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Goodell has no issue in handing of RG3's injury

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Goodell has no issue in handing of RG3's injury

DENVER (AP) NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he doesn't have a problem with the way the Washington Redskins medical staff handled Robert Griffin III's knee injury.

Nevertheless, he's anticipating changes in the way injuries not affecting the head are evaluated on the sideline.

Goodell was in Denver for Saturday's Ravens-Broncos playoff game.

Griffin had reconstructive ACL surgery Wednesday after reinjuring his right knee in last Sunday's playoff loss to Seattle. He also strained a ligament in the knee last month against Baltimore.

That raised questions whether Redskins coach Mike Shanahan should have let Griffin in either game after it was clear the quarterback was hurt.

Goodell said it was a ``medical decision'' and noted Griffin had no problem with it, either.

``Now, people can argue whether it was the wrong decision, but it was a medical decision and that's what we want it to be,'' Goodell said.

``Will we make further changes? Yeah, I would anticipate we will. We'll always look at that and try to see what else we can do to make sure the proper medical attention is being given, that they make the best medical evaluation and it's their determination to make.''

Asked if independent doctors were needed on the sideline, not those chosen by the team, Goodell insisted the physicians were impartial.

``When you say independent, all these doctors work for other institutions,'' he said. ``And they're well-respected and the medical care in the NFL is outstanding. And if they have a concussion, they have to see an independent neurologist before they're cleared to play.''

He noted that Andrews is a highly regarded orthopedic surgeon, ``and I think he made a judgment and the team made a judgment, and Robert Griffin seems to be comfortable with it, too. I think as long as they are medical decisions, that is our primary objective.''

Goodell said the league is looking into the poor playing conditions at FedEx Field last week, when not only was RG3 hurt, but the Seahawks lost their best pass rusher, Chris Clemons, to a torn ACL in his left knee.

``We're going to evaluate that,'' Goodell said. ``Interestingly enough, we had no complaints of the field in the Dallas game (the week before). And so what we have to do is think through that a little bit and say what happened between there, and our staff is looking at that to try to determine should a field be required to be re-sodded, even between the hash marks.''

In a meeting with reporters following a fan forum at Sports Authority Field, Goodell also addressed the recent findings that Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease often linked with repeated blows to the head when he shot himself in the chest last year.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health said Thursday the former NFL star's abnormalities are consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Goodell said the findings underscore the need for additional research into CTE and he noted that NFL teams have given a $30 million research grant to the NIH and are committed to spending $70 million more on heath research, as specified in its collective bargaining agreement with the players.

``It's why we're investing in the research is to find out more about it, CTE, in particular, but also brain injury and brain disease. And we need to have a lot more research because there's still unfortunately a lot of unknowns,'' Goodell said.

The hard-hitting linebacker played for 20 seasons with San Diego, Miami and New England before retiring in 2009. He died at age 43 of a self-inflicted gunshot in May, and his family requested the analysis of his brain.

Seau joins a list of several dozen football players who were found to have CTE. Boston University's center for study of the disease reported last month that 34 former pro players and nine who played only college football suffered from CTE.

The NFL faces lawsuits by thousands of former players who say the league withheld information on the harmful effects of concussions. According to an AP review of 175 lawsuits, 3,818 players have sued. At least 26 Hall of Famer members are among the players who have done so.

Goodell noted that his top priority as commissioner is to reduce head trauma in the game.

``We haven't waited for the research. We've been making changes for the game, making rule changes, making equipment changes,'' he said. ``Medicine has a ways to go. We need to fund more research. We have that in our collective bargaining agreement, to have $100 million worth of research. We've funded $30 million to the NIH last fall, so that research is under way and I think that will be beneficial in treatment and also in what we can do in continuing to make not just football safer but every other sport.''

On other topics, Goodell said:

-he hasn't made a decision on when to reinstate New Orleans Saints coach Sean Peyton, who was suspended last season because of the team's bounty scandal.

-he hasn't made up his mind on where he stands on the expansion of playoffs but wants to make sure any change in the format wouldn't dilute the importance of the regular-season games.

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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How former Capital Sergei Gonchar helped the Penguins win Game 1

How former Capital Sergei Gonchar helped the Penguins win Game 1

Hockey is a game of organized chaos.

Sure, pucks can take some unexpected bounces, but a lot of what you see on the ice doesn’t happen by accident.

Trailing 2-0 early in the third period of Game 1, Patric Hornqvist got the Pittsburgh Penguins on the board with a deflection that scuttled past Braden Holtby.

You may dismiss the play at first glance as a lucky deflection off a wide shot, but it actually was much more coordinated than that.

The play starts with defenseman Justin Schultz holding the puck at the blue line. He buys time, sees Hornqvist and fires a wrister at the net. The shot is not going on net, but the net isn’t the target.

