Packers may make lineup change at center

Packers may make lineup change at center

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Jeff Saturday has one Super Bowl ring and was looking forward to having a chance to play for another with the Green Bay Packers getting ready to return to the playoffs.

His role in helping the NFC North champions try to make a deep run in the postseason has changed before the playoffs even started.

Coach Mike McCarthy has decided to take Saturday, a 14-year veteran in his first season with the Packers, out of the starting lineup at center and replace him with Evan Dietrich-Smith with two games left in the regular season. Green Bay (10-4) hosts the Tennessee Titans (5-9) on Sunday.

``We will probably go with Evan Dietrich-Smith to start the game,'' McCarthy said Friday.

Although Saturday has been coping with neck and shoulder injuries and didn't get on the practice field this week until the team held a short workout Friday, McCarthy indicated the late-season change isn't due to medical reasons. Saturday is probable for the game.

``Obviously as a player, you want to play,'' Saturday said. ``But I support Evan, and I know he's a great player. He'll get the job done and do what he needs to do to play well and get us a win.''

Saturday doesn't believe his recent health issues are a factor in the potential shake-up.

``I don't think so,'' he said. ``I haven't been able to go this week, but when you look at it, I think Evan has worked hard, played good. Give him a chance to go see what he can do at center and see how he plays. I should be ready to go (Sunday), so I don't think that really has any kind of factor of what's happening.''

Dietrich-Smith, 26, a third-year player, is 11 years younger than Saturday and has started only seven games as a pro. This would be Dietrich-Smith's first NFL start at center.

Conversely, Saturday has logged 220 starts (including the playoffs) and is a five-time Pro Bowler, most of his work coming at center with the Indianapolis Colts when Peyton Manning was the quarterback.

``It's obviously an honor,'' Dietrich-Smith said. ``I've got a lot of respect for Jeff. I'm just going out there to help the team win as best I can, and this is the move they want to make. I'm just going to do my job.''

Dietrich-Smith recently started four straight games for the Packers at left guard after they lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga to a season-ending hip injury and filled the void by moving left guard T.J. Lang outside. Lang suffered an ankle injury Dec. 2, missed the next game and was replaced at right tackle by undrafted rookie Don Barclay.

When Lang returned for Green Bay's division-clinching win at Chicago last Sunday, he was back at left guard, Barclay stayed at right tackle and Dietrich-Smith was back on the bench.

McCarthy said center is the best position for the versatile Dietrich-Smith, an undrafted free agent out of Idaho State in 2009. He started 44 games playing four different positions in college but never at center.

``Honestly, I think it's still going to be a little bit of learning out there on the fly with the guys and getting some chemistry. I think that's the biggest part,'' Dietrich-Smith said. ``Comfort-level-wise, yeah, center's somewhere that I feel really comfortable at. But you still in the NFL, the chemistry you've got with the five guys up front, that's a big thing, and I think we've got to develop it out there Sunday.''

What Dietrich-Smith has going for him in getting the supposed starting nod at center is the support of Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay's quarterback made favorable comments about Dietrich-Smith earlier in the season, referring to him as the team's center of the future.

``I always take appreciation for him backing me so much, and I've always tried to take advantage of my opportunities,'' Dietrich-Smith said. ``For him to go out there and say he's got a lot of faith in me means a lot to me.''

Saturday said it was ``disappointing and tough.''

``I'm here to play football,'' he said. ``I told coach, I came here to win a Super Bowl. Winning the NFC North is great, but that wasn't why I was here. I looked for more of the postseason. It's disappointing from that side. If coach McCarthy thinks that gives us the best chance to win and go on and do things in the postseason, then that's what it is.''

Saturday is under contract for two years, but referred to himself as a ``stopgap.''

``You're 37 years old. I've been around this thing long enough to know that it's not a long future. I think if (Dietrich-Smith) plays well I wouldn't think they'd go back and make another change,'' he said.

