Ron Rivera talks Brandon LaFell

ORLANDO, Fla. -- One of the nice parts about the NFL's annual meeting is the chance to speak with various coaches to learn more about players.

In the case of new Patriots receiver Brandon LaFell, this is what we learned from Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who called LaFell one of his favorite players:

Price a deterrent for Panthers. Carolina had interest in retaining LaFell, but economics were a factor in the decision-making process. LaFell signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Patriots.

Intelligence and versatility stands out. "The thing I really like about Brandon is [he] is a very smart football player. For us, he knew all of our wide receiver positions. He even knew what we call the F position [and] the Y position, which are really two positions [he did not] necessarily need to know but he did."

Blocking is part of his DNA. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he's not afraid to put his body on the line. It shows up on tape, as it did Nov. 18 against the Patriots when he ran through defensive end Andre Carter. "He's a physical football player, and I do think he's one of the better blocking wide receivers that I've seen," Rivera said.

Extra points. LaFell's sometimes shaky hands held him back at times. ... He was also described as being a "little on the shy side" and one who prefers to avoid the cameras.