RENTON, Wash. — Deion Branch is headed back to New England and a reunion with Tom Brady.

Branch, the former Super Bowl MVP wide receiver with the Patriots, was traded Monday night from the Seattle Seahawks to New England. The Seahawks confirmed the trade late Monday night. first reported the deal.

Seattle said it will get a fourth-round pick in exchange for Branch getting a reunion with the team that drafted him in 2002.

“(He’s) excited as can be,” Branch’s agent, Jason Chayut said Monday night.

The trade ended a day of speculation after Branch was absent from Seahawks practice.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll was nearly silent on Branch’s status, other than saying he gave Branch an excused “personal day” on Monday as the Seahawks returned from their bye.

Carroll added he expected Branch to be with the team at its next practice on Wednesday.

“At this point I do, yes,” Carroll said of Branch being around later in the week.

Obviously, that was not the case. Reports first surfaced last week of talks between the Seahawks and Patriots following the trade of Randy Moss from New England to Minnesota.

The normally talkative Carroll said just 28 words in response to any questions about Branch.

Branch joins a young New England receiving group, sans veteran Wes Welker. Aside from Welker, second-year receiver Brandon Tate is the only other Patriots receiver with more than 10 catches.

Branch is signed through next season. He is schedule to make $5.45 million in base salary this year and $5.95 million in 2011.

Before coming to Seattle, Branch was a rising star with the Patriots. He caught a career-best 78 passes for nearly 1,000 yards and five touchdowns in 2005 and that followed up his Super Bowl MVP performance a year earlier. Branch had 11 catches for 133 yards in the Super Bowl against Philadelphia.

Branch arrived in Seattle in 2006, acquired from the Patriots for a first-round draft pick, but that first season in Seattle was the only time Branch was able to stay healthy. His career in Seattle was mostly defined by injuries, missing parts of the previous three seasons with some sort of ailment.

Most of Branch’s ailments revolved around his left knee he first injured in a snowy playoff game against Green Bay in January 2008. He also missed time with hamstring and foot injuries.

So far this season, Branch has remained healthy. He’s caught 13 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, but had just one catch in Seattle’s 20-3 loss to St. Louis.

His future with Seattle was brought into question when the Seahawks signed Brandon Stokley. Just a few days after being signed, Stokley led the team in catches and targets in their 20-3 loss.

Branch was in Louisville, Ky., over the weekend where his number was honored at the University of Louisville. He told the Louisville Courier-Journal he was trying not to focus on the rumors.

“I’m going to leave that to the people that handle that,” Branch told the paper. “Right now I’m still a Seattle Seahawk, and whatever happens, happens.”

Belichick leaves spat behind

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick wants to leave the trade of Randy Moss behind and focus on playing the Baltimore Ravens.

The subject, though, keeps coming up.

The coach of the New England Patriots downplayed on Monday a report that Moss and Tom Brady had an altercation before the wide receiver was traded to the Minnesota Vikings last Wednesday.

“That’s news to me,” Belichick said during a conference call.

Did he ask Brady whether the spat occurred?

“That’s my answer. News to me,” he said.

With his team returning from an off week before Sunday’s game against Baltimore, Belichick said he spent time during the weekend trying “to catch up on some stuff with the family and kids. Watch them play.”

But in a pregame show on Sunday, CBS analyst Charley Casserly reported that the week before the trade, Brady and Moss “went-toe-to-toe and had to be separated.”

Casserly, general manager of the Washington Redskins from 1989-99 and Houston Texans from 2000-06, said, “one of Brady’s problems with Moss was his behavior as a Patriot. Then one of the things that was overheard was Brady telling Moss, ‘you need to cut your beard.’ Moss counters, ‘you need to get your hair cut. You look like a girl.’ ”

After the trade, Moss and Brady praised each other as had been their custom in public comments throughout their three-plus seasons as teammates.

“Being able to come from a place such as New England, having a great Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady, a Hall of coach in Bill Belichick and then being able to come to a Hall of Fame quarterback in Brett (Favre), what else can you ask for?” Moss said the day of the trade.

“Randy really knows how I feel about him,” Brady said the next day in an interview for Patriots All-Access on WBZ-TV. “I love him as a guy, as a person, as a player. (He) did a lot of great things for this team.”

The day after the trade, Belichick downplayed any input Brady may have had.

“Tom doesn’t make personnel decisions,” he said.

Belichick also said then that he never had an incident or discipline problem with Moss. When asked if that applied to other team personnel, he said, “I told you what I thought about Randy.”

He also described as “total fabrication” a report by former Patriots receiver Troy Brown on the New England Cable News network last week that after a 41-14 win in Miami two days before the trade, “Apparently, Belichick came to the back of the plane to speak with Randy and Randy just pretty much ignored him.”

On Monday, Belichick’s reaction to Casserly’s report was mild compared to his comments after Casserly said a week before the Patriots 33-14 playoff loss to the Ravens on Jan. 10 that Brady had been playing with three broken ribs.

“Who’s been wrong more than Charley Casserly since he left the Redskins?” Belichick said on WEEI radio. “He has no relationship to this team.”

In that playoff game and the four regular-season games that preceded it, Brady was listed on the Patriots injury report with injuries to a rib, right finger and right shoulder.

But this season he’s been healthy and very effective as the Patriots have started with a 3-1 record. His last game against the Ravens, though, was one of the worst of his career with three interceptions, three sacks and a 54.7 completion percentage.

The Ravens (4-1) are coming off their most dominant performance of the season, a 31-17 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday in which Ray Rice ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns. In the playoff game against New England, Rice had 159 yards rushing, starting with an 83-yard touchdown on the game’s first offensive play.

“Anytime your season ends, you remember that game,” Belichick said, “but now we have a chance to play that team again. It’s a new matchup. It’s a new game. Hopefully, we can learn from some of the things that happened in that game.”

Moss, a dangerous deep threat, had five catches for just 48 yards in that game.

Now that he’s gone, the Patriots downfield passing game is weaker with second-year pro Brandon Tate expected to start in Moss’ spot.

“We’ll go through the same process we go through every week, which is look at the team that we’re playing and look at what our options are, and try to come up with the best game plan that we can against them,” Belichick said. “I think we’ll still be using the same playbook.”