Ochocinco gets into his groove

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Ochocinco gets into his groove

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Operation Ocho Assimilation is going swimmingly. On Tuesday, Chad Ochocinco, thePatriots effervescent wideout, spoke tothe mediahorde at Gillette Stadium for thesecond time. His remarks centered on some self-congratulation for how quickly he's picking up the offense."The transition to heaven's been pretty good," Ochocinco professed. "It's been fun. Surprisingly, I've caught onto so much material in such a small amount of time."The amountof time he's spent with fellow receivers has made a huge difference in getting up to speed, he said. "They've made it the easiest," Ocho said when asked aboutconversations with Wes Welker and Deion Branch."With so much verbiage as far as signals and other things in the offense, its hard for me to get that. Wes and Deion have been able to catch me up to speed on that. With those two, including Tom, they've expanded the process. Even if a game was played very soon I could probably go out there and play at full speed without having to think."In Ocho's case, the transition from larger-than-life personality to mere standout is just as important. As he did in his opening statements to the media, he pointed out that hehas had to change his ways. Ocho's Twitter hasn't fallen silent. But it is quieter. "Alot of people are upset and we all know why," he acknowledged, alluding to the fact the Patriots aren't interested in employing Ocho the celebrity as much as they are in the football player. "You have to do it the Patriot way, the way things are done here. But one thing about this city, man, and their sports. All they do is win. That stuff I did in the past, there's just no need for." With the Patriots' preseason opener on Thursday, Ocho's first chance to put on a Patriots' uniform looms. He stressed, however, the importance of the practices as the real learning periods. And his pass-catching - which lagged in his first few practices - has been more in line with what one would expect throughout the last few workouts. "What's important for me is practice out here," he explained. "The better I am out here, the easier it will be for me on Sundays. The preseason is important to a certain extent but most of my quality work comes out here on the field with these guys. "The reason I'm able to have even a little bit of confidence is I've been able to consume alot of information in a short period of time, he added. "I'm nowhere near where I need to be to be a part of this offensein a good way but I'm on the right track."Away from the field, Ochocinco is still marching to his own beat. He said he gets lost on purpose to learn the area. He plans to live with a fan for "two or three weeks" until he gets acclimated and chooses a place to live. "Boston - or actually heaven - has been good," he added. "People have been fun.A lot of people are not too fond of the Prius that I drive. I find that hard to believe, I'm not sure what that's all about. But other than that, people have been great."If the biggest problem people have around"heaven" is Ocho's choice of ride, things should go just fine.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

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.