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Branch has caught nine passes for 80 yards this season. He was released on Nov. 17.
“With Donte’ out, he gives us a good level of experience and knows our system,” Belichick said. “He’s played for us and we have confidence in him.”
Aldon Smith set a 49ers record for sacks in a season. He has 19½ sacks, 3½ off Michael Strahan’s league record. “It has to be a positive play,” Smith said of sacks in general. “You’re stopping the guy who’s controlling the offense from making a play. Any time you do that, that’s a pretty big play.” . . . The Patriots went through a light, no-pads practice inside the Dana-Farber bubble . . . Linebacker Brandon Spikes wasn’t spotted at the beginning of practice, but according to the team-issued report, he was on the field, limited with knee and ankle injuries. Kyle Love had permission to miss the workout. He and his wife, Constance, welcomed the birth of their first child, a son, on Wednesday . . . Rob Gronkowski plans on practicing this week. The tight end underwent surgery Nov. 19 . . . The Patriots signed receiver/returner Tony Logan to the practice squad. He replaces offensive lineman Tommie Draheim, who was released on Tuesday.