The Indianapolis Colts are getting some help from a former Patriot.
Six days before the two rivals meet in a divisional-round game, the Colts signed Deion Branch, the former New England receiver and Super Bowl MVP.
Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano pointed out Branch lives in nearby Carmel, works out at one of the city’s top training facilities and fills a need after Darrius Heyward-Bey injured a hamstring Saturday in the Colts’ 45-44 comeback victory over Kansas City. But Branch also brings something else to the locker room — deep knowledge of Bill Belichick’s playbook.
“You know it really didn’t sit there and factor in,” Pagano said Monday, downplaying the perceived intelligence coup. “ … We think we got a heck of a football player.”
Tom Brady might agree.
Earlier this season, the New England quarterback reportedly lobbied the team to re-sign Branch as the offense struggled with the losses of Wes Welker in free agency, Aaron Hernandez to legal trouble and Danny Amendola to Rob Gronkowski to injuries.
Instead, it was the injury-plagued Colts who signed Branch off the street.
Branch is a 34-year-old veteran with two Super Bowl rings, who was the Super Bowl MVP in New England’s third title run. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Branch has 518 receptions for 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns in 140 regular-season games, most of those with Brady and the Patriots. Branch also has 64 receptions for 948 yards with four TDs in the postseason.
Around the league
Panthers • Receiver Steve Smith says he’ll play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional playoffs. The 34-year-old Smith says the knee “felt good” after doing some cutting during a light practice Monday. Smith, from the University of Utah, sprained his posterior cruciate ligament in Carolina’s Week 16 win over New Orleans and sat out the regular season finale against Atlanta.
Patriots • New England placed linebacker Brandon Spikes on injured reserve because of a knee injury. Spikes started but made just one tackle in the last regular-season game, a 34-20 win over Buffalo. The Patriots had a bye last weekend before they host the AFC divisional-round game Saturday night. Dane Fletcher is likely to replace Spikes at middle linebacker.
Dolphins • Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was fired Monday. Sherman joined the Dolphins when coach Joe Philbin was hired two years ago, and the two have been close for more than 30 years. But this season Sherman’s unit ranked 27th in the NFL in yards, allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks and scored once in its final 24 possessions. The Dolphins (8-8) would have made the playoffs if they had won one of their final two games against the Bills and Jets. Instead, they were beaten by a combined score of 39-7.
Concussion-fund plan revealed
Lawyers representing former NFL players in the proposed $765 million settlement of thousands of concussion-related claims detailed Monday how the money would be divided.
The awards could reach $5 million for athletes with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease; $4 million for a death involving brain trauma; and $3 million for dementia cases.
Under the payout formula, those maximum awards would go to players under 45, who would likely need more lifetime care. For a man in his early 60s, the awards top out at $3 million for ALS and $950,000 for Alzheimer’s disease. An 80-year-old with early dementia would get $25,000.
Individual awards would also reflect how long the player spent in the NFL, unrelated medical issues and other factors.
• New Orleans at Seattle, 2:35 p.m., Ch. 13
• Indianapolis at New England, 6:15 p.m., Ch. 2
• San Francisco at Carolina, 11:05 a.m., Ch. 13
• San Diego at Denver,2:40 p.m., Ch. 2