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McClain adjusts to limited role with Raiders

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McClain adjusts to limited role with Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Rolando McClain arrived in Oakland two years ago expected to be the impact middle linebacker who could transform a Raiders defense that had struggled for years to stop the run.

Less than halfway through his third season with the Raiders, McClain has been relegated to spot duty. McClain is now only being used in base defensive packages, playing a season-low 17 defensive plays last week in Atlanta.

While McClain figures to get more time Sunday against the more run-oriented Jacksonville Jaguars, he will remain a part-time player for the time being.

``It makes my job easy, just focus on base whenever that is and go from there,'' McClain said Thursday. ``You understand the situation, you understand the transition whatever that may be. You're not naive to the fact of what's going on. But at the same time you're still a team player. If coach thinks that's the best thing for the defense then by all means do it. I can focus on the base downs and that's what I put my energy toward.''

A heralded college star at Alabama who helped the Crimson Tide win a national championship, McClain came to Oakland as the eighth overall pick in 2010.

But he has failed to produce, recording just 5 1/2 sacks, one interception, no forced fumbles and no fumble recoveries in 35 career games.

McClain averaged about 68 defensive snaps a game the first four weeks, staying on the field in almost all of Oakland's alignments. But the coaches reassessed things during the bye week and decided to take McClain out of the nickel package.

That led him to play only 17 of 55 defensive snaps last week in a 23-20 loss at Atlanta.

``I think when we went back and looked and saw how many plays that Rolando was playing, it had a factor in his conditioning,'' coach Dennis Allen said. ``We felt like him not playing quite as many plays would help him to play better and be more effective, and I think it had that effect in this game.''

Allen said McClain had his most productive game on a per play basis this season in the limited time, with his biggest contribution coming when he stopped Jason Snelling for a 1-yard loss on third down from the 1 late in the third quarter.

``You make the plays that are there to make,'' McClain said. ``Every ball doesn't come into your area. Every run doesn't come your way. You're not able to make every tackle.''

With McClain set to make more than $4 million next year and a possible suspension for legal trouble off the field looming, he could be in his final season with the Raiders.

McClain was convicted in May in Decatur, Ala., of third-degree assault, menacing, reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm in the city limits and was sentenced to 180 days in jail. McClain is appealing the conviction to Morgan County Circuit Court and will have a jury trial, likely after the season. The NFL has not yet determined if McClain will be punished by the league.

The Raiders were forced into a five defensive back set much of last week against the Falcons, who often spread the field out with three wide receivers. That doesn't figure to be the case Sunday.

Jacksonville has a struggling second-year quarterback in Blaine Gabbert and an elite runner in Jones-Drew so it figures the Jaguars will stick with the run game and McClain will get more time.

The last time these two teams met, the Jaguars ran for 234 yards in a 38-31 victory that McClain missed with a foot injury.

``All I remember is them running the ball,'' McClain said. ``You have to take that personally. We have to go out and try to at least stop that run. If you don't do anything else, stop the run, let them know you can't do this two times in a row.''

The demotion of McClain led to significantly more playing time for rookie outside linebacker Miles Burris, who had been leaving the field in nickel situations the first four games.

It also meant that outside linebacker Philip Wheeler had to take on additional responsibility. Wheeler was given the ``green dot'' helmet, allowing him to hear the defensive calls from an assistant coach on the sideline, and made the calls on the field for the Raiders.

Wheeler said he made defensive calls in college but had never before done it in the pros.

``It makes me work harder,'' Wheeler said. ``It's forced me to get in the film room more, so I can make better calls and do what's right for the defense, and I'm up to the job.''

NOTES: CB Shawntae Spencer (sprained right foot) is off crutches for the first time since getting hurt in Week 2 in Miami but is not yet ready to practice. ... RB Taiwan Jones did not practice after banging his knee Wednesday. ... RT Khalif Barnes (groin) and TE Richard Gordon remain sidelined. ... LB Aaron Curry, who began the season on the physically unable to perform list because of injured knees, practiced for a second straight day. ... The Raiders have been granted a one-day extension from the league to sell enough tickets to avoid a local blackout of Sunday's game.

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Team USA reclaims women's hockey gold from Canada in instant Olympic classic

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Team USA reclaims women's hockey gold from Canada in instant Olympic classic

GANGNEUNG, South Korea  -- The Americans' gold medal drought in women's hockey -- finally -- is over.

Even though they needed the first shootout in an Olympic women's final to do it.

Twenty long years after taking gold when the sport debuted in 1998 at Nagano, the United States snapped Canada's streak of four straight Olympic golds Thursday with a 3-2 shootout victory.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored in the sixth round of the shootout to start the Americans piling over the boards, throwing gloves in the air before huddling and hugging on the ice.

Gigi Marvin and Amanda Kessel also scored in the shootout. Monique Lamoureux-Morando tied it up with a breakaway with 6:21 left in regulation.

Hilary Knight also had a goal.

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Maddie Rooney made 29 saves for the win against their archrival. The 20-year-old goalie stopped the last two Canadian shooters in the shootout in Brianne Jenner and then Meghan Agosta on her second attempt.

It was sweet redemption for the 10 Americans who watched the Canadians snatch gold from their hands in 2014 at Sochi after tying it up with 54.6 seconds left in regulation and winning 3-2 in overtime.

Not only did the Americans snap the Canadians' stranglehold on Olympic gold, they ended a skid of five straight against their rival coming into this game, including a 2-1 loss to wrap up pool play a week ago.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Haley Irwin each scored goals for Canada. Agosta and Melodie Daoust scored in the shootout.

The Americans had been dominating in non-Olympic years, winning the last four and eight of the last 10 world championships, including a 3-2 overtime victory over Canada last spring.

Their domination on the world stage only made the lack of gold at the Olympics all the more noticeable, and Canada has been in their way since losing the inaugural gold in Nagano. Canada had won 24 straight Olympic games to go along with four consecutive gold medals. It's a streak of success in a women's team sport second only to the United States' basketball team's current streak of six straight gold.

This was the eighth time these North American rivals met in the Olympics and the fifth with gold on the line. None of the previous seven were decided by more than two goals.

U.S. coach Robb Stauber went with the 20-year-old Rooney in net for the biggest game of her career, but she was the goalie for each of the three games the Americans beat Canada last fall during their pre-Olympic exhibition tour, including Four Nations Cup title in November.

Canada had Shannon Szabados, 31, in goal for her third Olympic gold medal game, and her teammates made her job very easy by keeping the puck in front of Rooney for most of the first period by dictating play. The Americans couldn't use their speed or get organized even with two power plays until Sarah Nurse went in the box for interference late in the period.

Knight gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead with 25.4 seconds left in the first, redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin through Szabados' pads giving the Americans a jolt of energy.

That lasted only 2 minutes into the second when Irwin tipped a pass from Blayre Turnbull over Rooney's left leg for Canada. When Morin lost the puck, Melodie Daoust grabbed it and passed to Meghan Agosta who hit Poulin for the wrister into the left side of the net at 6:55 for a 2-1 lead.

 

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

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Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

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