A Troy Brown Tribute

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A Troy Brown Tribute

Congratulations to Troy Brown for making the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Not that anyone's surprised by the announcement. Brown's the epitome of everything the Patriots HOF stands for. But now that it's official, the least I can do is take one post to say thank you.

So, in honor of Brown's impending induction, I asked myself: What's your favorite play of Troy Brown's career? And obviously a ton of great options came flowing through my mind.

There was the catch on the last drive of Super Bowl XXXVI that helped set up Varitek's game-winner. There was the blocked field goal a week earlier in the AFC championship against the Steelers. There was the forced fumbled in San Diego to extend the 2006 season (this footage is bad, but the reactions are priceless). There was the overtime bomb on the road against the Dolphins in 2003. For some reason, I also thought about his 68-yard punt return against the 1-15 Panthers in the last game of the 2001 season.

But for all the greatness and memories that Troy Brown delivered over his 15 years in New England, nothing (for me) will ever match a play from very early in his career.

It was December 21, 1996. Week 17. The Patriots stood at 10-5 and had already clinched a playoff berth, but needed a victory over the 6-9 Giants to earn a first round bye and second round home game. Adding to the drama, this was also Bill Parcells first time coaching against the Giants since leaving in 1991 can you imagine the NFL taking so long to schedule that rematch these days?

Anyway, things got off to an awful start, when Drew Bledsoe was called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the Pats first possession (sound diarrheaingly familiar?) and New England went into halftime trailing 22-0.

In the third quarter, an Adam Vinatieri field goal made it 22-3. In the fourth, a Terry Glenn touchdown catch made it 22-10 and Dave Meggett's punt return cut the Giants lead to 22-17.

That was the score with less than four minutes left, when the Pats were faced with a 3rd and 13 at the Giants 43. Then, this happened:

I was sitting at the kitchen table of my parents old house, and remember thinking this was one of the greatest catches I'd ever seen. And at that point, Brown, who was relatively unknown, immediately became one of my favorite Patriots. I bought his jersey the next season and wore it to every game I went to for more than a decade including all three Super Bowl wins. (The jersey was retired after the loss in Arizona).

As for that Giants game, after Brown extended the action, Bledsoe continued to drive the Pats downfield, and with 1:32 left, they faced a fourth and 7 on the 14 yard-line.

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Ahhh, Bledsoe to Coates. The Pats held on for the win, earned a first round bye, (thanks to the Broncos) TWO home playoff games, and moved on to their second Super Bowl berth in franchise history.

They lost, but without Brown's catch you have to wonder if that Super Bowl would have ever happened. Without Troy Brown you have to wonder if any of this would have happened.

He was a lifetime Patriot. A legendary Patriot. And it's hard to imagine anyone more deserving of a spot in the Patriots Hall of Fame.

So, congrats again, Troy. And thanks for everything.

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.