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Burress ready to get back on field for Steelers

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Burress ready to get back on field for Steelers

PITTSBURGH (AP) The No. 80 jersey Plaxico Burress walked away from eight years ago still fits.

It's everything else that's changed for the former - and suddenly current - Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver.

The talented but immature kid who bolted as a free agent for the New York Giants in 2005 is 35 now, his resume complete with a Super Bowl ring and a 20-month jail stint stemming from a gun charge.

Burress returned to the team that drafted him a dozen years ago on Wednesday hungry, humble and eager to prove there's still some life left in a career that's never quite lived up to his own outsized expectations.

``I can't say I was ever going to come back to Pittsburgh ... but literally and physically the opportunity to finish what you started, how many guys get that?'' Burress said 24 hours after the Steelers signed him to bolster an injury depleted receiving corps.

Despite not taking a live snap in more than 10 months, Burress thinks he can play as early as Sunday when the Steelers (6-4) travel to Cleveland (2-8).

``I don't see why not.'' Burress said.

Neither does the guy who will throw him the ball.

``He's played, he's won in this league,'' said quarterback Charlie Batch, who will start in place of injured Ben Roethlisberger. ``The speed of the game is not going to be new to him. When you say the play, he can line up and go and make the play without thinking about it.''

Not thinking, however, is something that dogged Burress even before accidentally shooting himself in a New York club four years ago. During his five seasons in Pittsburgh there were times when the smallness of the city got to him and his mental lapses on the field annoyed the coaching staff.

Those days, he insists, are over.

``I'm an old man,'' Burress said. ``I have a wife, a family. I'm in just a total different direction. I'm happy to be out here playing football. My wife is excited. My son is excited.''

And Burress is excited to be back in a uniform, regardless of the color. He spent the past three months watching the NFL go on without him after the New York Jets declined to re-sign him following a productive - and quiet - return to the league last fall.

Burress isn't sure why the phone stopped ringing. His numbers in New York - 45 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns - were solid. While he'll never be the downfield threat he was in his prime, he understands 6-foot-5 receivers are hard to come by.

So Burress kept working out in South Florida, believing there was enough left in his ridiculously long legs to fend off retirement. He was standing in the airport in Austin, Texas preparing to head home when the call from Pittsburgh came.

A day later he was working out for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. The one-year contract was signed within a couple hours and by Wednesday afternoon he was on the practice field playing catch with teammates Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders and trading jokes with nose tackle Casey Hampton.

``I think he's just been misunderstood,'' said Hampton, one of a handful of Steelers still around from Burress' first stint with the team. ``If you know him, he's always been a good guy and a good teammate.''

And hopefully an effective one, too. The passing game has flourished under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, though the one thing the Steelers have lacked is a receiver with Burress' size to create mismatches in the end zone. Jerricho Cotchery is the next tallest receiver on the roster at 6-1, and he's out indefinitely with fractured ribs.

Batch expects to spend a couple days experimenting with Burress to see where he fits in. Even if the Steelers can't quite figure it out in the span of a week, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

``We don't know how we're going to use him, so how can somebody else know how to go out and defend him?'' Batch said. ``He is such a threat. He has his height. He's capable of making big plays.''

Burress isn't quite ready to go that far. When asked if he can play on every down if necessary, he shrugged his shoulders and said simply, ``we'll have to see.''

Even if he's just a situational option, however, Burress thinks he can cause problems even if the ball doesn't come anywhere near him.

``I'm learning where I need to be and adding a different wrinkle to this offense,'' he said. ``Maybe I can draw some double coverage and open some guys up.''

Whether he's a long-term option or simply a short-term fix is still unknown. Wallace is in the final year of his contract but Sanders has developed into a reliable second option behind Antonio Brown when healthy.

There's too much going on for Burress to give much thought to the future. Or the past for that matter. He understands his highly publicized missteps will follow him until he retires. He can live with it so long as it means he gets to keep playing.

``If you're worried about what's going on behind you, you can't pay attention to what's going on in front of you,'' he said. ``I'm just going to keep moving forward. Obviously I've been through some things but at the same time I'm still here.''

NOTES: Steelers rookie right guard David DeCastro practiced for the first time on Wednesday since injuring his right knee in a preseason game against Buffalo on Aug. 25. The earliest DeCastro could return is against San Diego on Dec. 9 ... Roethlisberger did not practice on Wednesday, but he also walked through the locker room without a sling over his injured right arm ... Leftwich, Cotchery, safety Troy Polamalu (calf), tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and DE Ziggy Hood (back) also did not practice.

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5 things to know about new Wizards player Ramon Sessions

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Associated Press

5 things to know about new Wizards player Ramon Sessions

The Washington Wizards signed point guard Ramon Sessions to a 10-day free agent contract on Thursday. Here are five things to know about the newest Wizards player...

