Patriots prepare for Saints with situational football

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Patriots prepare for Saints with situational football

FOXBORO -- The Patriots were given the day off on Saturday, but as wide receiver Donte' Stallworth pointed out on Sunday, that day off isn't what it seems.

"The first thing about being here, there are no off-days," said Stallworth after Sunday's session.

With the first preseason game on Thursday night, and practices scheduled with the New Orleans Saints the days leading up to that game, the Patriots certainly can't afford to have any "off-days."

The joint practices will be refreshing for both teams in the dog days of training camp, as Stallworth pointed out on Sunday.

"It's always fun to be able to play against, or even practice against other teams," said Stallworth. "After a while, your teammates, they start to know what you're doing, and vice-versa. Whenever you bring in a new team, it's always good to be able to compete against a different team."

While practicing and competing against their own teammates, Stallworth and the Patriots have been focusing on situational drills to make sure that they are prepared for anything that comes their way. That was evident on Sunday, as Tom Brady tried to work in a fake-spike in the no-huddle offense. His pass, deep down the left sideline, however, was overthrown, intended for Stallworth.

"Bill does a great job of putting us through situations," said Stallworth. "It's interesting, the way he does his training camps. That's why, every situation, we're always prepared for it, because Coach puts us through every single situation that can come up in a game, every situation possible."

Brady's passion was shining bright on Sunday, but not in the way he would have liked. Brady's frustrations with receiver routes and blocking forced him to yell, "What are we doing?!?!" toward the end of practice.

"That's how he's always been, as long as I can remember," said Stallworth. "Nothing's going to be perfect, but if you strive for perfection, then you're going to be pretty damn good. And that's one thing that Bill always preaches to us. And Tommy's that same way. He's a fiery, passionate guy. And when things aren't going right, things that we've done before aren't going right, then Brady's going to let us know. He's the leader of this team, and guys follow his lead."

Report: NFL paid Goodell over $31 million in 2015

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Report: NFL paid Goodell over $31 million in 2015

Roger Goodell's salary has reportedly fallen in recent years, but he's still paid handsomely for his work as NFL commissioner.

According to the Associated Press, Goodell earned just over $31 million for 2015. That's a seven percent decrease from the $34 million he received for 2014. 

The NFL's last tax return served as an indicator of Goodell's 2015 salary. The league's tax returns no longer have to be made public since it has changed its status from exempt to taxable, per the AP.

The next-highest paid executive at the NFL offices on Park Avenue? General counsel Jeff Pash, one of the most prominent players in the Deflategate sage, who earned $6.5 million in 2015, down from $7.5 million in 2014. 

Richardson suspended one game for violating personal conduct policy

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Richardson suspended one game for violating personal conduct policy

The NFL announced this week that Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson has been suspended without pay for Week 1 of the 2016 regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. 

Richardson will miss his team's season-opener against the Bengals and will be eligible to return to the Jets active roster on Sep. 12. The Jets and the Patriots meet for the first of their two division games on Nov. 27. 

Richardson responded to the news of suspension on Thursday. 

In July of 2015, Richardson led police on a high-speed chase -- hitting speeds as high as 143 miles per hour -- in suburban St. Louis. Police reported a strong odor of marijuana in the car and inside found a loaded, semiautomatic handgun that was possessed legally. Richardson had a 12-year-old relative riding with him in his Bentley at the time of the incident.

In January, Richardson pleaded guilty to resisting arrest. Though he avoided jail time, he was sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours of community service. 

Richardson has been one of the league's best defensive linemen since entering the league as a first-rounder in 2013. He served a four-game suspension to start last season after violating the league's substance abuse policy.

PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

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PFF: Collins is 'the best linebacker in the AFC'

He may have been left off of the NFL Network's Top 100 list, but Jamie Collins isn't flying under the radar at Pro Football Focus.

On PFF's list of the top 10 defensive players in the AFC, the Patriots linebacker came in at No. 8 and was given the description as the top linebacker in the conference.

Collins' versatility within the confines of the Patriots defense is what makes him so valuable, PFF's John Kosko explains: 

"He doesn’t dominate in any one role like Luke Kuechly does in pass coverage and run defense, but he is very good at all facets of the game. Collins has the athleticism to cover TEs and HBs effectively, the explosiveness to rush the passer, and the size and strength to defend the run. 

"The former Southern Mississippi linebacker is arguably the most versatile player in the NFL, and allows Bill Belichick to employ a defense that confuses opposing quarterbacks. With the only knock against Collins being his 34 missed tackles the past two seasons, the Patriot is the best linebacker in the AFC."

Collins graded out as the No. 5 linebacker in football last year, per PFF's numbers. He ranked behind only Carolina's Luke Kuechly, Minnesota's Anthony Barr, Indianapolis' Jerrell Freeman and Seattle's KJ Wright. 

Fellow Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned the 10th-highest grade for linebackers last season, according to PFF -- a grade that likely would have been higher had his snap-count (602 in 2015) approached that of Collins (792).

While Collins is a rare physical talent, the argument could be made that it's Hightower who is the more important player to the Patriots defense given his prowess as a pass-rusher and run-defender. He also has myriad responsibilities as the extension of the team's coaching staff in the defensive huddle. 

In order to slow down opposing passing games, many Patriots defensive packages employ either five or six defensive backs and just two linebackers. Lucky for them, they have two of the best in the conference.

Both Collins and Hightower are entering contract years this year, and finding a way to keep them in-house figures to be near the top of the list of priorities for the Patriots front office.