WTOP Sports Blog
Posted on: Tuesday 12/3/2013 12:53pm
WASHINGTON - It's that time of year, folks.
The holiday season doesn't just ring in the end of the NFL regular season. It's a time to give thanks. So what better time than now to offer up a few things I'm thankful for this football season?
Before getting mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, the rallying cry in Washington all season was "even though we suck, we're only a couple of games out of first place." Plus, with 13 weeks now in the books, there are 27 teams still alive in the postseason race. This can only be true in a league rife with parity.
Tip of the cap to Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant and Mike Tomlin for making this year special. The tips go to Megatron for just being great, Dez for the fantasy football points and Tomlin for becoming the most photoshopped and/or memed coach in NFL history.
The rapid emergence of the Kansas City Chiefs
I've been doing this NFL Recap for five years. This is on track to be my worst batch of season predictions yet. The one thing I got really right was the Chiefs rising from 2-14 doormat to playoff contender. Almost makes up for being loud wrong about the Texans, Redskins and Falcons. Almost.
Even amid trade rumors, Big Ben has resurrected not only his Pittsburgh Steelers' playoff hopes but he's also saved my fantasy football season -- my first without an elite QB. With Colin Kaepernick, I was an awful 2-6. Since picking Roethlisberger up off waivers, I'm 5-0 with a legit shot at the playoffs. Don't call it a comeback.
As long as he's the GM of the Dallas Cowboys, they will remain mediocre. The fact that Jerry Jones the owner thinks Jerry Jones the GM is doing a good job confirms this. In Washington, we like that. We like it a lot.
We also like a nice, tasty NFL recap to go with our cranberry sauce:
Packers 10 Lions 40
Detroit posted their first Thanksgiving win in 10 years and may have delivered a death blow to Green Bay's playoff hopes in the process. It's starting to look like the Year of the Lion in the NFC North.
Raiders 24 Cowboys 31
Not to be a football fashionista, but there's something terribly wrong about the Dallas Cowboys wearing their blue jerseys at home. Completely unacceptable, circumstances be damned.
Steelers 20 Ravens 22
Baltimore looks like a team poised to make a late playoff push when they're matched up against teams equal to or lesser than they are. But with games at Detroit and against New England, it's hard to see the Ravens keeping pace with the Bengals.
Jaguars 32 Browns 28
Josh Gordon just posted his 2nd straight 200-yard receiving game (an NFL first) and has the 2nd most receiving yardage in the league despite catching passes from the likes of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell. This kid is legit.
Titans 14 Colts 22
As Andrew Luck took yet another pounding behind that porous Indy offensive line (5 sacks for a loss of 40 yards), I wonder if Colts fans discuss benching him so he doesn't get killed like Redskins fans do regarding RGIII.
Bears 20 Vikings 23 (OT)
Adrian Peterson topped the 10,000-yard rushing mark for his career, again reminding us all that he's literally the only thing good going for Minnesota.
Dolphins 23 Jets 3
Memo to Geno Smith: if you keep your starting job despite leading the league in turnovers and getting benched at halftime for one of Phil Simms' kids, then you most definitely are Mark Sanchez.
Cardinals 21 Eagles 24
Nick Foles stayed hot against one of the best and most underrated defenses in the league, and continues to make history by throwing 19 TDs and still no interceptions. He's more than earned the starting spot in Philly and maybe even an honorable mention as an MVP candidate.
Buccaneers 6 Panthers 27
Cam Newton may not have eaten any turkey for Thanksgiving, but he sure ate up the Tampa defense on Sunday en route to an 8- game win streak. Carolina is hot and getting healthier, making them a legitimate threat to New Orleans for the NFC South. I'll be waiting all week for Sunday Night...
Patriots 34 Texans 31
Hey Houston...New England didn't have to cheat to beat you. You just stink.
Falcons 34 Bills 31 (OT)
If the presence of Rob Ford in Toronto doesn't get Buffalo to cease and desist this already lame practice of exporting a home game North of the Border every year, I'm not sure what will.
Rams 13 49ers 23
Is it me or is San Francisco the only NFL team that seems to have a story about the abuse of male genitalia on a weekly basis?
Broncos 35 Chiefs 28
Yes, Denver basically locked up the AFC West by sweeping KC. Yes, the Chiefs are mired in a 3-game losing skid after the 9-0 start. But all of that is secondary to the comically gigantic tears shed by Knowshon Moreno. No human should be able to do that without instantly fainting from dehydration.
Bengals 17 Chargers 10
Now that Cincy is 8-4 with a pretty favorable remaining schedule, it's growing increasingly likely that they'll have the AFC North title already in hand when their Week 17 showdown against Baltimore rolls around.
