Gordon flashing for recharged Browns


Gordon flashing for recharged Browns

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Josh Gordon arrived at training camp out of shape, unfamiliar with the Browns' playbook and saddled with personal baggage from a troubled college career.

Another lost rookie, Gordon was way behind.

He's caught up.

``He's our top receiver right now,'' linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said.

With a long, elegant stride and deceiving speed, the 21-year-old Gordon has emerged as Cleveland's biggest deep threat, perhaps the club's best playmaker and maybe the end of the Browns' search for a bonafide No. 1 wide receiver, something they haven't had in years.

Gordon, blessed with enormous talent, is the whole package.

``He's big and he's fast and he can catch,'' said Browns coach Pat Shurmur.

Gordon had the best game of his brief career last Sunday, catching six passes for 116 yards and one touchdown as the Browns ended a 12-game road losing streak with a 20-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders. It was a breakout performance for Gordon, who was taken in the second round of the NFL's supplemental draft in July by the Browns, who were criticized for a selection many considered too risky.

Gordon, though, has made general manager Tom Heckert's gamble pay off.

The Browns haven't had a receiver with comparable, game-breaking skills to Gordon since Braylon Edwards, who had 16 TD receptions in 2007 but then tailed off quickly and was eventually traded. Gordon has five TDs this season, the most by a Browns rookie since Andre' Davis in 2002.

And he's hungry for more.

``He's starting to get a feel for what he can do,'' Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said. ``The sky is the limit for that guy. He's talented, he's tall, he's long, he's fast. He can catch the ball well. He does all the things you would want.

``I'm glad he's on our side.''

While Gordon was the subject of many conversations inside the Browns' facility and locker room this week, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder kept a low profile. That's how it's been since he was drafted by Cleveland, which forfeited a second-round pick in 2013 to get him.

Gordon is quiet, polite and refreshingly unassuming.

``It's just me being me,'' he said.

He came with questions surrounding his character. Gordon was dismissed from Baylor's team after being suspended twice for marijuana use, and then he didn't play after transferring to Utah, where he failed another drug test. He hasn't had any problems as a pro, and that's how Gordon intends to keep it.

Gordon knows there are some who expect him to fail. He uses that as motivation.

``There's a lot more eyes on me compared to other guys,'' he said. ``A lot of people either expect a downfall or expect another type of mess-up or are waiting for a slipup. I came in trying to be mature about it, and that's how I approach it every day. I watch the guys ahead of me, the veteran guys and see how they carry themselves and how I should do the same.''

Gordon has leaned on Jackson, tight end Ben Watson and wide receiver Josh Cribbs for advice and guidance. They've explained to him the importance of working hard, using his free time wisely and striving to be consistent - on and off the field.

Gordon is following their lead. He's growing up.

There have been no missteps, just positive strides forward.

``He's young,'' Cribbs said. ``He has an opportunity to right the ship. Nobody cares about how you fall down, it's about how you get back up. He's done a great job of bouncing back from anything that might have happened in his past and you don't see it in his future and that's a great thing.

``He's still a kid.''

Gordon's ability to get deep is transforming the Browns' offense. With his ability to run past a cornerback, defenses must keep a safety back to protect against a long completion. By drawing two defenders, underneath passing routes open as do running lanes.

Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress has noticed defenses paying more attention to Gordon, who is averaging 19 yards per catch and 46 yards on his TD grabs.

``You kind of want to know where that guy's at,'' Childress said.

Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown saw Gordon's potential immediately. Early in training camp, Brown, an 11-year veteran who knows every trick in the book, was covering Gordon and thought he had the youngster bottled up.

``I had perfect coverage and he stuck one hand out and catches the ball,'' Brown said. ``He'll make a few plays in this league. The sky is the limit for him. He's still learning, but he's a talent. I just want to see him continue to grow and continue to gain confidence because he can be very special.''

Brown isn't alone in his appraisal.

While other teams passed on Gordon, the Browns dared to look deeper and took a chance on him.

He doesn't want to let them down.

``It meant a lot to me,'' he said. ``I never will forget it and I'm always grateful for it. I think about it every day and it's why I have the attitude I have. I don't want to take anything for granted and keep going as hard as I can. I never want to feel complacent or content in any aspect of the game.

``As soon as you do that, that's when something will go wrong.''


NOTES: T Joe Thomas was named the Browns' Walter Payton Man of the Year, one day after blasting former teammate Peyton Hillis, who will visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Thomas is the team's first two-time winner of the award, which recognizes performance and community service. ... For the second day in a row, all 53 players on the active roster practiced. .. Childress acknowledged testifying earlier this week in the Saints' ongoing bounty probe. Then the former Minnesota coach was one of the first to alert the NFL of a possible problem after Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was roughed up in the 2010 NFC Championship.


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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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