- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - He plays offense. He’s won at least two Super Bowls, and he was the MVP the last time the Patriots won the NFL championship.

Know who it is?

“I’d have to say Tom,” New England safety Patrick Chung said Monday. Nope, not Tom Brady.

The same question seemed to stump running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a few seconds, too. Then he said it’s really not important who got the honor in a game where the biggest reward is the Vince Lombardi Trophy that goes to the NFL champion.

“To me, MVPs don’t matter,” he said. “The only thing that really matters is us going out there and performing well.”

And it doesn’t matter to Deion Branch, either. He was the Super Bowl MVP when the Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21 seven years ago for their third championship in four years. He’s been overlooked a bit this season, with Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez grabbing most of Brady’s passes and the headlines.

“That’s cool,” said Branch, who has that MVP trophy stored safely in a glass case at his home. “I just do my job. I can’t worry about who’s controlling it and who’s saying A, B, C, D. I just do my job I’m not here to be the one that (says), `Hey I need all the attention.’ That’s not me.”

His contribution doesn’t escape the discriminating eye of coach Bill Belichick as he prepares his team for the Super Bowl against the New York Giants on Sunday.

“I couldn’t imagine anybody on the team not thinking that Deion Branch has a tremendous importance to our football team,” Belichick said. “I don’t care if they play offense, defense or wash the towels.”

Brady was MVP of the Patriots first two Super Bowl wins in 2002 and 2004. Then he threw for two touchdowns among his 23 completions in their next championship game.

But it was Branch, who caught nearly half of them, who was MVP after tying a Super Bowl record with 11 receptions.

Then, after one more season, he was gone, traded during a contract dispute after the opening game of the 2006 season to Seattle for a draft choice. Brady was devastated to lose his friend and the receiver who could adjust his planned route with just a pre-snap glance from his quarterback.

Then he felt much better when Branch made the cross-country trip back for a reunion.

The Patriots obtained Branch in a trade on Oct. 12, 2010 for a fourth-round draft choice to replace Randy Moss, who was traded to Minnesota. Branch had 48 catches in 11 games with New England last season and another 51 in 15 games this season.

But Welker led the NFL with 122 receptions, Gronkowski set a league single-season record for tight ends with 17 touchdown catches and Hernandez, a tight end versatile enough to make big plays at wide receiver and running back, had 79 receptions.

Story Continues →