Change almost a certainty for Browns


Change almost a certainty for Browns

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Phil Dawson's locker looked ready to host a Hawaiian luau.

Following practice, Dawson returned to his dressing area and found it decorated with a poster of two pink flamingos, inflatable parrots, flowered leis and the word ``Aloha'' draped across the front. After 14 seasons, the Browns' kicker made his first Pro Bowl.

Time to celebrate.

Might as well. There won't be much else to enjoy. Change awaits.

Following Sunday's finale in Pittsburgh, the Browns (5-10) are expected to undergo another radical makeover. That might begin with coach Pat Shurmur's firing after two seasons and could include general manager Tom Heckert being replaced. Although his fate seems sealed, Shurmur is doing all he can to keep his team focused on beating the Steelers (7-8).

Shurmur understands he hasn't won enough.

``Listen, I get this,'' he said Thursday, addressing the uncertainty ahead. ``My concerns are for my team and making sure that we do all the right things during the game to give our guys the best chance to win. That's where I'm at. At some point after that, I'll begin to think about what goes on from there. I'm not worried about it.''

It's more of the same for the Browns, who just two weeks ago were still in the playoff hunt. But a pair of lopsided losses to Washington and Denver and a slew of injuries pushed them to a familiar place - the brink of change.

During what may have been his final formal news conference, Shurmur reflected on what he and his staff accomplished with one of the NFL's youngest teams that includes 17 rookies.

``I think we've made improvements,'' he said. ``Some may say not fast enough, but I think we've made improvements. I think we came into a less than ideal situation when we got here. Every situation is different and I'm proud of that. I'm proud of the work that the guys that I hired did in terms of inspiring the players to improve.

``We have not won enough football games and I know that's the way this things works, but in our situation I see improvement and I'll leave it at that. The rest of it, going in depth to all that, I think that's a discussion for after we play Pittsburgh.''

New Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner may have already decided to dismiss Shurmur, who is 9-22 with one game left. If he's fired, Shurmur will join Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Butch Davis and Chris Palmer as coaches unable to build sustained success in Cleveland.

Browns return specialist Josh Cribbs can't take any more turnover.

``I hate that we rebuild every year,'' said Cribbs, who has been with the Browns since 2005. ``It's not a good recipe for successful football.''

Cribbs' contract expires after this season. He believes it would be a shame if Shurmur and Heckert aren't retained.

``A lot of people don't get a fair shake in this business, whether it be the quarterbacks or the regime,'' Cribbs said. ``They came in during the lockout, now the owner decided to sell the team. It's just so unfortunate the way the nature of the business is.

``But I'll tell you one thing, we're geared up to win this last game, to give it our best shot because this win, a sweep of Pittsburgh would do a lot for this city and might do a lot for the coaching staff as well.

``Finishing strong is the biggest thing at this point.''

The Browns haven't swept the Steelers in a season since 1988. A win Sunday would make the Browns 3-3 in the AFC North after going just 3-21 inside their division the previous four seasons combined.

Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson had hoped this would be the season where change wasn't necessary. However, he understands it may be unavoidable.

``With a new owner comes new changes and new obstacles, new challenges,'' he said. ``I hope it's for the better, I hope so. Mr. Haslam, he seems like a passionate guy. He enjoys what he's doing and he wouldn't have bought this team if he didn't think about being successful doing it. Just because it's change doesn't mean it can't be a good change.''

Dawson has seen every alteration made by the Browns since 1999. The soon-to-be 38-year-old has remained while hundreds of players and dozens of coaches have come and gone in Cleveland. He may be more practiced at change than others, but it's still as difficult now as when he was a rookie.

``Change is never easy. I don't know anyone that enjoys it,'' he said. ``But with all the unknown right now, if I have any advice for my teammates it's deal with the known. What we do know is we get to play the Steelers this week. What we do know is we get one last chance to go out, this group with these coaches, everyone together and try to win a football game, and it's not just some game. This is the Steeler game. `'

Notes: Dawson was voted the team's player of the year and Jackson was selected the ``Good Guy'' award winner by the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. It was Dawson's first win. ``Didn't know that,'' the Texan said when informed after practice. ``Ya'll are desperate. Golly.'' Dawson has made 28 of 29 kicks this season and all six attempts from 50 yards or longer. He's made 84.2 percent of his career kicks, the highest percentage of the 25 kickers with 300 or more field goals. ... Browns safety T.J. Ward spoke for the first time since suffering a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. Ward sustained a bone bruise and said he will not need surgery.


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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 18, 39 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at next year’s free agents

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens.

Note: I’m not including Brandon Scherff here because the team has a fifth-year option on him that they surely will activate before the May 2 deadline.

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard).

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility.

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon.

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup.

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight.

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Regarding the reported visit of defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins with the Redskins:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 29
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 131
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 175

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Game 72 Capitals at Flyers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 72 Capitals at Flyers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.

When: 5:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Flyers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Flyers game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals (41-23-7) take on the Flyers (36-25-11) Sunday, March 18 at 5:00 p.m. ET in Philadelphia.


The Capitals-Flyers game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

4:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
4:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
5:00 p.m. — Capitals at Flyers
7:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
8:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
9:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


The Capitals-Flyers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.