NOTES: The Packers won't have veteran S Charles Woodson and WR Jordy Nelson for another game Sunday. Both players were ruled out Friday. Woodson, who practiced on a limited basis this week, hasn't played the last two months because of a broken collarbone. Nelson, who has been bothered by a hamstring injury, will miss a third straight game. Woodson spoke after practice Friday and said he isn't sure whether he will have a chance to play in the regular-season finale Dec. 30 at Minnesota to get him some game action before the playoffs. ``I don't feel like I have to play in it, but it'd be great to just get out there and play football,'' Woodson said. DE C.J. Wilson (knee), RB James Starks (knee) and TE Tom Crabtree (hamstring) also are out.

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Wizards vs. Pacers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Pacers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner, Bojan Bogdanovic and the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:


Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Season series on the line

The Wizards and Pacers square off for the third and final time this season on Saturday night and the game will represent the tiebreaker for the season series. The Wizards beat the Pacers in their first meeting on Feb. 5 and Indiana then got even on March 4. The first game did not feature Victor Oladipo. John Wall didn't play in either of them.

Whichever team wins on Saturday night will own the playoff tiebreaker, meaning that team will get the better seed in the even they finish with the same regular season record. Right now only one game separates the teams, so that could definitely come into play. With a win over the Pacers, the Wizards could also move into third place in the East. They would tie the Pacers by record and own the head-to-head series. The one variable there is the Cavs play the Bulls on Saturday. If they win and the Pacers lose, the Cavs will be in third.


Wizards have been struggling

The Wizards won their last game on the road against the Celtics, but have lost five of their last eight overall. They remain in good shape in the big picture, but could use some positive momentum. A win over the Pacers would certainly give them that with three off days awaiting on the other end before they head out to San Antonio to face the Spurs.

Defense has been the problem. During this eight-game stretch, they have allowed the second-most points in the paint per game (53.8), the ninth-most points per game (111.0) overall and the fourth-highest opponents shooting percentage (49.3). 


Pacers are tough

The Pacers may be missing two of their best big men on Saturday as Domantas Sabonis has been ruled out and Myles Turner is questionable. Both are nursing sprained left ankles. That bodes well for the Wizards' defense in the paint, but Indiana still has plenty of firepower.

Oladipo is having a terrific season with averages of 23.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game. There's also Bojan Bogdanovic, a former Wizards player who is averaging 14.0 points and shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from three this year. Bogdanovic has scored 20 points or more in each of his games against the Wizards this season. The Pacers as a team have won six of their last eight.


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No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

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No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Senior guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County pulled off the most shocking upset in NCAA Tournament history, defeating Virginia 75-54 on Friday night to become the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed.

Virginia entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed after going 31-2 this season, including 20-1 in ACC competition.

But the Cavaliers couldn't get anything generated on offense and the nation's top-ranked defense couldn't contain American East Conference champions.

The 74 points were the most Virginia had allowed this year.

Lyles was the catalyst.

He diced up Virginia's defense in the second half, getting the hole easily on six different occasions and making easy layups. He also knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as UMBC built a 16-point lead.

Lyles finished with 23 of his points in the second half and Joe Sherburne finished with 14 points.

The game was tied at halftime, but the Retrievers came out confident and motivated in the second half and built a double-digit lead that Virginia could never erase.

Sherburne scored on an and-one drive and then knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key after a behind-the-back pass from KJ Maura. After Virginia made a foul shot, the shifty 5-foot-8, 140-pound Maura drove the lane for uncontested layup.

A Tony Bennett timeout couldn't stop the bleeding, as Lyles hit two more 3's and Sherburne hit one to extend UMBC's lead to 14 with 14:57 left in the game. Lyles was fouled on a 3-point shot and suddenly the Retrievers led by 16.

A corner 3-pointer and a layups off a fastbreak by Arkel Lamer gave UMBC its biggest lead at 67-48. From there, the party was on as chants of "UMBC" rang through the arena.

It was yet another early exit for the Cavaliers in a season that seemed to hold so much promise.


UMBC: Despite being undersized and unknown, they shocked the world and made history with an epic game.

Virginia: This isn't the first time Virginia has struggled as the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers trailed by five at halftime in 2014 to Coastal Carolina but went on to win 70-59.


UMBC: Will face No. 9 seed Kansas State on Sunday in the second round.