Panthers promote Shula to offensive coordinator

Panthers promote Shula to offensive coordinator

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) After 14 years Mike Shula is getting another chance to run an NFL offense.

The Panthers named Shula as their new offensive coordinator Friday and promoted two other assistant coaches.

Richard Rodgers was named Carolina's special teams coordinator after taking over that role on an interim basis last season and Ricky Proehl was promoted as the Panthers new wide receivers coach after working as an assistant in 2012.

Shula served as the team's quarterbacks coach the last two seasons.

The Panthers chose to hire from within after interviewing candidates from outside the organization.

``After going through the interview process we feel that Mike's familiarity with our offense and personnel lends itself to the offensive coordinator position,'' coach Ron Rivera said. ``He has the experience and knowledge to step in and provide continuity in an area that has been productive over the past two years.''

Shula takes over for Rob Chudzinski, who left to become the Cleveland Browns' head coach.

Shula said he was anxious to get another shot at being an offensive coordinator.

The last time didn't work out so well.

He spent four seasons (1996-99) as the offensive coordinator at Tampa Bay, but the Bucs finished 29th in total offense, 27th in points scored and last in the league in passing, according to STATS INC. They never finished better than 22nd in total offense in any of those four seasons.

However, this time around he has the versatile Cam Newton running the offense.

``I am excited about working with our offense in a more expanded role as offensive coordinator,'' said Shula, the son of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula. ``There are a number of pieces in place for a good offense and our goal is to build on the momentum we had at the end of last season. ``

Shula has helped with the development of Newton, who was named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 and who improved statistically in his second season. The Panthers have been ranked seventh and 12th in total offense the past two years.

Shula has 20 years of NFL coaching experience.

In addition to coaching with the Panthers, Bucs, and Jaguars, Shula was also the tight ends coach for the Chicago Bears. He was also served as head coach at Alabama.

Rodgers joined the Panthers last season as assistant special teams coach after 23 seasons of college coaching and was elevated to interim special teams coach nine weeks into the season when Brian Murphy was fired by Rivera. Under Rodgers the Panthers special teams climbed in several NFL rankings over the final seven games, including kickoff coverage, where Carolina finished 11th in the league.

``Richard did a great job of stepping in last season and we want to build upon the foundation that he established in the second half of last season,'' Rivera said.

Proehl spent the last two years as assistant wide receivers coach under Fred Graves, who was fired earlier this offseason.

He also played with the Panthers for three seasons and caught 669 passes for 8,878 yards during his 17-year career.

``Ricky brings a great technical understanding of the wide receiver position and has good insight on our personnel at the position,'' Rivera said. ``I have been very impressed with his work over the past two seasons.''

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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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