Giants 24 Redskins 17
Props to @SadlyLacking for tweeting this resolution to the Redskins' name debate: "rename the team: 'The Washington Casinos'. You enter the stadium full of hope, but you undoubtedly leave broke and miserable." Couldn't say it any better myself.
Saints 7 Seahawks 34
In the nearly inevitable preview of the NFC Championship Game, Seattle made a huge statement. They shutdown one of the most prolific offenses in the league, scored at will against a solid defense, and set the Guiness World Record for loudest outdoor stadium in the process. Now that the 'Hawks have a playoff berth locked up, they can shift focus to nailing down homefield advantage.
Posted on: Monday 11/4/2013 9:43am
WASHINGTON - It was clear after the 30-24 overtime win against the San Diego Chargers that as a drama series the Redskins win would some awards. They also might be good enough or lucky enough, or both, to make it to the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
The win over the Chargers has a potential to be a turning point in a season saddled by questions and inconsistency.
From uncertainty over quarterback Robert Griffin III's knee to the team's 0-3 start, we were starting to think the party was over. Maybe last year was just a tease and the days of hand-wringing on a regular basis were on their way back.
Luck in the form of timing is on the Redskins side. This is the year to be a part of the NFC East. At 3-5 the Redskins are very much in the mix in the division. The first place Dallas Cowboys are only 5-4.
It begs the questions: Are the Redskins on the rise or is the NFC East on the decline? It doesn't matter.
Teams that make the playoffs in the NFL find a way to make plays, even when they are not having the best of days. Darrel Young scored three touchdowns on 1-yard runs including the game winner in overtime. In the third quarter, Griffin kept a drive that resulted in a touchdown alive when he scrambled and lunged 10 yards for a first down.
The game and maybe the season came down to the fourth quarter.
The Redskins blew a 24-14 lead and appeared set to lose in regulation. The Chargers thought they had the winning score on a Danny Woodhead touchdown catch with 21 seconds left. It turns out Woodhead did not touch the pylon with the football or cross the goal line and upon review the touchdown was called back.
Still the Chargers had first and goal inside the 1-yard line. Not to be a buzz kill, according to ESPN, the Chargers have only scored touchdowns twice in 11 tries this season from the 1-yard line. That means the Chargers have only scored touchdowns on 18 percent of their chances from the 1-yard line, compared to the league average of 49 percent.
Despite the Chargers curious play calling, one rushing and two pass plays from the 1-yard line, the Redskins defense refused to bend. The defense is part of a Redskins team, which despite all of its stumbles and blunders, still believes in itself.
In the NFC East, belief might be all that matters.
Posted on: Saturday 11/2/2013 2:05pm
WASHINGTON - There are ways to see live sports events in HDTV without getting stuck with the cable or satellite TV service bills.
Maybe consumers have become accustomed to paying each month, but sports fans have forgotten that plenty of these games are featured on over-the-air networks like Fox, NBC and CBS. Plus, over-the-air broadcasts are free.
USA Today recommends the $40 Mohu Leaf antenna to pick up the games.
It's also worth the time to check online. Some sporting events, subject to local blackouts, are streamed online free of charge.
Posted on: Tuesday 10/22/2013 2:59pm
WASHINGTON - What a show.
Before and after Week 7, no game had been talked about more than the previously undefeated Broncos' trip to Indianapolis to play the Colts. Denver entered the game 6-0. Indy was 4-2. And, oh yeah, that dude currently playing quarterback for the Broncos spent his first 14 NFL seasons as a Colt.
Peyton Manning versus Andrew Luck. Old school versus new school. The master versus the phenom.
As if those storylines weren't enough, Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay added fuel to the already raging media fire by insinuating his Colts underachieved during the Manning Era, winning only one Super Bowl during the team's historically dominant run in the 2000s.
On the one hand, Irsay has a point. Indy won more games during the 2000s than any other NFL team in any other decade. More than the 49ers in the 80s, the Cowboys in the 90s and even the rival Patriots in the 2000s.
Yet the Colts have only one title to show for it.
For that reason, I've been as harsh a Manning critic as they come. I've long maintained that the Colts winning anything less than two or three titles during that run is borderline criminal given how good the players were in the regular season and how many times they held home-field advantage.
That said, such sentiment coming from Manning's former boss is a game changer -- and his current boss was right to call Irsay out on it.
To understand Irsay's wrongheadedness, you have to understand the landscape in Indianapolis. That place was a football wasteland before Manning's arrival. The Colts made the playoffs just three times between the move from Baltimore in 1984 and Manning's rookie campaign in 1998, giving the state of Indiana little reason to deviate from its lifelong love affair with basketball.
Posted on: Friday 8/23/2013 4:49am
WASHINGTON - Thursday proved to be a revealing day. But, as always, there are still uncertainties about about some Redskins favorites.
The big news of the day was that London Fletcher revealed to Sports Illustrated that he suffered a concussion last year in the preseason game against the Buffalo Bills and nobody ever knew. He acknowledged that he didn't tell the team about the effects, and was dealing with balance issues until late last season.
Asked why he never disclosed the injury, Fletcher said, "I'm an old-school player."
He did say that he regrets not telling the team about the concussion sooner. Fletcher spoke at length in open locker room on Thursday about concussion and his situation.
"It's Football, man. I play inside linebacker and I like to play physical. It can happen a couple times a game, but I wouldn't classify them as concussions," he said. "It's just a little bell ring. You'll see stars for a second then you're back to normal after two, three seconds or whatever the case may be. It's just the way the game is."
After practice Mike Shanahan addressed the situation and was asked if he knew Fletcher had a concussion after the first exhibition game. "I don't know for sure," Shanahan said. "Any time you deal with a balance issue, my first thoughts are that it could be a concussion, but that's what the doctors are for. That's what they're experts in." Fletcher is 38-years-old and hasn't missed a game in his 16-year career, playing 240 consecutive games.
Griffin Practice Update
Robert Griffin III went through his second straight day of practice in which he went against the first team defense. Mike Shanahan said, "It has been a full practice for him. We've had a chance to go against cards (scout team), we've had a chance to go against our defense. So he's had two excellent days, same thing he would have during the regular season." I'm sure Griffin will go through a full pregame warm up on Saturday as he has the last two games.
Saturday's game and Injury Update
Mike Shanahan said he expects the starters to go about 20 plays on Saturday against the Bills. He also mentioned that Josh Wilson should be on the field for the first time this preseason. He has been working his way back from torn labrum surgery this off season.
The coach still isn't sure about Brandon Merriweather. Do not expect to see him on Saturday.
Dante Stallworth said that he is hoping to play on Saturday. He hasn't played since the first preseason game in Tennessee. He was on the practice field again Thursday for the second straight day, and has been taking it slow but is ready to get on the field in game action.
Kirk Cousins and Barry Cofield did not practice on Thursday. I wouldn't county on seeing Kirk Cousins on Saturday. If he does not play, then you should get ready for the Rex Grossman/Pat White show against the Bills. Expect them each to play a half.
Posted on: Wednesday 8/14/2013 12:39am
Richmond, Va. - As the team moves past the focus on RG3's comment on Coach Mike Shanahan, injuries and scuffles both made an appearance.
First Real Scuffle Aldrick Robinson and Chase Minnefield had a minor confrontation during a 7-on-7 drill Tuesday.
For a little bit, the two went at it. Mike Shanahan was not a fan and stopped practice to bring the team together at midfield.
"When you have confrontations like that, you have 15 yard penalties," Shanahan said. He knows these situations happen, but wanted the team to make sure that they can make a difference in a lot of things. "In a game you can't have that happen," says Shanahan. "There's nobody that's worth that 15-yard penalty you have to keep your composure. It's the difference in winning and losing, and if they don't do it here, they won't do it obviously in a game." He did make the two players run after practice.
Tough Injury News
- Rookie safety Phillip Thomas has a lisfranc ligament that will require a 4 to
5-month recovery. He will be placed on injured reserve.
This is a big blow to the Redskins secondary, a position that was thin already
coming into this season. Brandon Merrieweather did get more work with the first
team in 11-on-11 work on Tuesday. He's still trying to come back from the knee
injury as well so is not 100 percent yet. The team knows it can count on Reed
Douhgty, just has its done year after year.
- Dante Stallworth still out resting his hamstring.
- Linebacker Roddrick Mudkleroy sat out with a sore shoulder.
- Wide Receiver Devery Henderson has been attending a funeral and is expected back on Wednesday.
Griffin On the Field Update Robert Griffin III went 12 -15 during the 7-on-7 sessions Tuesday. All eyes now turn to Wednesday to see whether or not he takes the field with the team for the first time this summer.
Practice Moving Forward Tuesday was the final day of 2-a-day sessions. Beginning on Wednesday there will be one practice a day and it will be open to the public. Practice begins at 12:40 p.m.
Posted on: Wednesday 8/7/2013 7:20am
WASHINGTON - Since reports surfaced last week that several MLB players -- the biggest being New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez -- would be suspended for using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), I've consistently been asked two questions by my colleagues here at WTOP, and friends:
"Drugs have run rampant in the major leagues for years, why go after these players so vigorously now?"
And: "Did you ever take PEDs?"
A little context for the second question: Before getting into the news business I played in the minor leagues for the Milwaukee Brewers organization from 1997-2000. Some would call that the height of the "steroid era." So, I've seen some things.
No, I never took PEDs. I didn't take them because I think every player has a moral obligation not to take banned substances.
Heck, in the 1998 offseason, I was a 6-foot-4, 18-year-old toothpick who needed to bulk up. Some teammates introduced me to the nutritional supplement creatine. It helps add muscle mass quickly, which I needed. As a competitor, you're always looking for an edge. Physically, I thought creatine would give me one, and it became part of my workout regimen.
But after three months I stopped taking it. I got tired of drinking a Pacific Ocean's worth of water to stave off the side effects of dehydration and muscle cramps. Plus, creatine's long-term term effects on the body weren't known, so I was scared to continue using it. It's also why I haven't taken another supplement since.
Truth be told, though, I never bothered to ask if creatine was banned. The MLB had no mandatory drug testing in 1998, so what was legal or illegal wasn't talked about in a lot of clubhouses. My teammates and I never thought to ask if what we were using was banned.
The overwhelming majority of professional athletes take some sort of supplement. Baseball, especially in the minor leagues, was no different. It was a sign of the times.
I can say without hesitation, though, that if I found out creatine was illegal, I would've stopped immediately. Being seen as a cheater isn't something I would've wanted. But from the guys I was around, myself included, that wasn't the overriding factor in our decisions to take or not to take PEDs. We all had parents who taught us right from wrong. Guys I played with juiced. All it would've taken is my interest, and they could get me on a program.
If someone was taking a shady substance, it was because -- in his mind -- it would give him an edge to get to "The Show" faster. If a player stayed away from PEDs, it was out of fear he'd make his body more vulnerable to injuries.
It's said that "you can't make the club in the tub." In the minors, you don't have millions of dollars to fall back on if you suffer a major injury. For us, our bodies were all we had. Half the battle was playing well. The other half was staying on the field.
I also chose to hang my hat on my work ethic. Like a lot of guys, I felt that alone would get me to the big leagues. It's what got me drafted in the fourth round as a 17-year-old, snot-nosed high school kid. It's also what made me play through painful shin splints the day I collided with a teammate and suffered a compound fracture in my left leg, effectively ending my career less than two years later.
The guys I know personally who made it to the majors did it with hard work. So I know it can be done.
Really, if you cheat, and you get caught, you gotta go. It's that simple. The 12 players who accepted their 50-game suspensions for admitting they took PEDs knew the risk of their actions the first time they ingested a pill, took a shot or smeared on a cream.
They're cheaters. They were caught. They gotta go.
The 13th guy, Rodriguez, still gets to play while he appeals his 211-game suspension. He has every right to defend himself. But if reports from ESPN are true, Rodriguez likely will go down as well.
Besides, he's a known cheater. He was caught, again. So he's gotta go. Hopefully, he'll stay gone.
Even when this latest charade is over, PEDs still will be part of the game. I doubt I'll be alive when they're completely out of baseball.
But the sooner the "steroid era" has run its course, the sooner the next crop of minor leaguers trudging it out in rookie leagues and making the climb through Single and Double A can get to the business of restoring the good name of the world's greatest game.
That's an era I'll look forward to.
Follow @WTOP on Twitter.
Posted on: Thursday 5/9/2013 6:27am
WASHINGTON - The Kiss Cam is a staple of professional sports.
Most couples manage a quick kiss once they realize they're on the jumbo-tron. Except for Barack and Michelle Obama, few couples get a second chance to smooch for the crowd.
But one couple attending a Fresno Grizzlies baseball game May 3 got multiple chances to lock lips for the camera. The result for expectant fans? One half of the couple stormed off to be consoled by the mascot and the other ended up wet and maybe a little embarrassed.
Posted on: Wednesday 4/10/2013 12:17am
Craig Heist, wtop.com
WASHINGTON- No one can argue Adam Dunn's two year tenure with the Nationals was a productive one.
Dunn hit 38 home runs in both 2009 and 2010. He hit .267 with 105 RBI's in his first year and hit .260 while driving in 103 in his second season. Dunn also remembers the last month of the 2010 season. The talk of a contract extension was a topic of daily conversation which became increasingly harder for him to talk about every night, especially with the crowd chanting "sign Adam Dunn, sign Adam Dunn." Dunn expressed his desire to stay and was asking for a four-year contract but the Nationals were offering just a three-year deal.
