11:15am: How did Branch manage to win his appeal despite testing positive? According to Howe (via Twitter), the positive test “contained traces of pot from a previously failed test.” Therefore, there was “nothing new in Branch’s system.”
10:37am: Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch has won the appeal of his four-game suspension and will no longer be disciplined for violating the league’s drug policy, reports ESPN Field Yates (via Twitter). Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports (via Twitter) that the NFL rescinded the suspension without even hearing Branch’s appeal. The veteran defensive lineman was handed a four-game ban in late November after testing positive for marijuana.
The appeal was a bit of a risk by Branch. If the suspension had been upheld, the 31-year-old would have been suspended immediately, meaning he would have missed crucial late-season or playoff games. Fortunately for Branch and the Patriots, that won’t be the case, as the defensive tackle will be allowed to continue playing. The lineman has started 11 games for the Patriots this season, compiling 39 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble.
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. The lineman was also disciplined by the Patriots during this past preseason for violating team rules.
While Branch won his appeal, the initial four-game suspension still implies that the defensive tackle tested positive for marijuana for a fourth time. The veteran is set to be a free agent this offseason, and teams will presumably be cautious of the player’s previous punishments.
With Branch sticking around for the rest of the season, the Patriots could have some interesting roster decisions on their hands. Besides Branch, the Patriots also have defensive tackles Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, and Darius Kilgo on the roster.
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