it’s my fault. It’s fun to be out here playing with these guys. I’ve got a good group out here. They tolerate my goofiness. It’s a good time.”
— Speaking of goofiness, Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett was characteristically quotable as he held court in front of his locker Wednesday, touching on everything from his relationship with Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady to one of his favorite topics: his wife.
“I say a lot of good things to my wife all the time,” Bennett said. “All the time. Never say anything bad to her. ‘You look great, baby. Aw man, this meal is so delicious, can you make that again? Aw man, you’re doing such a great job with our daughter. Look at her. She is so smart, you spend so much time with her.’ She hears me. ‘You’re awesome. I couldn’t marry anybody better than you. There’s a lot of women in the world that want to be with me, but I chose you because you’re so awesome.’ That’s life.”
Asked what all that had to do with football, Bennett replied:
“Nothing I say really applies to football at this moment. I just like to give my wife compliments. Like when you accept an award, the first person you have to thank is your wife. She might not have (expletive) to do with what you did, but you’ve got to make sure you thank her. ‘I’d like to thank my wife.’ And then you thank Gatorade or something like that for keeping you hydrated. And then you have to thank God. And then you have to say, ‘Bless America’ because people like it when you say that.”
— Linebacker Dont’a Hightower was asked how he would describe Bennett’s eccentric personality.
“I don’t have a word to describe his personality,” Hightower responded. “But I can guarantee that every person in that locker room loves Marty. The emotion and excitement that he brings in here is definitely much-needed on a day-to-day basis, because working here isn’t always the easiest thing or comfortable thing. So having guys in the locker room like that to make you smile and kind of get you through the day really helps.”
— One Houston Texans player will have a large cheering section at Saturday’s game divisional-round playoff game at Gillette Stadium.
Griffin, a Londonderry, N.H., native, had one of his best games of the season the last time the Texans visited Foxboro, catching eight passes for 52 yards in a 27-0 Patriots win.
— When Clemson slot receiver Hunter Renfrow lit up Alabama’s vaunted defense for 10 catches and two touchdowns in Monday’s college football national championship game, the popular joke on Twitter was that the 5-foot-11, 180-pound sophomore had all the makings of a future Patriot.
Based on the autograph he later sent to “Pardon My Take” podcast host PFT Commenter, Renfrow apparently agrees with that assessment.
Thumbnail photo via Reinhold Matay/USA TODAY Sports Images