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Archive for Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ex-Patriots miss out on chance to make history

December 12, 2007

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— Daniel Graham left the Patriots after last season. Now with the mediocre Broncos, the former captain doesn't regret missing a chance to go undefeated.

Deion Branch doesn't either. A contract dispute prompted the Super Bowl MVP's trade to the Seahawks.

Adam Vinatieri, whose last-minute field goals won two championships with the Patriots? He wouldn't even mention them by name soon after joining the Colts.

New England's bottom line: No matter how much you've contributed to the team's success, you're expendable if you don't fit their tight salary structure.

"I knew if I hit the free-agent market, I wasn't going to come back," Graham said.

Does he wish he was still with the team that can be the first to go undefeated since the 1972 Miami Dolphins?

"Not at all," he said. "For the most part, everybody sees all the winning and the glamorous part. It's a lot different when you're there and see how it's operated up there. Everything is not glamorous. It's a business up there, and they let that be understood. It's a business."

Graham spent five years as a tight end with the Patriots, winning two Super Bowls, then left as a free agent. The lure of returning to the area where he played at Colorado University was a factor.

Another factor: He may have been too expensive for a team that is among the best at managing the salary cap.

"Anybody can go at any time," Graham said. "It's true anywhere, but they emphasize that a lot."

Branch preferred to stay but felt underpaid at $1.045 million for 2006. He boycotted training camp, then was traded to Seattle after the first regular-season game.

Tom Brady was devastated to lose his close friend and top receiver. Coach Bill Belichick said both sides tried hard to reach an agreement.

There were no regrets by Branch then, and none now even though he could have been part of this year's 13-0 team with a good chance to finish at 16-0.

"I don't really think about that," he said. "It's a business. Everything is understood. ... I think just overall, I'm feeling good - I'm feeling real good - here."

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