Cowboys' Murray could return after 4-game absence


Cowboys' Murray could return after 4-game absence

IRVING, Texas (AP) Dallas coach Jason Garrett keeps talking about ``thresholds'' running back DeMarco Murray must meet to end a longer-than-expected absence because of a sprained foot.

It's probably not on the official list, but Murray offered a benchmark on Wednesday. He said there was ``a chance'' he could play Sunday against Cleveland.

Murray has missed four games since rushing for 93 yards in a loss at Baltimore on Oct. 14. He had 90 yards in the first half but injured his right foot in the second quarter. He had just one carry in the third quarter before coming out for good.

The second-year pro did some work on the practice field last week and joined his teammates in shorts and helmets Wednesday - exactly a month since the injury. He was officially listed as not participating, though Garrett wasn't available for an update after practice.

``This is the best I've felt mentally coming in after working out,'' said Murray, who has 330 yards and one touchdown this season. ``I feel good.''

Murray rushed for 897 yards in 13 games as a rookie last year, and set a club record with 253 yards in his first career start. But he missed the last three games after breaking an ankle. With the latest injury, both of Murray's first two pro seasons have been marred, just as his first two college seasons were at Oklahoma.

``You've got to be smart about this thing,'' Murray said. ``I definitely don't want to go out there for one game and have to sit the rest of the year.''

The Cowboys also have to consider that they're playing two games in five days, with the Thanksgiving game against Washington next week. Murray said the quick turnaround could affect his ability to recover in time.

At the same time, Murray said he was ``looking forward to this game and looking forward to this week.''

``Today and this week is the best I've felt,'' he said. ``Once I feel like I can help this team and be ready to go and play like I'm accustomed to playing, I'm going to get out there. It's all still a little waiting game right now.''

Spurred by Murray's fast start in Baltimore, the Cowboys rushed for 227 yards, the most the Ravens have ever allowed. In the first three games without Murray, the Cowboys didn't have more than 90 yards rushing, and finished with a paltry 19 in a 29-24 loss to the New York Giants.

Dallas was better in last weekend's 38-23 win at Philadelphia, with Felix Jones, the starter before Murray emerged, getting 71 of the team's 101 yards on the ground and scoring when he broke several tackles on an 11-yard screen pass. He had 22 yards receiving a week after getting a season-high 70 against Atlanta.

``From the Felix standpoint, I think he's healthier,'' coach Jason Garrett said. ``I don't think he was real healthy through training camp and the early part of the season. I think he's showing some of the signs we've seen in the past from him. But again we certainly would welcome DeMarco back in the lineup.''

Murray said he initially thought the injury would sideline him two games at the most, but that isn't making him more anxious to rush back.

``It's a tricky deal when you're dealing with ligaments,'' he said. ``It's kind of like a scar. You've got to let it heal. This is something I've never done before.''

Notes: The Cowboys plan to activate DE Ben Bass from the practice squad when they put DE Kenyon Coleman on injured reserve. Coleman tore a triceps muscle in his left arm in Philadelphia. Bass is a rookie free agent from Texas A&M. DE Sean Lissemore could return this week to help fill the void from the Coleman injury, but was listed as a non-participant in practice Wednesday.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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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 Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS 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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