Ninkovich finding his game again

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Ninkovich finding his game again

FOXBORO -- After New England lost to Baltimore in Week 3, Rob Ninkovich decided he'd had enough.
And the pressure he sought, despite the Patriots defense playing poorly as a whole, went squarely on his own shoulders.
"I knew I was capable of making some big plays and being a guy you could count on," he said. "The first couple of weeks I didn't feel that I was playing my style, the way I'd like to play. I felt the last couple of weeks I've been trying to change some things."
Ninkovich has 11 combined tackles, three forced fumbles, and two sacks in the two games since.
He played especially inspired football this weekend against Denver.
In the third quarter, New England went up 24-7 when Tom Brady scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak.
Manning began his team's ensuing drive in shotgun on the Broncos 20. Ninkovich had been setting up early, trying to bullrush and collapse the pocket. He hit gold on first-and-10, sacking Manning for a loss of three and knocking the ball loose with a swipe of his arm.
Vince Wilfork recovered the fumble to set Brady up on the Denver 14.
Three plays later: Patriots touchdown.
Ninkovich had a forced fumble the previous week against Buffalo, but the turnover against Denver felt different. He was starting to string something together.
The linebacker was starting to settle in at defensive end.
"It's just. Sometimes moving to a different position is difficult. I was just trying to make sure I do my job, do the best I could for the team. As a defensive end you can't play the pass on a run situation and play the run in a pass situation. So it's just something that you get a feel for."
Ninkovich signed with the Patriots in 2009 and had a breakout season the following year. He started at outside linebacker then, recording a career-high 62 tackles, four sacks, and two interceptions in 16 games. He continued to improve his game in 2011.
But this year New England has the talent it wants at linebacker and Ninkovich isn't included. Not wanting to take a playmaker off the field, coaches moved him to defensive end.
Okay, then. He's always played toward the end of the line of scrimmage, now they've just taken pass coverage off his plate. Now it's contain, contain, contain. Stop the run. Pressure the quarterback.
All things he did when playing the position in college.
"It's like riding a bike. I'm happy to be back on it," he smiled.
His teammates are happy, too. Not only has Ninkovich's recent reemergence been noticed by his peers, but there's almost some relief attached.
Linebacker Jerod Mayo said it's great to see such a grinder hit pay dirt on game day.
"He's impressive, man," Mayo said Sunday. "He's a guy who goes out there and plays hard each and every week -- even from the preseason on. Just because the big plays don't come doesn't mean he's not out there playing well. I'm really happy for him."
The new goal for Ninkovich is growing his comfort zone and keeping his play elevated.
It shouldn't be too hard. At 6-2, 260, he can look small next to some opposing tackles and tight ends. Thankfully, there's an aspect of being disruptive and causing turnovers that just comes naturally.
"You're not thinking about it everything happens so fast and it's just a part of playing football and learning things you have through your whole life and career. You see a ball -- try and get it out.
"It's all about just playing football."
Playing the way he knows he can.

Easley on character concerns: 'It's all rumors' until sources step forward

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Easley on character concerns: 'It's all rumors' until sources step forward

When Dominique Easley was released by the Patriots this spring, it wasn't because he wasn't productive when he was on the field. In fact, on a per-snap basis, he was one of the most productive interior pass-rushers in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Instead, there were some off-the-field factors, as well as injury concerns, that led to the Patriots choosing to cut ties with their 2014 first-round pick. 

As our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran put it, there were "philosophical differences" between Easley and the team.

Other, more scathing reports of Easley's impact in New England were released, including one report from the Boston Globe that included a quote from a former teammate saying he was a "locker room cancer."

Since then, Easley has landed with the Rams and has a chance to contribute to one of the most talented defensive lines in football. In an interview on Sirius XM NFL Radio with Phil Savage and Amber Theoharis, Easley said he hopes that his new team will get to see that he's a better person than some have indicated.

"Just really," Easley said, "just hopefully that the Rams get to see what a great person and a great hardworker I am, and really, just a great person."

Easley went on to say that he's not sure who would speak of him negatively or why. He explained that it's not his "main goal" to prove there's nothing to worry about with his character, but clearly it's somewhere on the list. 

"There's been, obviously, stuff said about me," Easley said. "We don't know where it came from. I would say the person doesn't want to come out and say it, neither. As far as I know, it's all rumors until that person comes out and say that it was from them, and they can prove that they actually know who I am, or been around me long enough to know who I am and how I am as a person."

PFT: NFL plans to interview Manning about Al Jazeera PED allegations

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PFT: NFL plans to interview Manning about Al Jazeera PED allegations

Peyton Manning is retired, but that doesn't mean he's exempt from the interviews that the NFL plans to conduct as it looks into the allegations made by Al Jazeera's December PED documentary. 

It was reported last week by USA Today that the league's senior vice president of labor policy and league affairs Adolpho Birch informed the NFLPA that players named in Al Jazeera's report would be interviewed in July. 

Among those scheduled to be interviewed are Packers linebackers Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews and Steelers linebacker James Harrison. Former Packers linebacker Mike Neal will also be interviewed.

(Harrison has taken issue with the league's request, and said on social media that he would only meet with the league if commissioner Roger Goodell showed up to his home.)

Manning was not mentioned in the letter obtained by USA Today detailing the league's interview plans, but Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk followed up on Monday to see if the NFL intended to speak with Manning. It does.

The former Broncos and Colts quarterback has been very vocal about just how strongly he denies Al Jazeera's claim that his wife, Ashley, received HGH for his use. Despite the fact that he's no longer playing, it will come as no surprise if, given his stance, Manning cooperates fully with the league as it seeks more information regarding the report. 

As Florio points out, if Manning hopes to return to the NFL at some point as an executive -- as many believe he will -- this is something he'll want to put to bed beforehand. That process will start with an interview.