Patriots anxious as they await season-opener

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Patriots anxious as they await season-opener

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn FOXBORO With the season opener just a couple days away, these are anxious times for the New England Patriots -- and it's not just the players, either.

Anxiousness. Butterflies. Whatever you want to call it, both players and coaches alike are feeling it.

"Once the game starts, like the players say, after that first kickoff, you're into the game," said Pats coach Bill Belichick.

The Patriots don't have much of a choice if they want to get off to a good start for the 2011 season which begins at Miami on Monday night.

"We're the only game on TV," said Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. "So it's going to be a big game for us and a chance to showcase our skills and what we've done (in the preseason). We've worked hard. Hopefully it pans out in the game for us."

Dealing with Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall will be challenging for the Pats. Miami beefing up its line on both sides of the ball will likely cause some problems as well.

But there's an even bigger foe for New England to be concerned with -- the unknown.

"There's a lot of things going into this game, your'e just not sure about," Belichick said. "Your team, their team, the matchups and all that. There's more of a comfort level when you have more evidence. But it's exciting."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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.