**Sessions has played for Washington before. He was acquired by the Wizards at the trade deadline in 2015 and played out the 2014-15 season, appearing in 28 regular season games and 10 more in the playoffs. Sessions then spent the whole 2015-16 season with the team before leaving the following summer to sign a free agent deal with the Charlotte Hornets. In 1 1/2 seasons with the Wizards, Sessions averaged 9.2 points, 3.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds. He shot 46 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from three.

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**Sessions played one season for the Hornets and spent part of this year with the New York Knicks. The Knicks waived Sessions on Jan. 13. Over the past two seasons in Charlotte and New York, Sessions has averaged 5.7 points, 2.5 assists and 1.4 rebounds while shooting 37 percent.

**This is Sessions' 11th NBA season. In addition to the Wizards, Hornets and Knicks, he has spent time with the Bucks, Cavs, Lakers and Kings. He began his career in Milwaukee after getting selected in the second round of the 2007 draft.

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**Sessions went to the University of Nevada from 2004 through 2007 and left an impressive legacy as one of the best players in the program's history. The school's practice facility is, in fact, named after Sessions. It is called the 'Ramon Sessions Basketball Performance Center' and Sessions donated $1 million towards construction costs.

**Sessions overlapped with former Wizards player JaVale McGee at Nevada. Sessions was in his final season as a junior when McGee was a freshman. The Wolfpack were quite good that year. They peaked at No. 10 in the nation, the highest ranking in school history, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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2018 Bubble Watch: Teams are lining up on the edge of the bubble

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2018 Bubble Watch: Teams are lining up on the edge of the bubble

The 2018 bubble watch has been relatively subdued with the plethora of upsets throughout the latter half of the college basketball season. At the same time, teams that are providing these upsets have slowly worked themselves from being a question mark at the bubble to now solidly in the tournament (ie. Virginia Tech).

Of the major conferences, the Big Ten is up in the air on how the end of February/ beginning of March will play out. Remember, to host their tournament in Madison Square Garden, the conference elected to move it a week earlier than the rest of the power leagues. Will it affect how many teams they have in the big dance? Right now they have four teams in but two more are hovering at the bubble.

READ MORE: BRACKETOLOGY ROUND-UP, RIGHT NOW SYRACUSE IS IN

Aside from the Big Ten, several other teams are striding the line. Many of which have done so all season long. 

Of the teams listed, they are battling for roughly 10 spots in the field of 68.

All rankings and records are as of Thursday, Feb. 22 at 12:00 pm

Oklahoma (16-11, 6-9 Big 12)
RPI: 32     BPI: 43      KenPom: 43    SOS: 12
Could Trae Young’s Oklahoma actually miss the NCAA Tournament? Yes. The Sooners have dropped six straight games and nine of their last 11. Yes, they have racked up the most high-quality wins in the country, but they are in a tailspin. They have beaten Kansas, TCU twice, Texas Tech, and Wichita State, but some of their losses are bad and they are piling up. Of their final three regular season games, two are against bubble teams that are desperate for a respectable win. If they lose out and then don’t make it past the first round of the Big 12 tournament, they are 16-15 (6-12).

St. Mary’s (CA) (25-4, 14-2 WCC)
RPI: 29     BPI: 20      KenPom: 22     SOS: 137
Early season losses to Georgia and Washington State are not as okay as they appeared back in non-conference play. Added to it was their surprising loss to San Francisco has now put the Gaels falling down the slide. Its hard to imagine though a 25-4 team not making the tournament.

Kansas State (20-8, 9-6 Big 12)
RPI: 55      BPI: 47     KenPom: 46     SOS: 73
The Kansas State Wildcats are your typical bubble team. They have beaten everyone in the Big 12 aside from the ranked teams.  They have some good wins but lack a high quality or ‘Quadrant 1’ victory. Their win over Texas on Feb. 21 give them a head-to-head over another team attempting to steal a bubble spot.

Providence (17-11, 8-7 Big East)
RPI: 37     BPI: 72      KenPom: 69     SOS: 20
Being in the Big East will always give a team a strong SOS, but the Providence Friars have lost to teams they should not have. While they have impressive wins over Xavier and Villanova at home, they have a DePaul loss at home that counters one of those wins. Their looming contest against Xavier has now developed into a must-win on Feb. 28.

NC State (19-9, 9-6 ACC)
RPI: 57     BPI: 51      KenPom: 50     SOS: 61
A team that has benefited from a strong conference has been the Wolfpack from NC State. Out of the ACC, NC State had a horrid schedule and even dropped games against Northern Iowa and UNC Greensboro.  However, they have made up for that with some of the most impressive wins in the ACC. They beat Duke, Clemson, and North Carolina on the road to climb back to the bubble watch.

