Kelly doesn't know if hoax affected Teo's play


Kelly doesn't know if hoax affected Teo's play

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o didn't show any signs of being affected by the girlfriend hoax leading up to the BCS title game, but his play indicates it may have taken a toll, coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday.

``Hindsight is 20-20. I didn't think going into the game he was affected by it. But he didn't play his best. Alabama had something to do with that, clearly. But I really don't know,'' Kelly said.

``It's a lot to weigh on the shoulders of somebody. I think we can make the leap that maybe it did. But I think Manti would know for sure.''

Te'o said in an interview with ESPN after the news of the hoax broke that it did not affect his performance in the title game blowout.

Kelly spoke to reporters Tuesday by conference call for the first time since the Irish were beaten 42-14 by Alabama in the BCS title game on Jan. 7. He said his interview the Philadelphia Eagles was mainly to get more information about coaching in the NFL, and his heart remains in college football. He's also working on a contract extension with Notre Dame.

Kelly said so far everything that has come out about the girlfriend hoax matches up with what Te'o told him when he called him on Dec. 26. Kelly contacted athletic director Jack Swarbrick immediately after Te'o told him what happened.

``Obviously, we all heard the story. It just sounded so crazy that the first thing I wanted to make sure we did was get the right people on top of this immediately,'' he said. ``That was my first thought, to find out `What the heck is going on here.'''

Te'o had described the girlfriend, who supposedly died of leukemia last fall, the love of his life. But Te'o got a call from the person posing as the girlfriend on Dec. 6, to say she hadn't died. He continued to talk about her when questioned at the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Dec. 8. He told Kelly about the situation 18 days later.

Te'o told ESPN on Jan. 18 that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a 22-year-old acquaintance who lives in California, contacted him Jan. 16 and confessed to the prank.

Kelly said he wasn't sure what to think initially. Despite all that's happened, Kelly said he will still remember Te'o as one of the best teammates and leaders he's been around in 22 years of coaching.

``He showed the way how to be a great teammate. His work ethic, his commitment, all of those things,'' he said. ``He was special to coach and he did all the things that I think great players have to do on a day-to-day basis.''

Kelly described his interview with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was more ``intrigue than it was interest,'' saying the Eagles contacted Swarbrick within a day of Andy Reid being fired on Dec. 31.

``My head said: `Let's be more informed as it relates to the NFL. But my heart is in college football and with Notre Dame,'' Kelly said.

He said he wanted to learn about the day-to-day operation of NFL teams to see if it was something that might interest him.

``I wanted to answer those because we're going to win again next year and there's probably going to be teams interested in me coaching in the NFL and I want to be able to tell them definitively that I want to coach college,'' he said.

Kelly, who agreed he wouldn't talk to the Eagles until after the title game, said it wasn't a problem keeping the interview from being a distraction.

``Because I wasn't even certain I was going to interview,'' he said. ``It really wasn't even on my radar.''

Kelly said he's been telling recruits that he was flattered by the attention from the NFL, but that he's committed to Notre Dame.

Kelly also said he feels good about negotiations under way with Swarbrick about a contract extension, saying negotiations began on Dec. 6.

``We both want the same thing, the long-term consistency of the program,'' Kelly said.

Kelly originally signed a five-year contract three years ago at a reported $2.5 million a year and was given a two-year extension a year ago.

Kelly said despite losing by 28 to Alabama, he's still excited about the Notre Dame football program. He said Irish players understand how much more they need to improve.

``Our workouts now in the offseason will be focused on getting back to that game,'' he said. ``As I told our team, we have some work to do. No question. But we know where we want to go.

``We know that we're capable of getting back to the national championship game, and we started that journey two weeks ago.''

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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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