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Harrison: I've had "double-digit" concussions

Harrison: I've had "double-digit" concussions

PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison didn't want to wait for the NFL to do something about protecting his head, so the four-time Pro Bowler decided to do it himself.

After enduring what he estimated as ``double digit'' bouts with concussion-like symptoms throughout his decade-long career, Harrison began using a special layer of padding inside his helmet last fall and is pleased with the results.

``I haven't seen any spots or had any blackouts,'' Harrison said Tuesday.

Harrison was the first NFL player to use the CRT padding developed by Unequal Technologies inside his helmet. Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick began using a flak jacket lined with military-grade Kevlar during the 2010 season, but Harrison was the first player to put the quarter-inch padding in his helmet.

He's been joined by around 100 players over the last 12 months and feels the extra weight (about 3-4 ounces) is worth the feeling of safety it provides.

``To protect my head I'd take a pound more,'' Harrison said.

The outspoken 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year believes the movement could catch on. One of the NFL's fiercest hitters, Harrison says he played through concussion-like symptoms in the past but as he's aged has become more wary of the long-lasting impact repeated head shots can have on a player's future health.

``If something works, I'm going to use it,'' he said.

The green padding uses material developed to protect combat military personnel. The padding square packs that can be cut into different shapes then stuck inside helmets from various sports, including hockey and baseball.

Harrison became aware of the product while looking for a little extra protection after fracturing his right orbital bone last season. Pittsburgh backup quarterback Charlie Batch, a member of the NFL Players Association's executive council, introduced CRT to player representatives from around the league, which quickly helped expand usage.

Unequal Technologies president Robert Vito said the product doesn't claim to prevent concussions but that anecdotal evidence from players from all levels seem to indicate the material can help minimize the recurrence of concussions.

Harrison noted the NFL has gone to great lengths to address concussions and hand out ``crazy fines'' to players who make illegal hits but haven't taken aggressive action in trying to update the equipment.

``The league is mandating next year that we wear thigh and knee pads,'' Harrison said. ``I don't know how many people's career has been ended on a thigh or knee bruise. We have guys now that are 30, 31 years old that are having to quit the game because they have severe headaches ... I think you should be focusing more on (the helmet) than knee or thigh pads.''

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Ahead of NFL Draft, Ravens add to wide receiver corps with Willie Snead

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USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of NFL Draft, Ravens add to wide receiver corps with Willie Snead

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Receiver Willie Snead has bid farewell to the Saints, which means New Orleans apparently won't match the contract the Baltimore Ravens offered the restricted free agent.

Eager to add a target for quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens on Friday offered Snead a two-year, $10.4 million contract. The Saints had five days to match the deal. Snead indicated Monday on Twitter that he's headed out of New Orleans.

Snead tweeted: "What I'm going to miss most is the men in the locker room & the coaches."

He added: "Even though I'm sad to go, I'm even more excited for the next chapter in my life. I can't wait to strap it on as a Baltimore Raven."

Hampered by a three-game suspension and a hamstring injury, Snead was limited to eight catches for 92 yards last year.

In 2015, he had 69 receptions for 984 yards. He caught 72 passes for 895 yards in 2016.

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Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Was Columbus' travel a factor in the Caps' series comeback?

Whenever a playoff series ends, the analysis begins soon after. Why did this team win? Why did this team lose? Why did this player perform while this one did not?  This is an exercise performed by media, players and coaches alike, especially for teams that walk away from a series believing they let an opportunity slip away.

The Columbus Blue Jackets fell to the Washington Capitals in six games despite taking a 2-0 series lead by winning both opening games in Washington. Head coach John Tortorella will have all summer to think about what he could have done differently and what went wrong for his team, but it sounds like he already has at least one theory as to why they lost.

In a series that featured four overtime games, Game 4 stands out as being far more one-sided than the others. Washington turned in the most dominant performance of the series in a 4-1 win that knotted the teams at two wins apiece.

That game stood out to Tortorella too and he thinks he knows why the Blue jackets laid an egg that night: Travel.

"I think we should’ve stayed in Washington after that second overtime game, the second game there," Tortorella said. "I think that comes back and gets you later on in the series. We should’ve stayed in Washington and let them get a good night sleep. They got in here so late. I don’t think it affected us in Game 3. It comes the next days, so that falls on me."

When analyzing why the Caps won the series, chances are travel is not going to be a reason many people consider. Perhaps there is some merit to this. After all, as the father of an infant, I can certainly vouch for how much of a difference one good night of sleep can make.

But perhaps there is another message being sent here by Tortorella.

Tortorella is a master at using the media to his advantage. He uses the media to send messages to his team or draw attention on himself and away from the players.

Tortorella just saw his young team give up a 2-0 series lead and lose four straight games. Those are the kind of losses that can stick with a player and create doubt in the mind of a team the next time they reach a tough spot in the postseason.

So what did Tortorella do? He came out and put the worst loss of the series on his own shoulders. Why was it his fault? Uh...travel? Yeah, let's go with travel.

The Blue Jackets are not the first team to play overtime on the road or the first team to deal with travel concerns. To hear a coach say it was a reason they lost a game and not even the next game after the travel? Well, that's a first.

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