You can see the play here:

Schultz is specifically aiming to put the puck in a position for Hornqvist to deflect it on goal.

“Justin does a great job just changing his angle, having some patience and just delivering pucks down to the net that gives our forwards an opportunity to get a stick on it,” head coach Mike Sullivan said after the game.

According to the coach, it is a play the Penguins practice daily and one that is reminiscent of former Capital Sergei Gonchar who routinely made smart plays from the blue line to set up his teammates.

Gonchar was one of the top offensive defensemen in the league over a playing career that spanned from 1994 to 2015. He recorded 811 points in his NHL career, 416 of which came during his 10 seasons with Washington.

Now, however, he serves as an assistant coach for the Penguins helping the defensemen practice plays just like the one Schultz made to set up Hornqvist.

“Sergei is so good at helping those guys with the subtleties of the game and just those little skill sets along the offensive blue line,” Sullivan said. "I don't know that there was anybody better in his generation than Sergei was and he does a great job at relaying some of those subtitles to our guys and those guys, they work at it daily.”

Deflections are obviously very difficult for a goalie to handle. It is nearly impossible to react to the puck’s mid-air change of direction. A goalie has to be positioned perfectly to make the save. It also gives shooters at the blue line more targets. Rather than shooting just at the 42x78 inches of the net, players can shoot on net or in the shooting lane of any of their teammates anywhere on the ice. Essentially, the entire offensive zone becomes a potential target.

There’s a reason the Penguins have been as good as they are for as long as they have. They are not getting lucky bounces, they are creating their own deflections thanks in part to the expertise of the former Cap.

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The Redskins drafted for need, and this time, that is just fine

The Redskins drafted for need, and this time, that is just fine

ASHBURN, Va. -- After months, and maybe years, of the Redskins front office explaining that the NFL Draft came down to taking the best player available, the organization might have veered from that strategy Thursday night.

The Redskins selected Alabama defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne with the No. 13 overall pick. It's a fine selection, but the team made it not necessarily because Payne was the best player available, but because he was the best player available at a position of desperate need. 

"There were quite a few guys that were worthy of that pick, quite frankly, but for what we were looking for and the fit, I think Da’Ron is perfect for us and what we were looking for," Washington head coach Jay Gruden said after the first round ended.

Payne should help right away on the Redskins defensive line, but plenty of fans want to know why the team didn't select Derwin James and Tremaine Edmunds at No. 13. Both freak athletes, James could have helped the Redskins' secondary while Edmunds could help at the linebacker spot and rushing the passer.

Asked specifically if Payne was on top of the board at No. 13 with Edmunds and James present, the coach wasn't quite crystal clear.

"Yeah, he was up there. There’s a lot of scenarios we tried to play through and guys were getting picked and we’re happy as heck to get Da’Ron. He’s one of our top guys."

For Gruden and the Redskins, this pick was about competing in the NFC East.

"You see what’s going on in our division with Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott and Philadelphia, the way they run the ball," the coach said. "Our [2017] ranking on defense wasn’t quite up to speed at 32nd."

The coach is right. 

The Redskins struggled mightily last season against the run, coming in dead last in rush defense. In turn, they struggled in the division, going 1-5. Dallas and Philadelphia already run the ball very well, and now by drafting Barkley second overall, the Giants could be a strong run team too. 

There is no question Payne will step in and help against the run, and that should happen immediately. Gruden even said the Redskins will use Payne at the nose tackle position, likely with Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis lined up next to him. 

The question on Payne is pass rushing ability, and he's eager to prove it's no question at all. 

"I’m going to get after the pass rush and just dominate the run every chance I get," the new Redskins said in a conference call with media. 

In thre years at Alabama, Payne logged three sacks. Read that again. It's not a misprint. 

For interior defensive line players, sacks aren't always a great measure of effectiveness. Getting good push up the middle disrupts the quarterbacks time in the pocket, and that often results in sacks off the edge. Payne should be able to help in that capacity.

"I think he's got great power, and a lot of times the sacks that don't show up on the stat board, he enabled other guys to get them because of the push of the pocket that forces the quarterback outside. I think Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Ryan Anderson will be very happy to have Jonathan Allen and Da'Ron Payne in the middle pushing that pocket," Gruden said. "Stats don't always tell a story about pass rushers."

The Redskins made a smart, safe pick with Payne. He will help the team from Day One. 

The Redskins eschewed the chance for a riskier, but maybe more rewarding pick in Derwin James or Tremaine Edmunds. And that's ok.

If Payne boosts the run defense, like he should, he will be proven worth the No. 13 pick.

If Payne boosts the run defense, and proves capable as a pass rusher, then Redskins fans will forget all about James and Edmunds. 

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