Postcard from Camp: Saints make a visit

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Postcard from Camp: Saints make a visit

Day 14 at camp was something new and different. The Patriots finally had a chance to hit players that weren't their teammates as the Saints came to town for the first of two joint practices.

WEATHER
Another perfect day at Gillette. Temperatures in the 80s. Bright sun. Few clouds. Good opportunity to work on a farmer's tan.

WHAT THEY WORE
Full pads for everyone. The only red jerseys on the field were worn by the quarterbacks on both sides. Jon Bon Jovi, who was in attendance as a guest of Robert Kraft, wore Levis.

WHAT THEY DID
2:00-2:30 Teams warmed up and stretched.

2:30-2:45 Players broke off into positional groups and worked on drills.

2:45-3:00 This is when the Pats and Saints began the intermingling process. Both teams ran one-on-one drills with receivers and tight ends trying to beat safeties and corners. Linemen from both teams squared off in pass rush drills, while backs did their best to stuff linebackers in pass protection drills.

3:00-3:05 Patriots punted to the Saints here. Matthew Slater stood out as the best gunner on the field. Zoltan Mesko was hanging them high and long.

3:05-3:15 Both teams went through 7-on-7s at this point. Drew Brees showed off his pin-point accuracy, hitting tightly-covered receivers for diving grabs. Former Patriot David Thomas beat Bobby Carpenter for a nice laid-out grab in the end zone. Dont'a Hightower and Carpenter -- two of the new guys -- seemed to communicate well when the Saints went in motion. No blown coverages by the Pats.

3:15-3:20 Saints punted to the Pats here. Edelman had the highlight of this brief session with a few quick moves that would have sprung him for a huge gain, and maybe a touchdown, had it been a 100 percent live situation. Steven Ridley also got some time in the punt return game, but as a punt rusher.

3:20-4:15 Here's where we got to see both teams go at it in 11-on-11 work. Kyle Arrington started at the right corner spot in the Patriots' base package, not Ras-I Dowling. When the team brought in another defensive back, Arrington bumped down into the slot and Dowling went to the outside. Arrington didn't necessarily look uncomfortable on the outside, but he did get beat long by Joseph Morgan for the Saints' longest pass play of the day. Patrick Chung had a tough day trying to deal with Jimmy Graham. He got beat on a couple different occasions and also let an easy pick slip through his hands. Steve Gregory got a chance to show his stuff as a pass rusher, coming in off the edge on at least two occasions. Tom Brady was lucky that it wasn't a game situation because Saints players busted through the Patriots tattered offensive line more than once. Will Smith had his way with Nick McDonald, who was playing left tackle at one point. Though he didn't hit a ton of big plays, Brees appeared to be in mid-season form, moving through his progressions quickly and making accurate passes to several different receivers.

WHAT WE SAW
Dont'a Hightower (6-foot-3, 270 pounds) was able to stick with little Darren Sproles (5-6, 190) as Sproles ran a route out of the backfield. Sproles ended up dropping the pass from Drew Brees, but Hightower showed impressive quickness to not be thrown by Sproles' mid-route cuts.

Hernandez stretched out to make a fantastic one-handed catch downfield from Hoyer. The TE was less happy when he couldn't make another one-hander over Johnson in the corner of the end zone, but that might have been the catch of the camp had he made it.

Jon Bon Jovi, Robert Kraft and Saints owner Tom Benson held a powwow before the practice session.

Members of the military got a standing ovation from the 14,830 fans in attendance as they walked around the edge of the field near the end of practice.

WHO'S HOT
Easy to see why Matthew Slater was a Pro Bowler last year. He looked nearly unblockable during Patriots punts. He was consistently the first player down the field (with two Saints chasing behind him), and he did a good job of not over-running the returner.

Brees was accurate, and though he threw one pick to Gregory, didn't seem to try to force anything. His backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles got a lot of work.

Seemed to be another pretty good day for rookie defensive end from Rutgers Justin Francis. He looked strong in drills against the Saints offensive line and made a nice play to snuff out a shovel pass from Chase Daniel to Darren Sproles.

WHO'S NOT
No Brandon Spikes again today -- he missed Monday's session as well -- so Bobby Carpenter took snaps with the first team defense.

After a solid Monday, Tom Brady went back to looking sub-par. He started okay in 7-on-7, going 9 for 11. Rob Gronkowski was held on one ball, but the other miss was an interception -- Saints LB Curtis Lofton got his hands on the ball during red zone work. He also threw a pick during the 2-minute drill when Malcolm Jenkins made a diving grab over the middle. Several missed connections were scattered over the field today.
Deion Branch had limited participation today. He's been used sparingly of late. This is one to watch . . .

CB Will Allen looked lost during one-on-one drills against Saints receivers. He got beat easily for long touchdowns on consecutive chances. He has missed some practice time of late, and it looked like he wasn't really ready to be back.

WHAT THEY SAID
"It's good to see old friends." -- Donte' Stallworth, who was drafted by the Saints in the first round of the 2002 draft.

Phil Perry and Mary Paoletti contributed to this report.

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.