Redskins

Falcons TE Gonzalez still considering retirement

Falcons TE Gonzalez still considering retirement

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Tony Gonzalez is still 95 percent sure he will retire at the end of the season.

Just don't try to pigeonhole the 13-time Pro Bowl tight end into giving more information about his future - no matter how many light years away.

``I see what you're trying to do,'' Gonzalez said with a smile Thursday. ``Jedi mind trick.''

Gonzalez and the Atlanta Falcons are trying to stay on task this week.

As the NFC's No. 1 seed, the Falcons want to end the regular season with a victory Sunday over Tampa Bay and then use next week's bye to get ready for a divisional round home game the weekend of Jan. 12-13.

Gonzalez said he isn't letting outside distractions take away from his or the team's preparation.

``This is why we do what we do, to be in this kind of position,'' he said. ``It's important we go out and play well, finish the season strong and take it on to the playoffs. That's where we've got to be at our best, and I feel like our team is getting to that point.''

At 36, Gonzalez continues to make enough big plays that he was voted to his third straight Pro Bowl in four seasons with the Falcons. He moved into second place on the career receptions list last season - and now has 1,237 - and is the most decorated tight end in NFL history, ranking first at the position and sixth overall with 103 touchdown catches. At 14,227 yards, he's seventh on the career receiving list.

Gonzalez's physique, work ethic and preparation have factored into helping him thrive for 16 seasons, the first 12 of which he spent with Kansas City.

Though this week's Pro Bowl announcement hardly caught him by surprise, Gonzalez indicated that this bid felt special.

``The older you get, the more people start to doubt you,'' he said. ``Just because it's human nature. You are getting old, (and) there is no way you can move around like you used to. I've been hearing, `Oh, he's lost a step. He's not as fast as he used to be.' It's nice to go out there and play well and tell them, `What do you got to say now?' That's part of the fun - proving people wrong.''

To Falcons coach Mike Smith, Gonzalez still appears strong and healthy enough to play another two or three seasons and add to his Pro Bowl total.

``He's beating Father Time,'' Smith said. ``He's shutting him out. He's playing at a very high level right now.''

As it's been since the Chiefs drafted him 13th overall in 1997, opponents struggle to defend the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Southern California native in man-to-man coverage because linebackers usually lack the speed and defensive backs lack the size to disrupt his routes.

In last week's win at Detroit, Gonzalez caught just one pass, but that's mostly because the Lions decided to put two men on him and use their cornerbacks in single coverage against Roddy White and Julio Jones.

White and Jones combined for 15 catches, 224 yards receiving and three touchdowns, big numbers that Gonzalez credits not only to Atlanta's wideout tandem but also to quarterback Matt Ryan's ability to read coverages accurately and check down to more manageable options before the snap.

Gonzalez believes there's a good reason the Falcons rank fifth in passing, second in third-down efficiency and fifth in scoring average.

``The most important thing you can have with a quarterback is timing and anticipation,'' he said. ``He knows where I'm going to go before I go sometimes. And I kind of know what he's thinking as well and we work off each other, and it's a beautiful thing when it's going in the right direction.''

Smith appreciates Gonzalez's willingness to do whatever coaches ask of him. Such was the case last week when Ryan threw a screen pass to the left side for White, who outran the coverage for a 39-yard touchdown, but not before Gonzalez and left tackle Sam Baker held blocks to create space.

``Tony was the one who got it started, and Sam was cleaning up in the alley,'' Smith said. ``Once we got those two blocks, Roddy did the rest and did a nice job of running down the sideline.''

For all of Gonzalez's impressive career numbers, his ability to avoid fumbles has taken on a legend of its own. He hasn't fumbled since Week 16 of 2006, and the last time he lost a fumble was in Week 5 of 1999 - a span of 217 straight games and 1,126 receptions.

``It probably will get noted for Hall of Fame stuff when they start talking about Tony being inducted,'' Smith said. ``His statistics are unbelievable. Touchdown catches, number of catches, what he does after he catches the ball. He's done a great job, and I think a lot of it is the work he does out on the practice field.''

Gonzalez is just pleased that he's reached Week 17 for what could be the final regular season game of his career.

