NFL Players' Union Files Grievance for Pats' Branch

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 2, 2006

The NFL Players Association filed a grievance yesterday on behalf of New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch, contending that the Patriots acted improperly by refusing to trade him to the New York Jets.

The grievance says the Patriots had agreed to trade Branch if they received an offer comparable to what other teams have received for players of similar value. The Patriots rejected the Jets' offer of a second-round draft pick for Branch, according to the union's grievance.

The union put the case on course to be heard on an expedited basis, meaning that a hearing is to take place within a week before one of two arbitrators, either John Feerick or Shyam Das.

A source familiar with the case said the Patriots contend they told Branch's agent, Jason Chayut, they would determine whether any trade offer made by another club was suitable. Chayut contends the Patriots agreed to trade Branch if they received an offer in line with what other teams have gotten for comparable players, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is headed to arbitration. The arbitrator will have to have to decide whether to believe the Patriots' version or Chayut's.

The union also filed a separate case with NFL special master Stephen Burbank accusing the Patriots of failing to bargain in good faith with Branch on a new contract. Burbank is the University of Pennsylvania law professor who's in charge of resolving disputes between the league and the players' union arising from the collective bargaining agreement.

Branch is holding out and the Patriots granted him a one-week window, ending yesterday afternoon, to seek a trade and negotiate contract terms with other teams. The Patriots issued a written statement yesterday that said: "No trade has been consummated. Deion Branch remains under contract to the New England Patriots."

Two teams, the Jets and Seattle Seahawks, reportedly made contract proposals to Branch that the wide receiver considered acceptable but neither club made what the Patriots deemed a suitable trade offer. The Jets' first-year head coach, Eric Mangini, was the Patriots' defensive coordinator last season. The two teams, as AFC East rivals, play twice per season.

Goodell Takes Reins

Roger Goodell officially took over as commissioner yesterday. He is to make his first extended public comments as commissioner when he meets with reporters on Wednesday at Giants Stadium. . . .

Tailback Stephen Davis agreed to a one-year, minimum-salary contract with the St. Louis Rams. . . .

Cardinals Coach Dennis Green told reporters that an MRI exam of quarterback Matt Leinart's injured right (non-throwing) shoulder showed no serious damage. . . .

Adam Vinatieri has a sprained ligament and a bone chip in his non-kicking leg, but the Indianapolis Colts hope he'll be ready for the season opener.

Yesterday's Games

ยท TITANS 35, PACKERS 21: Rookie quarterback Vince Young played in Tennessee's first three series and returned for much of the third quarter, completing 8 of 17 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown, to lead the visiting Titans.

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