Dominique Easley’s Target Return From ACL Tear: ‘As Soon As Possible’

Dominique EasleyFOXBORO, Mass. — Dominique Easley walked into the New England Patriots’ locker room and found a jersey with an offensive lineman’s number hanging in his stall.

The Patriots’ No. 29 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft will wear No. 74, a number that Easley said he has no connection with. Easley, who wore No. 2 at Florida — rare for a 288-pound defensive tackle — didn’t seem to be bothered by having to wear another strange number.

“Name makes the jersey, you know,” Easley said Monday on the Gillette Stadium game field during his introductory news conference.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft introduced Easley by noting that they’re frat brothers. Easley pledged at the same fraternity at Florida that Kraft did some 50 years ago at Columbia University.

Easley already could feel the love four days after being drafted by the Patriots, calling the organization a “family-oriented program.” Easley arrived in New England on Sunday, had dinner with the rest of the Patriots rookies, then had a team meeting with Belichick.

Belichick’s message: “That we’re a little far behind and we got work to do. Everybody wants to be great, so we got a lot of work to do,” Easley said.

Easley hasn’t met Vince Wilfork or any of the Patriots veterans, but that will come soon. Since the draft was pushed back two weeks, there will be no rookie minicamp, so the draft picks and undrafted free agents will have to get acquainted with their teammates and the system during organized team activities later this month.

It’s doubtful that Easley will join his teammates when they take the practice field, however. Easley still is recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee, suffered in late September during a Florida practice. Easley already met with Patriots trainers to discuss his recovery, and his target return date is “as soon as possible.”

Easley still could have a long road to recovery, but he has a history of returning from knee injuries quickly. He tore his left ACL in a Nov. 26, 2011 game against Florida State, but he returned to the field and recorded a sack on Sept. 1, 2012, when the Gators beat Bowling Green 27-14.