Preseason all downhill from here

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Preseason all downhill from here

Preseason football gets a bad rap around here, and that reputation is entirely deserved. But even in the midst of all the apathy, the first preseason game is always special.

Its just nice to see everyone back on the field. The sight of Brady under center gives you that safe, familiar feeling. Its your first real introduction to the rookies, the new additions and the new collective face of this years team.

Its football! Its back!

The nostalgia wears off after about a quarter (or earlier if the starters get a quick hook), but those first few minutes feel right. Its the closest well get to regular season excitement until the real thing.

Looking back at the opener Thursday night, the story has to be Chandler Jones. As a friend of mine posted on his Facebook wall: I have been waiting 20 years for you Chandler Jones.

Right now, thats what it feels like.

Im so excited about Jones that Im already worried something bad is going to happen. He seems too good to be true. I dont care if its only the first game of the preseason, he did things last night that I havent seen from a Patriots DE since . . . I dont know. Im going to stop now on the off chance that Jones is a bust and this paragraph haunts me for the rest of my Internet life. But one last time, two feet on the ground: CHANDLER JONES.

Ridley brought it, too. Love that wobbly running style; he looks like younger, stronger and more athletic Kevin Faulk. And he didn't fumble! Brandon Lloyd showed that he WILL get open; he looked like what we all imagined Ocho would be. On the defensive side, other than Jones, Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory had a great first date, and can hopefully build on their relationship moving forward. It looks like Kyle Love is still on the rise as well. Love Love.

Obviously, there's of room for improvement. I know that everyones already gone mad over the offensive line. But come on, that wasnt the offensive line. Those were imposters. The Pats didnt have Mankins, Waters or Vollmer. Would you judge the receiving corps if Welker, Hernandez and Gronk were out? Of course not.

I'm not saying that the O-line is issue-free; just that it's too early chalk this as a major area of concern. It's too early for everything! It's one preseason game. Nothing qualifies as that big of a deal.

Well, except for Dane Fletcher.

That just sucks. It's a reminder of the biggest reason the preseason has this bad rap to begin with. You see a guy like Fletcher, who works so hard every year but can never catch a break, go down with an ACL and you wonder: "What's the point?" The worst part is that the play was called back on an offsides penalty. So in reality, Dane Fletcher's season is over because of a punt return that didn't count in a game that didn't count. How depressing is that? Just doesn't seem fair. But it's the grim reality of preseason. You never know when or where a player will go down, and just like that, disappear.

Sometimes I wish that's what the preseason would do. Just go up in smoke, and cease to exist. But in reality, I guess I'll settle on having one fake game in the books, and less than a month before the real thing gets underway.

If you need me in the meantime, I'll be at the pro shop, trying on Chandler Jones jerseys.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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.