RENTON – Deion Branch says he can still play.
The Seattle Seahawks wide receiver understands his surgically repaired left knee will never be the same. However, he believes he can still perform at the same level as before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the last game of the 2007 season in the NFC playoffs at Green Bay.
And Branch proved he still has some gas in the tank at the end of last season, finally returning to the field healthy and turning some heads with his ability to get open after bruising his right heel against the New York Giants earlier in the 2008 season.
“I’ll never sit back and think about my knee once I take the field,” Branch said. “Once I’m on the field running around I’m not worried about my knee because I think with the job the guys in the training room do and what we do in our weight room helps clear that up and helps you have that confidence.”
Branch was one of three Seahawks returning to action for the first time on a limited basis at the opening of Seattle’s three-day, mandatory minicamp Wednesday. The other two were defensive lineman Cory Redding and cornerback Kelly Jennings.
Redding, who played for Detroit last season, suffered a dislocated right kneecap last season on Oct. 19 against Houston and started running about a month ago.
Jennings played for the first time since suffering an injury during the second half of the last game of the year against Arizona, when he tore ligaments in his left shoulder.
Jennings had surgery to repair the injury and is slowly working himself back into shape. He said the rehab process has taken longer than expected. He also said he understands the competition to regain his spot in the defensive rotation is fierce, with the Seahawks bringing in Ken Lucas to start opposite Marcus Trufant.
“This is the game of football,” he said. “They bring guys in to compete, and with cornerback only two can be on the field at one time in our base defense. So I always expect competition and just look forward to it.”
Seattle coach Jim Mora said it’s good to get guys such as Branch, Redding and Jennings on the field, but it’s more important to make sure they’re healthy for the beginning of training camp at the end of July.
“In the offseason, we take a somewhat conservative approach to bring those players back,” he said. “And we do that because we want them to be at full strength when we start training camp. But it was good to see those guys work back into practice and get some work in.” Mora: second chance for Vick
Mora was asked about Michael Vick’s possible return to the league, and was clear about his team’s interest in the Atlanta Falcons quarterback.
Mora said the last time he talked to his former player was before he went to prison in the fall of 2007, and that he believed Vick deserved another chance to play in the league.
“I believe he’s paid his debt to society,” Mora said.
However, that opportunity won’t take place in Seattle.
“It’s a sticky situation, one I’m not comfortable talking about,” Mora said. “I’ll just say this for the record, which is, we are very happy with the quarterbacks we have on our roster, and we have no intentions of adding another player to our roster.”
Ernie Kent, the men’s basketball coach at Oregon, attended practice Wednesday to watch his son, receiver Jordan Kent. ... With the Seahawks picking up linebacker Tony Taylor, they released Port Orchard native free agent linebacker Tony Fein. ... Seattle also signed fullback Dan Curran to replace running back Tyler Roehl, who suffered an ACL tear in his knee.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437