Injured Neb RB Burkhead is in limbo for Minnesota

Injured Neb RB Burkhead is in limbo for Minnesota

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Rex Burkhead would love to say he'll play Saturday when Nebraska meets Minnesota on senior day.

He can't, though, because he just doesn't know. It's been this way for weeks.

The 2011 All-Big Ten running back sprained his left knee in the opener of his final season at Nebraska and has aggravated the injury twice. He's missed five games and had to leave early in three others.

One day, the knee will feel good, and he'll think he can play that week.

The next day, the knee hurts and he knows he won't.

``I think it kills him every week,'' coach Bo Pelini said. ``That's just who he is.''

Burkhead was on the practice field Monday and participated on a limited basis. He said he's ``pretty close'' to being able to play in a game, and he's doing all he can to make it happen against the Gophers.

``My last home game here,'' he said. ``Being a senior, it would mean the world to get out on the field.''

The native of Plano, Texas, is the most popular player on the team judging by the overwhelming number of fans dressed in No. 22 jerseys on game days.

Last season, he averaged 104 yards a game and his 284 carries were two shy of the school record. His 1,357 yards were the most by a Nebraska running back since 1997.

A similar season this year would have moved him past Ahman Green as Nebraska's No. 2 all-time rusher behind 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier. As it is, Burkhead is sixth with 3,059 yards.

Ameer Abdullah has exceeded expectations as Burkhead's replacement, with five 100-yard games. Burkhead said he's been impressed with how the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Abdullah has been able to run effectively inside the tackles.

``He's done a tremendous job all around,'' Burkhead said. ``Not just running the ball but pass blocking, catching passes out of the backfield, just everything.''

Burkhead said he won't require surgery on his left knee and that it will fully heal in time.

``It's just that right now it's tough because we're in the middle of the season,'' he said. ``We don't really have that time.''

Because Burkhead has aggravated the injury twice, against Ohio State and Northwestern, Pelini doesn't want the running back to play again until he's 100 percent.

``When he's right, when he feels like he's ready to go, believe me, I'll be the first one to stand on the table and say, `Let's go, let's go,' `` Pelini said. ``That has to come from him. He knows his body. We have the best medical staff going, so when the time is right, then they'll tell me.''

Even with Burkhead out most of the season, the Huskers are first in the Big Ten and seventh nationally with 269 yards rushing a game. The Huskers have gone over 200 yards in nine of their 10 games and over 300 on three occasions.

Quarterback Taylor Martinez said there hasn't been a drop-off without Burkhead, but the Huskers do miss his leadership on the field.

``When he's on the field, all the fans are excited and our team is excited he's out there,'' Martinez said.

Burkhead said he's gained a new perspective from watching from the sidelines.

``Definitely makes you appreciate the game. No question about it,'' he said. ``You always have love and passion for the game. When you're not out there getting a taste of it, it definitely makes you just have a new outlook on it. When you get back out there you want to hit it full stride.''

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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.