Baylor (17-11, 7-8 Big 12)
RPI: 59     BPI: 37      KenPom: 36     SOS: 23
Beating Kansas and Texas Tech at home are really the only reasons the Baylor Bears are in consideration at the bubble. But, they are in the deepest conference in college basketball this season, which gives them a ton of decent wins that they can add to their resume. The Bears realistically have to win out to get into the dance.

St. Bonaventure (21-6, 11-4 A10)
RPI: 25     BPI:  58     KenPom: 68     SOS: 91
As a borderline bubble team, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies have followed that with a nine-game winning streak and a crucial victory over Rhode Island. As long as the Bonnies take care of their own business and make no worse than the semis in the A10 Tournament, they should be good. Guards Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley are overdue for a tournament berth.

READ ALSO: AP POLL SHAKES UP THE TOP 10

Syracuse (18-10, 7-8 ACC)
RPI: 46     BPI: 52      KenPom: 51     SOS: 22
A month and a half ago, the Syracuse Orange had no business being in the bubble conversation. Still, their four best wins are over Miami, Virginia Tech, Louisville, and then Buffalo. They have some work to do in their final three weeks.

Louisville (18-10, 8-7 ACC)
RPI: 52     BPI: 35      KenPom: 37     SOS: 29
The Louisville Cardinals are in a worse spot than Syracuse, they only have one would be ‘Quadrant 1’ win at Florida State from nearly two months ago. With all the drama surrounding this program through the entire 2017-18 season, you have to give it to David Padgett for keeping them in the race.

USC (20-9, 11-5 Pac-12)
RPI: 36     BPI: 50      KenPom: 52     SOS: 49
The Pac-12 could be in extreme trouble. If USC does not make the push into the NCAA Tournament, there will only be two teams from that conference dancing. With an interesting resume, there is not much that jumps off the Trojans record. Then again, there isn’t much that takes away from it either.

UCLA (19-8, 10-5 Pac-12)
RPI: 47     BPI: 60      KenPom: 54     SOS: 66
Their win over Arizona solidified their claim to the bubble. Win-out situation upcoming for the Bruins who have been hurt by a weak Pac-12.

Texas (16-12, 6-9 Big 12)
RPI: 54     BPI:  39     KenPom: 41     SOS: 16
The Longhorns have such a good schedule. They’ve played all of their games close, but few close games against high-quality teams have translated to wins.

Marquette (16-11, 7-8 Big East)
RPI: 58     BPI: 45      KenPom: 48     SOS: 18
The Golden Eagles were sitting pretty until a four-game losing streak and a loss to St. John’s took them out of the conference race. Not much room for error with Marquette as they move closer to Selection Sunday.

Nebraska (21-9, 12-5 Big Ten)
RPI: 60     BPI: 61      KenPom: 57     SOS: 101
A win against Michigan and a six-game winning streak in the Big Ten has the Cornhuskers alive despite a sub-.500 SOS. They still need a Big Ten tournament upset to get in.

Washington  (18-9, 8-6 Pac-12)
RPI: 48     BPI: 109   KenPom: 95     SOS: 37
The only reason the Washington Huskies are in this conversation is because they beat Arizona and Arizona State back-to-back.

Utah (17-9. 9-6 Pac-12)
RPI: 49     BPI: 70      KenPom: 60     SOS: 65
Another bubble team that hasn’t done much. They’ve won the games they should have and only have snagged an upset on Arizona State.

Other teams:

Florida (17-11, 8-7 SEC)
RPI: 64     BPI: 34      KenPom: 29     SOS: 39

Georgia (15-12, 6-9 SEC)
RPI: 70     BPI: 84      KenPom: 71     SOS: 48

LSU (16-11, 7-8 SEC)
RPI: 74     BPI: 64      KenPom: 63     SOS: 47

Temple (15-12, 7-8 AAC)
RPI: 44     BPI: 83      KenPom: 85     SOS: 9

 

Games to Watch This Week:

UCLA at Utah 2/22 – 9:00 pm (ESPN)

Baylor at TCU 2/24 – 12:00 pm (ESPN2)

LSU at Georgia 2/24 – 2:00 pm (ESPNU)

Louisville at Virginia Tech 2/24 pm – 1:00 pm (CBS)

Syracuse at Duke 2/24 – 6:00 pm (ESPN)

Kansas State at Oklahoma 2/24 – 6:00 pm (ESPN2)

No. 12 Auburn vs. Florida 2/24 – 8:30 pm (SECN)

Penn State at Nebraska 2/25 – 5:15 pm (BTN)

NC State at Florida State 2/25 – 6:00 pm (ESPNU)

Oklahoma at Baylor 2/27 – 9:00 pm (ESPN2)

Davidson at St. Bonaventure 2/27 – 9:00 pm (CBSSN)

Providence at No. 4 Xavier 2/28 – 6:30 pm (FS1)