Seattle’s Pete Carroll talks at the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday. (AP)
ORLANDO to BOSTON — The NFL meetings wrapped up Wednesday in Central Florida, but not without a few interesting notes worth passing along:
1. Panthers coach Ron Rivera was asked about wide receiver Brandon LaFell. The Patriots signed LaFell to a free agent deal earlier this month after the LSU produce spent four years with Carolina. Rivera was effusive in his praise of LaFell, who can apparently play multiple spots.
“[The Patriots are] getting a steady player, very smart, headsy guy. A very intelligent football player,” Rivera said of LaFell, who had 49 catches for 627 yards and five touchdowns last season for the Panthers. “He’ll know all the wide receiver positions. He played all of our wide receiver positions, plus he knew the tight end position as well. … I love his tenacity. He’s a willing blocker. He’s a want-to blocker. He wants to block. He won’t block because he has to. He’ll block because he has to. He’ll block because he wants to. And I think that’s impressive. And he’s a solid person. He’s a good person.”
“One thing he isn’t — he isn’t a fast, quick-twitch elusive guy,” Rivera added. “But he presents a good target. And they’ll probably play him as a Z in their base personnel group or if they do use him as a slot, they’ll motion him down in and use him to crack as far as the running game’s concerned. And I think they’ll be pleased with him.”
2. In that same vein, Seattle coach Pete Carroll was asked by New England reporters about what sort of player the Patriots are getting in Brandon Browner. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound cornerback was acquired by New England as a free agent after spending the last three seasons with the Seahawks.
“He’s a fantastic football player. He’s a great competitor. He has great depth of understanding of the position,” Carroll told reporters Tuesday morning. “He played bump-and-run, press technique since he was a freshman in college back at Oregon State. He was a fantastic player in college. Went to Canada, was a fantastic player in Canada. By the time we got him, he was so savvy in playing the position. I think he really blossomed again, took a step forward … he’s a fantastic player.
“I was kind of envious,” Carroll said of the Patriots and Bill Belichick. “[Browner is] a great baller. He’s going to get a real special guy.”
3. The four rules changes that the Patriots proposed met with mixed results:
a) The league approved the idea of extended the goal posts, moving them from a height of 30 feet to 35 feet. Belichick spoke on the idea at the AFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday.
“Certainly, the goal posts are outdated,” he said. “Virtually every kicker at the combine can kick them over the top of the goal posts [and] some of those guys aren’t even going to be in the league. I’d say every kicker can do that.”
b) The league tabled a proposal from Belichick and the Patriots that would add extra cameras along the boundaries of the field and at the end zone to better determine when a player has gone out of bounds, or when a ball has broken the plane of the goal line.
c) Belichick is an advocate of making the extra point a more competitive play, and proposed moving the one of scrimmage for extra points back to the 25. The idea didn’t pass, but it was clear the league was intrigued enough to move the line of scrimmage for extra points to the 20-yard line for two weeks in the preseason as an experiment.
d) The league rejected the proposal that every non-scoring play should be reviewable. Belichick was also pretty passionate about this at the coaches breakfast on Tuesday morning — for more on his take, check out our story here. But in the end, Jeff Fisher, the co-chairman of the influential competition committee, said that fewer than half the teams approved the idea, which means that it gets a thumbs-down, at least for now.
3. In pre-draft news, it appears the Patriots have been taking advantage of the fact that they’ve in Florida for the league meetings. Several reports indicated that the New England brain trust — specifically Belichick and personnel chief Nick Caserio — spent Tuesday working out prospects at Central Florida. In addition, a Wednesday morning tweet from Gil Brandt of NFL.com indicated that Belichick and six members of the New England coaching staff spent last Friday at Florida State working out wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is a flat-out physical freak, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder who caught 54 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns last season for the national champions. Considered a late first-round/early second-round possibility, he presents himself as an intriguing prospect for the New England offense.