Patriots: Polamalu still 'head of the class'

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Patriots: Polamalu still 'head of the class'

Patriots players return to Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, but the coaching staff is already back to work after the bye week, and while continuing preparation for Pittsburgh, coach Bill Belichick said the Steelers "look good as usual" and use a lot of the same plays and schemes as last year when they were AFC Champions.

Also playing similarly to last year, according to the Patriots, is safety Troy Polamalu, who's the returning Defensive Player of the Year.

In a conference call on Monday, Belichick was asked about Polamalu, and the injuries he's had this season. But the Patriots coach doesn't believe he's struggled one bit.

"Wasn't he Defensive Player of the Year last year? It's not like he didn't do anything," said Belichick. "He's just one of the top defensive players in the league."

Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien agreed.

"You look at Troy Polamalu in his ninth year. The guy's playing as good as any safety in the league," said O'Brien on Monday's conference call. "You've got to know where this guy is, on every single play. He's a very instinctive player. He's a guy that can really disrupt the game, if you don't have knowledge of where he is on every play. He's playing really fast . . . He's one of many defenders on that defense that's going to be tough to go against. He's at the head of the class."

The Patriots also praised Pittsburgh's offense on Monday, and more specifically, wide receiver Mike Wallace.

"He's a big-play receiver," said Belichick. "He's really fast. There's no way you're going to catch him. So, you've got to be careful about how much space he gets when he catches the ball. But I think he's improved a lot from when we played him last year."

"He was big, and could always run in college," said Nick Caserio. "He's just become more consistent in all phases: route running, catching the ball, understanding coverages, just understanding how the defense is playing. And really, these last couple years, including this year, he's played at a very high level."

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.