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Originally published October 14, 2010 at 9:47 PM | Page modified October 14, 2010 at 9:54 PM

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Branch agrees to pay cut with Pats

Wide receiver Deion Branch has restructured his contract to take less money from the New England Patriots.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Wide receiver Deion Branch has restructured his contract to take less money from the New England Patriots.

Branch, reacquired Monday in a trade with the Seahawks, had been scheduled to make $5.47 million this season and $5.95 million in 2011. He said Thursday his contract had been restructured but did not give details.

Branch has two years left on a six-year, $39 million contract he signed with Seattle after being traded in 2006 by New England, where he spent four seasons. ESPN reported his salary for 2010 remains unchanged, but his 2011 salary is now closer to the $2.15 million that wide receiver Wes Welker is scheduled to be paid. Branch also can earn $2 million in incentives, ESPN reported.

The restructuring makes more money available for the Patriots to pursue a contract extension for Welker.

McCoy likely starter

BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini was pleased with Colt McCoy's first practice as a potential starter and said his lean is "more pronounced" to the rookie quarterback making his NFL debut Sunday in Pittsburgh.

McCoy has risen up the depth chart after injuries to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, who are nursing ankle injuries and could be out for several weeks.

Mangini said McCoy looked comfortable under center and did a nice job in grasping the game plan.

On the opposite sideline, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will make his season debut after serving a four-game suspension.

"I'm excited, but I'm not to the peak of my excitement yet, that will probably come later," Roethlisberger told ESPN. "I'm anxious, excited, a lot of emotions. But, like I said, a lot of it is under wraps right now because we're focusing on practice."

Roethlisberger's return means changes to the Steelers offense. There will be more pass-blocking responsibilities for a line that has been primarily run-blocking. Rashard Mendenhall might have to be content with fewer carries despite his 103-yards-per-game average.

And players who were motivated to show they could win without one of the NFL's most successful quarterbacks — the Steelers are 3-1 — must prove there won't be a letdown now that he's back.

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"We're glad to have him back because he's our quarterback, but that doesn't unload us from a responsibility standpoint, all of us," coach Mike Tomlin said.

Notes

• Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was cleared by doctors and returned to practice for the Green Bay Packers. Assuming he doesn't have a setback in his recovery from a concussion, he is optimistic he will start Sunday's game against Miami.

• Oakland Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski missed practice for a second straight day with an injured shoulder, and running back Darren McFadden said he is questionable for Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers with a hamstring injury.

• Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs sat out his second straight practice because of an injured left ankle, throwing his status for Sunday's game against the Seahawks into question. Poised to return from a hamstring injury, offensive lineman Chris Williams might not have his old job waiting for him. There's a good chance he will be at left guard rather than left tackle against the Seahawks.

• The NFL fined Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson $15,000 for two rule violations. Burleson was fined for kicking the football into the stands and displaying an unauthorized shirt with a personal message written on it.

• Quarterback Brett Favre returned to practice for the Minnesota Vikings, one day after sitting out to rest his sore right elbow.

• Tennessee running back Chris Johnson got a day off from practice to rest a sore thigh.

• A Mexican television reporter who said she felt uncomfortable in the New York Jets locker room last month is returning to work and plans to conduct her interviews anywhere but there. Ines Sainz, of TV Azteca, said: "I'm not going into the locker rooms anymore. It's not a good place right now for me. I don't want to be in there."

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