Redskins

Florida's Ball 'values each moment' after scare

Florida's Ball 'values each moment' after scare

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) It started as the ``worst headache ever.''

And before Florida linebacker Neiron Ball knew the diagnosis, the pain had gotten so severe that he couldn't look down and was begging for medication.

``I can't really explain it,'' Ball said. ``The closest thing I can think is somebody just smushing my brain.''

Doctors determined that blood vessels in his brain were tangled and ruptured, causing bleeding that had to be stopped by radiation surgery. Ball still remembers his prevailing thought as he waited in the hospital.

``Forget football. I'm thinking about living,'' he said.

Now, more than 20 months later, Ball is back on the field and playing a key role for the seventh-ranked Gators (8-1). He has nine tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception - numbers that mean little compared to all he's been through.

``I just want to go hard every moment in life because you never know when that moment can be taken away,'' Ball said. ``I value each moment.''

Ball, a third-year sophomore from Jackson, Ga., was one of the team's top special teams player in 2010. His tackling skills were evident and his upside was seemingly limitless.

The following February, though, he started feeling pressure in his neck and then a dull ache in his head while working out. He went to trainers and ended up in the hospital.

He was diagnosed with arteriovenous maliformation - a serious condition that needed immediate attention.

He called his sister and her husband, who rushed to Gainesville. Ball's parents had both died before he was 10, his father a victim of cancer and his mother dying from a heart attack. His grandmother had raised him about 40 miles south of Atlanta, but she was too frail to make the trip.

His sister took him home to rest for surgery, but the pain brought him back to the emergency room. Finally, doctors were ready for a non-invasive radiosurgery. They clamped his head into a brace with four screws and went to work.

The procedure worked, but Ball's recovery took time.

He spent 10 days in the hospital, lost 30 pounds, felt weak and off-balance. And that was just the beginning.

``The scariest moment was when it was happening, the pain that I felt,'' he said. ``The happiest moment is when they said I was going to live. Before that, I was lost. I didn't know what was going on. I had no idea what was going on.''

He had no idea about football, either. It wasn't until January that he was able to start working out.

Even then, he didn't know if he would be cleared to play again.

That came in June, after countless tests to make sure the vessels had not burst again.

``He's been through an awful lot, not just with the injury last year, but he's had some tough things happen in his life, some setbacks,'' coach Will Muschamp said. ``Any time you're able to see something like that, it makes you feel good about where you are and what you're doing.

``He's a really good player, too. He's a guy that missed football for a year. It's a developmental game. When you miss that much time, it doesn't come back as easily as it does for others. It's come back very quickly for him.''

Ball started the season opener against Bowling Green as well as Florida's victory over LSU. He intercepted a pass against Georgia, which he called the highlight of his college career.

``I'm happy as a friend,'' cornerback Jaylen Watkins said. ``All of us are. He went through a lot. The plays that are coming his way, he's making them and he's just excited to be out there. It means a lot and it shows you should cherish every moment on the field.''

Ball is a finalist for the Orange Bowl Courage Award, given annually to a player, coach or support person in college football who displays courage on or off the field.

Ball, meanwhile, has shared his story with anyone who asks. And it always starts with the ``worst headache ever.''

``It always reminds me,'' he said. ``The experiences I've been through, I just feel like I've seen a lot and I learned from it. Other people haven't seen some of the things that I have seen. I just feel like because of those things I see things differently.''

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The NFL fills in the blanks on the Redskins' schedule tonight

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The NFL fills in the blanks on the Redskins' schedule tonight

Since the 2017 regular ended we’ve known who the Redskins will play this coming season and we have known where the games will be played. Tonight we find out the when. 

The NFL schedule will be released tonight at 8 p.m. The NFL will fill in the blanks beside all of the prime time games, the Thanksgiving Day games and the Sunday doubleheader and night games. 

Last year, the Redskins were coming off of an 8-7-1 season where they just missed the making a second straight playoff appearance. Kirk Cousins was becoming one of the more recognizable names in the NFL and the schedule makers thought they would be enough of a draw to warrant five prime time slots. They were scheduled for a Sunday night, two Monday nights, and two Thursday nights, including a first-ever home game on Thanksgiving. 

The Redskins may not be as attractive a prime time candidate this year. They went 7-9 and Cousins is gone, although replacement Alex Smith is fairly well-known. It’s nearly a given that two NFC East games will be on prime time. That has been the case every year but one since 2012. We will see what will happen beyond that. 

The prime-time games that the Redskins do have will start a bit earlier than they have in the past. The league announced yesterday that Monday night games will move up from 8:30 p.m. ET to 8:15 p.m. ET and Thursdays will move from an 8:25 p.m. start to 8:20 p.m. Sunday night games move up from 8:30 p.m. to 8:20 p.m.

There has been speculation that the Redskins will play on Thanksgiving, perhaps at Dallas or against another opponent in the night game. That would make three years in a row on Thanksgiving for them. That is not without precedent although it would be unusual. Besides the Lions and Cowboys, who host Thanksgiving games annually, only two teams played in three straight Thanksgiving games. The Bears played every Thanksgiving from 1979-1981. The Cardinals also played three straight, but there is an asterisk there since they hosted the game instead of the Cowboys in 1975 and 1977. In between the played at Dallas on Thanksgiving. 

The availability of FedEx Field should not cause any schedule alterations. There are some events scheduled for the venue but concerts by Taylor Swift and Beyonce & Jay-Z, an international soccer game, and the Maryland-Texas college game are all going to be done before the start of the NFL season. 

Here are the Redskins regular season opponents. 

Road

  • Cowboys 
  • Giants
  • Eagles
  • Cardinals
  • Saints
  • Jaguars
  • Titans
  • Bucs

Home

  • Cowboys 
  • Giants
  • Eagles
  • Packers
  • Panthers
  • Colts
  • Falcons
  • Texans

The preseason opponents were announced earlier this month.

More Redskins

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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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, 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.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Chandler Stephenson -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

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.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE