Abdullah set to take over as Huskers' featured RB


Abdullah set to take over as Huskers' featured RB

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) With Rex Burkhead's status in doubt, Ameer Abdullah says he is prepared to take over again as Nebraska's featured back in what could be the Cornhuskers' most important game of the regular season.

It's a role Abdullah is familiar with, given that Burkhead has missed all or part of five games.

Coach Bo Pelini said Monday his inclination would be to rest Burkhead at least a week after the senior re-aggravated a knee injury against Northwestern. He said the medical staff and Burkhead will have a big say about his availability for Saturday's home game against No. 20 Michigan.

``We'll proceed cautiously,'' Pelini said. ``He's a lot better today. He was a lot better yesterday, but even better today.''

The Huskers (5-2, 2-1 Big Ten) can take control of the Legends Division with a win over Michigan (5-2, 3-0). The Wolverines, who beat Nebraska 45-17 last year in Ann Arbor, will be making their first visit to Lincoln since 1911.

Nebraska goes into the game with the Big Ten's top rushing offense, and Abdullah is a big reason why. The sophomore from Homewood, Ala., has 105 carries, more than twice as many as Burkhead, and is averaging a team-leading 88 yards a game.

Abdullah said he and fellow running backs Braylon Heard and Imani Cross prepare each week as if one will be called on to carry the load.

``I don't take the week differently, depending on (potential) workload,'' Abdullah said. ``I try to stay consistent.''

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said his defense will be challenged regardless of who carries the ball for Nebraska.

``Burkhead is a guy who is very physical, smart football player, very instinctive,'' Hoke said. ``I think he's as good a back as we have in this league, and Abdullah is a little different... I think they're both a complement to what they're doing offensively.''

Burkhead, a first-team All-Big Ten pick last season and the Huskers' No. 6 career rusher, strained a ligament in his left knee in the first quarter of the opener against Southern Mississippi and missed the next two games. He aggravated the injury in the third quarter of the Oct. 6 game against Ohio State, after running for 119 yards.

Burkhead was re-injured on his fourth carry against Northwestern, on the Huskers' second offensive series. It was the latest setback for a player projected to be a middle-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

``He's frustrated and obviously disappointed he's been having to deal with this,'' Pelini said. ``It's been too bad.''

Burkhead has a reputation for being a tireless worker, and when nicked up he's been known to refuse coaches' offers to go easy at practice.

``You have to temper down what he wants to do,'' Pelini said. ``At the same time you have to take into account how he feels about it and the way he wants to attack it.''

Abdullah ran for 101 yards against Northwestern and is on track for a 1,000-yard season. He also has 15 catches for 129 yards.

The 5-foot-9, 185-pounder known for his elusiveness last season still can get to the edge and break away, but added muscle has helped him develop into a tough between-the-tackles runner. He also is a willing blocker in pass protection.

``Just because you're smaller doesn't mean you can't break tackles,'' he said. ``That's how I like to carry myself. I don't like to just carry myself as a speed back because that's not what I am.''

The differences between this year and last year, he said, are his confidence and work habits.

``Talent only takes you so far,'' he said. ``You get in the film room, put in the extra hours, and it takes you to the next level.''


AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich., contributed to this report.

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Bradley Beal sees Phil Chenier's jersey retirement as something to strive for

Bradley Beal sees Phil Chenier's jersey retirement as something to strive for

The relationship between Wizards All-Star Bradley Beal and Bullets legend Phil Chenier goes beyond your average friendship between a current and former player, or a current player and team broadcaster. Beal and Chenier are close to the point Chenier often offers advice as a fellow shooting guard who helped lead the organization to some of their most important accomplishments.

Beal is always open ears when Chenier is talking and took great honor in being the one to tell Chenier personally that his jersey would be retired by the Wizards. The day has come for Chenier's No. 45 to be raised to the rafters and Beal feels a unique sense of pride in seeing a man he reveres to the highest degree finally have his day in the sun.

"It's unbelievable. It's more than deserving," Beal said. "I was happy to be the one who told him about it. It's a special night for him. He's been a mentor to a lot of us for many years."


Chenier was a three-time All-Star for the Washington Bullets back in the 1970s. Following his playing career, he became a legendary broadcaster calling Bullets and then Wizards games for over 30 years.

Beal is now an NBA All-Star himself, having earned the honor for the first time this season. He is a shooting guard, just like Chenier.

Chenier was the color analyst for Wizards games for the first five years of Beal's career and Beal has always seen Chenier as a model to follow both on and off the court.

"It's always motivation for me to get better and I feel like this is the final touch of it, having your jersey retired by the franchise that you played a part in their success," Beal said.


The honor Chenier is about to receive is another goal to strive for. Beal wants to achieve a lot of what Chenier has accomplished in his life from winning a championship to making All-NBA to now having his jersey hang in the rafters at Capital One Arena.

"It definitely motivates me for that to be a goal of mine. Especially with the fact we both play the same position," Beal said.


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For more on Chenier's jersey retirement, check out our in-depth interview with him on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Ravens' Eric DCosta not ruling out taking a quarterback at No. 16

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Ravens' Eric DCosta not ruling out taking a quarterback at No. 16

And with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select.... a quarterback?

Assistant general manager, and soon to be general manager, Eric DeCosta isn't ruling out the possibility that the Ravens use their first-round pick on drafting a quarterback to eventually replace Joe Flacco. 

"I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we're going to take him," DeCosta told the team's website on the chance of draft a quarterback in the first-round. 

Quarterback is just one of many offensive needs for the team. Joe Flacco's stats have been trending downward as the 33-year old is entering his 11th season.


Owner Steve Bisciotti though may disagree with DeCosta.

At his annual State of the Ravens press conference, Bisciotti said, "That’s not really something that we’re worried about right now. We’ve got bigger fish to fry, I guess. I don’t consider that a big worry," in regards to looking at life after Joe. Bisciotti also noted the team would be looking at all options in free agency and the draft for weapons for their QB.

From the sound of that, it appears the team's first choice would be a wideout, but the Ravens haven't drafted a quarterback since Joe Flacco back in 2008. 

The 2018 NFL Draft class has a handful of strong quarterbacks to choose from and not a ton of first-round wide receivers. 

Former Ravens scout, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has predicted the team with take Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield in the first-round. 

"It basically depends on our evaluation and how we feel about the guy, what we think he can become as a player and what we think his upside is and if he's there," DeCosta said

Backup Ryan Mallet is a free agent so the organization will have to find someone to fill the role, whether it's someone on a one year-deal, or the future QB of the franchise.