Winning a Super Bowl is all that matters, particularly for a respected veteran still looking for his first career playoff victory.

Just don't ask him about coming back next season.

``Let's finish this year,'' he said, ``and hopefully get that Super Bowl ring.''

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Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Need to Know: Five safe draft picks for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 22, four days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five safe picks for the Redskins

Sometimes teams try to hit home runs with their draft picks. They may hit a few but they also will strike out a lot. Teams often are better off trying to hit solid singles and doubles. Here are five picks who would are unlikely to make many Pro Bowls but the Redskins would not regret the pick if they turned in the cards with their names on it. 

RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn—I’m starting off here with a player who would be a safe pick in the third round. Of course, the Redskins don’t have a third right now but if they do swing a trade and get one, Johnson would be a good pick. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, which is one reason why he might be available in the third. He is a grinder who will be an upgrade over Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley. 

DL Vita Vea, Washington—There is plenty of hand wringing over whether Vea is a three-down player or just a base defense nose tackle. But even if he can’t rush the passer very well his floor is a player who can go a long way towards helping the Redskins stop the run, a chronic weakness. This is why a lot of fans and media are urging the Redskins to not overthink this and take a player that will, at a minimum, bolster one of their weakest areas. 

OL Billy Price, Ohio State—He started 55 games for the Buckeyes, the most of any player in the storied history of the program. He did suffer the partial tear of a chest muscle in the combine but that will be fully healed by training camp. When he’s ready, he’s an explosive, smart, and powerful player. Just plug him in at left guard and the Redskins’ O-line is set with all home-grown talent. 

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State—He doesn’t have the ceiling that the more heralded Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have. However, he may have a higher floor. Smith is undersized, and Edmunds will be highly drafted based more on potential than on production. At 6-4, 256, Vander Esch has plenty of size, and he racked up 141 tackles last year on his way to defensive player of the year honors in the Mountain West. 

 CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado—The All-Pac-12 selection has the size and athleticism that add up to a safe pick in the second round. He needs some work on technique, but he has enough natural athletic ability—he competed in the decathlon—to be a productive cornerback right out of the gate. One other plus that fans will appreciate is that his strength is press coverage, not off man. 

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

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 30
—Training camp starts (7/26) 95
—Redskins @ Cardinals (9/9) 140

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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2018 NBA Playoffs Wizards-Raptors Game 4: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the Washington Wizards battle Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night in Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

GAME 4: TORONTO RAPTORS AT WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Series: Raptors lead 2-1
Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 6 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Time to get even

After a momentous Game 3 win, the Wizards have breathed some life back into their season. On Sunday, they can make this a brand new series.

With a win in Game 4 for the Wizards, they would tie the series and send it back to Toronto ensuring another home game in Washington. A loss would put them down 3-1, a deficit that has historically been hard to overcome.

Only 11 teams have accomplished the feat, most notably the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors did the same that year in the conference finals. It has only been done three times since 2006. 

How will Raptors respond?

Game 3 took on a much different tone and style than the previous two and it played into the Wizards' hands. It was much more physical and Washington did a good job of instigating contact and using it to their advanage. After the game, several players highlighted Markieff Morris shoving OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka as a turning point.

Just because it worked in Game 3 doesn't mean it will carry over successfully in Game 4. Not only could the Raptors respond with their own dose of brutality, but the referees may try to nip anything of the sort in the bud early on.

It would not be surprising if Game 4 was officiated very tightly and if a message was sent in the first quarter to the players. After seeing how well it worked in Game 3, the Wizards will likely try to test the limits.

Playoff Beal

The Raptors will also try to adjust their defense following Bradley Beal's 28-point outburst in Game 3. He wasn't much of a factor in the first two games of the series, but broke out in Game 3 to lead the Wizards to a win.

The Wizards did a good job of getting Beal involved early. He was found for open looks from three in the first half and had two three-pointers in each of the first two quarters. Beal also took it upon himself to attack the rim and force the issue.

The Raptors held Beal back in the first two games by being rough with him and in Game 2 they got him in foul trouble. Surely he will be a big emphasis of their gameplan on Sunday.

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For more on the Wizards-Raptors series, check out or latest Wizards Tipoff podcast: