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Eagles not discussing plans for Lions WR Johnson

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Eagles not discussing plans for Lions WR Johnson

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Calvin Johnson's nickname is enough to scare opponents, even if he's not finding the end zone with regularity.

The All-Pro wide receiver will try to catch his first touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford this season when the Detroit Lions (1-3) visit the Philadelphia Eagles (3-2) on Sunday.

``When they give you the nickname `Megatron,' that means you're pretty good,'' Eagles coach Andy Reid said of Johnson. ``He's a really good player.''

Johnson has a tough challenge going against a secondary that features a pair of accomplished cornerbacks: two-time All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a 2009 Pro Bowl pick. Rookie Brandon Boykin may even line up against Johnson at times.

``These guys have corners that can play,'' Stafford said. ``You look at them on tape, they're shutting guys down.''

Whatever the Eagles plan to do to cover Johnson, they're not letting on.

``I don't want to give away what we're going to do,'' defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said. ``Hopefully we can talk about it after the game, and you can say, `Juan, that was a good game plan that you all had.'''

The Lions use Johnson in various formations, lining him up inside, outside and wherever they think they can draw a mismatch. He has 29 catches for 423 yards, but his only TD catch was thrown by Shaun Hill.

When Johnson is in the slot, Asomugha probably will move over to cover him instead of Boykin, who usually plays there. Rodgers-Cromartie had a tough time adjusting to playing nickel cornerback last year, making Asomugha more likely to get the assignment. Rodgers-Cromartie has outplayed Asomugha in man-to-man coverage, so he should be on Johnson when he's outside.

Like other teams, the Eagles may also use a safety to double-cover Johnson.

``Normally people are looking to cover him with a couple of people,'' coach Andy Reid said. ``He has earned that respect and that's what teams have done. That doesn't mean that is what you have to do, but that is what teams have tried to do against him. That has been going on not just this year but the last few. They still try to find ways to get him open and get him the football.''

Rodgers-Cromartie indicated the Eagles will put two guys on Johnson.

``You just have to keep a couple of people on him,'' he said. ``You have to keep him out of the game and don't even allow him to get started. Frustrate him early.''

The Lions have an idea of what the Eagles might try to do. Even though Johnson has only scored once, Detroit is moving the ball. The Lions are third in the NFL in yards and second in first downs.

``They've got great corners. I think they're a matchup kind of a defense,'' offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. ``They're not just going to go out and play straight man-on-man. They're going to have guys accounting for the receivers in close coverage. I would expect more of that than any of the games we've had so far.''

Stafford connected with Johnson for two TDs in each of the first four games last year and nine times in five games to lift the Lions to a 5-0 start en route to their first playoff appearance since 1999. Johnson finished with 96 catches for 1,681 yards and 16 TDs.

But with Stafford off to a slow start - he has fewer TD passes (three) than interceptions (four) - and Johnson not making big plays, it's no wonder the Lions are struggling. Johnson, though, is due for a breakout performance.

``He can run, he can jump, and he has great hands,'' Castillo said. ``He does a great job running routes and catching the football in traffic and over the middle. The quarterback trusts him.

``Stafford will throw to him even if he is double covered.''

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NOTES: The Eagles have no injuries and everyone should be ready to play vs. the Lions. ... Eagles QB Michael Vick carried a football around with him all week, even taking it to breakfast. Teammates tried to strip it away whenever they saw him holding it around the practice facility. Vick has fumbled eight times, losing five of those. ``There was a bounty on the ball,'' he joked.

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter:https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

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USA TODAY Sports

Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”

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Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

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The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

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