Deion Branch won a Super Bowl MVP trophy with the New England Patriots.
He also has two Super Bowl rings to his name.
Those were the good days.
The Seahawks wide receiver has hopped, run andshuffled up and down it during tedious rehabilitation sessionsduring most of the last two years while recovering from knee, footand leg injuries.
"I'm going to leave that thing alone. I'm done. I did prettymuch everything you could do on that. I've maxed it out," Branchsaid, looking disdainfully at the hill Wednesday after he practicedduring Seattle's mandatory minicamp.
The workout limited to position drills was Branch's firstpractice of any kind with the team since the days leading into lastseason's finale Dec. 28 against Arizona. He then elected to have asecond, clean-out surgery on his reconstructed left knee.
What he called a "minor, routine" operation in early March washis second on the knee in 13 months since he shredded it making acut on a snowy field at Green Bay in the playoffs in January 2008.
Cornerback Kelly Jennings, returning from shoulder surgery, andrecently acquired defensive lineman Cory Redding, coming back froma dislocated knee cap, joined Branch in practicing for the firsttime this offseason.
"Man, I felt like I was back at home, on the field. Been a longtime coming," said Redding, acquired in March from Detroit for ProBowl linebacker Julian Peterson.
Coach Jim Mora said all injured veterans and those who hadoffseason surgery should be ready to fully participate whentraining camp begins the last week of July. That includes: Pro Bowlleft tackle Walter Jones (microfracture surgery on his knee),defensive end Patrick Kerney (a third shoulder surgery in 13months); starting guards Mike Wahle (shoulder surgery) and Rob Sims(torn pectoral muscle); and center Chris Spencer (back).
Just because Branch is back on the field doesn't mean he's backto normal. As in, how he felt in 2006 when Seattle traded afirst-round draft choice to New England to get the former SuperBowl MVP, and then signed him to a $39 million contract with $13million guaranteed.
That was before he destroyed his knee.
"You will never be back to normal once you have this type ofprocedure done. I actually feel stronger, but it's not normal,"said Branch, who turns 30 next month. "Something has been donethat removed (parts) of my knee. My biggest thing is to continue tostrengthen it."
Still, Branch said he will attempt to play the same way and makethe same moves that made him a star earlier this decade with thePatriots.
"I'll be OK. I'll never think about my knee once I take thefield," he said.
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said everyone - trainers, teammates,even offensive coordinator Greg Knapp - razzed Branch in themeeting room, in the locker room and on the field during his firstday back.
"I think I'm like the jumper cable for the team," Branch said."All the guys, I think they were way more excited, screaming inthe locker room when they saw me trying my helmet on."
Anything beats trudging up that hated hill.
"It was just good to be back out there with the guys. Thebiggest thing was doing more team things, and not being offsecluded with the rest of the injured guys," Branch said. "It wascool."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times