At that point, the Nationals had to balance the offensive output against having a below average fielder, as Dunn committed 29 errors throughout his two years in Washington. The White Sox gave Dunn the four-year deal he was searching for, paying him $56-million dollars.
Dunn was not in the lineup on Tuesday night with left-hander Gio Gonzalez throwing for the Nationals but he did talk about his time in Washington and eventually having to test the free-agent market.
"I'll be honest with you, we had such great communication with Stan (Kasten) and Mike (Rizzo) and those guys," Dunn said.
"I knew they were going to do what was best for the team and I was fine with that. Sometimes things just don't work out and there was no other reason, other than things just didn't work out.
"You will never hear me say anything bad about anybody in this organization top to bottom. Everything they have ever done has been first class and I really enjoyed it over here."
Dunn had his new contract but his first year with the White Sox wasn't what he or his new team had envisioned.
Dunn hit .156, which would have been the lowest mark in the league except he was six at bats short of the required plate appearances. He hit just 11 home runs, snapping a string of seven straight seasons with 38-plus. He had just 41 RBI in 122 games.
Last season, he returned to the Adam Dunn we have been used to, hitting 41 homers while driving in 96. So far this year, Dunn has hit two home runs with three RBI in five games.
"I'm just glad my body feels good and I'm healthy," he said. "That's always been my thing is that if I'm healthy, I'll be fine. I'm healthy now so I'm looking forward to getting back in there and playing."
While Dunn didn't get a chance to be part of the Nats winning the NL East and getting to the playoffs two years after his departure, he is happy to see the success his former teammates are having now.
"Oh yea, absolutely, they got some of my old buddies on that team and I obviously want the best for them, not these three days, but beginning Friday," he said laughing.
"I am definitely happy to see what they have done. Everyone has done a great job and it's good to see for guys like Zim who has been here through the worst times and now he's getting rewarded for it.
I think everyone saw it coming. They probably didn't see it coming as quickly as it did but it was definitely a matter of time. They've got the right people in the right places; they've got people making good decisions and should be making the decisions. They've got a good thing going over there."
With the White Sox in town this week, they will play by National League rules without the designated hitter, and its inter-league play that always sparks the discussion as to whether or not the DH is a good thing or a bad thing for baseball.
"I have an opinion," Dunn said, not wanting to say the wrong thing. "But, I'm going to keep it to myself because I'd like to keep my job. Its tough man, I see both sides of the argument. It has been around forever but now that having interleague is a year around deal….next question."
Dunn was sitting in a chair in front of his locker getting both his first baseman's glove and outfielders gloves ready knowing he wasn't in the lineup with the left-hander going but he said he will be ready whenever manager Robin Ventura needs him.
"I'll petition to play anywhere, anywhere I can get out there. I don't know what Robin has planned but if outfield is in there, I'll be ready. If it's not, it's not."
Posted on: Friday 4/5/2013 12:09am
Craig Heist, wtop.com
WASHINGTON — After opting out of his contract nearly two weeks ago, veteran right- handed pitcher Chris Young has signed a Minor-League deal to return to the Nationals, giving them some more starting pitching depth.
This time his deal has no opt-out clause.
Manager Davey Johnson indicated Young would be the first person to be called upon if the Nats need an emergency starter.
"I like him," Johnson said.
"He threw the ball good this spring, pitched pretty well, competitor, real great insurance."
Young started four games for the Nationals in spring training going 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA.
He went 4-9 last season with the New York Mets with a 4.15 ERA in 20 starts. Young will report to the team's spring training sight in Viera, Fla., to get stretched out and then join Triple-A Syracuse in about 10-12 days.
Young was recovering from shoulder problems in the early part of the last year and he impressed everyone who saw him throw this spring.
"He looked a lot like Chris Young," said Nats GM Mike Rizzo. "His velocity was down just a tick, but he is not a velocity guy.
He is starting to get the touch and the feel on his fastball and starting to get that zone where he has to pitch in which is he has to pitch up in the zone but not too far up in the zone."
Young had said toward the end of the spring when he opted out that some teams had expressed an interest in his services and Johnson was surprised no one picked him up.
"He had a good spring for us. It was probably late in (spring training) and a lot of clubs were going with their young guys," Young said.
Young has said all along if it were possible to work something out, he would like to come back to the Nats, a winning club with a chance to reach the post season again.
"Winning is important and that's why this place appeals to me," Young said.
"This is a winning baseball environment. It's a bunch of winners in this clubhouse. The coaching staff, the front office, the ownership, this organization is just great and being in this environment, you get a little taste of it, you see how fun it is, and you want to be a part of it."