Patriots keeping their eyes on Cardinals' Peterson

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Patriots keeping their eyes on Cardinals' Peterson

FOXBORO -- Patriots special teams units face a unique problem this week in Patrick Peterson.

Last season, the Cardinals rookie first-rounder returned four kicks for touchdowns, tying an NFL record. Despite his short NFL resume, he has already established himself as the kind of player around whom coaches must game plan.

Nate Ebner was still in college when Peterson was tearing up the NFL last year. But this week of film study has served as a tutorial for the Patriots special teamer as to just how dangerous Peterson can be.

How do the Patriots contain him?

"Be aware of him. Everywhere he is. In every aspect of the kicking game," Ebner said. "Do what we practice. Special teams coach Scott O'Brien put together a good scheme. We need to do it to the best of our ability to stop anything from happening. That's what we're there for."

Peterson possesses good speed -- he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at last year's NFL Combine -- but it's his combination of skills that sets him apart, according to Ebner's scouting report.

"Big guy with a lot of speed, very explosive," Ebner said. "He's got good vision and he's strong. You gotta wrap him up."

Ebner did a good job of that against the Titans in Week 1. He finished the game with two tackles on special teams to lead the Patriots.

When he was drafted, considering his background as an elite rugby player, Ebner was expected to be a special teams ball hawk. It appears as though he's on his way.

"If a play comes to me I try to do my best to make it happen," he said. "I play the best I can every week and try and get better as the games come. Make plays as they come."

Peterson seems to live by the same philosophy. Unfortunately for the Patriots this week, plays seem to come to him more regularly than most.

On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Peterson's work on defense as well as his ability to return kicks.

"Hes very dangerous on punt returns, that goes without saying," Belichick said during a conference call. "Hes a big guy, has good length, good speed so hes a hard guy to throw over in the secondary. Excellent ball skills. If he gets his hands on the ball, youre looking at a lot of trouble, not just interceptions but probably a run back for touchdowns, too. It would be like a punt return."

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.