Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch has been suspended four games for violating the league’s drug policy, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). The veteran tested positive for marijuana, and Schefter relays that Branch will appeal the suspension. This is the second time this season that Branch has been suspended, as the lineman was disciplined by the Patriots during the preseason for violating team rules.
The Patriots will certainly miss the 350-pound lineman. Branch has played 420 snaps this season, which leads all Patriots defensive tackles. The 31-year-old was actually having a career-year in 2016, having compiled 33 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. If Branch misses time, the Patriots will lean heavily on second-year defensive tackle Malcom Brown. The team could also turn to a pair of rookies in Vincent Valentine and Woodrow Wilson. NESN.com’s Doug Kyed tweets that the Patriots could also look at free agents to fill the hole, including Terrance Knighton and Markus Kuhn.
Branch, a 2007 second-round pick, has had a bit of a tumultuous career. Before joining the Patriots, the defensive tackle was cut by the Bills following an arrest for a DUI. Branch subsequently signed with the Patriots, and he played a role in helping the team win the Super Bowl. The team rewarded the lineman with a two-year extension, but he showed up to the following training camp out of shape and overweight. The tackle still managed to have a relatively productive season in 2015, finishing with 35 tackles and one sack.
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