Alan Branch has one more year remaining on his New England Patriots contract, but after his disappointing 2017 campaign, there’s a strong chance he could be cut before the 2018 season begins.
The 33-year-old defensive tackle, who is set to earn a $1 million roster bonus March 14, addressed his future with the team Tuesday during an interview with WEEI’s “Dale, Holley & Keefe.”
“I’m trying to milk it as much as I can,” said Branch, who was one of New England’s top defenders in 2016 but finished this season as a healthy scratch. “I’m trying to play some ball. I love playing football, and as long as they keep paying me money, I’m going to try to do it.”
Much of the interview focused on cornerback Malcolm Butler’s surprising Super Bowl LII benching, the reasons for which remain shrouded in mystery. Butler, a starting cornerback all season, didn’t play a single defensive snap in the Patriots’ 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Safety Devin McCourty over the weekend said the team at least was aware Butler would not start the game, but Branch said he never got that memo.
“I didn’t know anything, honestly,” he said. “On our team, gossip doesn’t travel, let’s just say that.”
He added: “I noticed he wasn’t in the game, but then again, you never know the reason for what’s going on at a certain time — in that organization, especially. It’s neither here nor there.”
Unlike Butler, who dressed against the Eagles, Branch was a healthy scratch for the game. He said he got the word “probably a couple days” before the game that he would not be active. That isn’t always the case, though, he explained.
“It depends,” said Branch, who was inactive for the Patriots’ final six games, including playoffs. “Sometimes you’re made aware that Wednesday of the week coming up, or sometimes you’re made aware 10 minutes before the legal deadline for the team to drop off their depth chart.”
Branch also was asked about Eagles tackle Lane Johnson’s claim that he would never want to play for the Patriots because they don’t have enough fun and shared his take on playing for Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
On Johnson’s comments: “Different people have certain agendas when they play this game. The thing that the Patriots do well is finding guys that all are about competing and all about winning, and I think that’s shown over the years. So to each their own with their opinions and everything. Honestly, I feel like the proof is in the pudding, and winning is always the most fun thing to do. When you’re winning games, you’re usually having a good time.”
On playing for Belichick: “Playing with Bill is like playing with any other coach. He’s a personable guy at times, and then when it’s time to get serious, he’s the furthest thing from (that). To me, I think it is a normal type of relationship when it comes to that.”