Redskins

Polamalu out, Woodley doubtful for Steelers

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Polamalu out, Woodley doubtful for Steelers

PITTSBURGH (AP) Troy Polamalu's comeback turned out to be just a cameo, and there's no telling when the Pittsburgh Steelers safety will be back on the field.

One thing's for certain, it won't be on Thursday when the Steelers (2-2) travel to reeling Tennessee (1-4).

Coach Mike Tomlin ruled Polamalu out of the lineup this week after the All-Pro aggravated his strained right calf in the first quarter of a 16-14 win over Philadelphia on Sunday.

Polamalu was in pass coverage when he pulled up at the end of the play and hobbled to the sideline. He spent the rest of the half sitting on the bench with his calf iced and watched the second half in sweats.

Tomlin pointed to the quick turnaround between games and the nature of Polamalu's injury as the reasons behind the decision. Polamalu missed two games last month after originally straining the calf in a loss to Denver in the season opener.

The coach is a little more optimistic that linebacker LaMarr Woodley can play despite a strained right hamstring. Woodley sat out six games and missed parts of two others with a similar injury last year but Tomlin believes this time it isn't quite as serious.

Still, with less than 100 hours to get ready, Woodley looks doubtful.

``Although there's more optimism regarding where he is ... we're at the early portion of the season and we've got to be smart with how we deal with that,'' Tomlin said.

The news isn't all bad, however, for Pittsburgh's defense. Linebacker James Harrison didn't miss a snap in his first game of the season and other than some minor swelling in his left knee on Monday morning, appeared just fine. He certainly looked just fine while recording two tackles and hurrying Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick three times.

``I think that players of his caliber have inspired others,'' Tomlin said. ``You don't deny that even if it's somewhat intangible.''

There was nothing intangible, however, about the effect Harrison's presence had on inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Freed up a bit by the attention the Eagles paid to Harrison, Timmons put together his finest performance of the season, recording a team-high nine tackles, a forced fumble and a pair of quarterback hits.

Timmons acknowledged the defense was playing with an ``edge'' it lacked at times earlier in the season.

``Everybody was running to the ball and having fun out there,'' he said.

The Steelers need the fun to continue in Tennessee, though Pittsburgh has hardly been overwhelming on the road, dropping four of its last five dating back to last season.

The problem hasn't been the offense, but the defense. The Steelers succumbed in the second half in road losses to Denver and Oakland, allowing the Broncos and Raiders to score on a seven of a possible eight possessions.

Big plays have been an issue too. The Broncos kickstarted a comeback in the opener thanks to a 71-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas and the Raiders dug themselves out of an early hole behind a 64-yard touchdown run from Darren McFadden.

``When you give up explosion plays, it decreases the chances of winning,'' Tomlin said.

The Steelers have made a habit of playing to the competition away from Heinz Field. They struggled to beat woeful Cleveland, Kansas City and Indianapolis on the road last season and made the anemic Raiders look potent in a 34-31 loss two weeks ago.

The Titans are on pace for a historically bad season defensively, but the Steelers remain wary.

``We just need to respect the fact that we have yet to (win on the road) this year and we have an opportunity on Thursday night,'' Tomlin said.

One that will come with another patchwork defense. The Steelers entered Sunday perfectly healthy for the first time this season. It lasted all of a quarter before Polamalu and Woodley were on the sideline.

Though Tomlin will give Ryan Mundy the first crack at filling in for Polamalu, he allowed there's a chance veteran Will Allen could see an uptick in playing time. Mundy drew mixed results over the season's first month and showed a penchant for making illegal hits. He knocked out Oakland's Darius Heyward-Bey with a helmet-to-helmet hit two weeks ago and was flagged 15 yards on Sunday for smacking into Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin after a short completion.

The Eagles eventually turned the flag into a touchdown that drew them within 10-7. The flag was one of nine thrown against the Steelers on Sunday and Pittsburgh has already committed 37 penalties for 346 yards this season, uncharacteristically high number for a team that likes to consider itself one of the more disciplined in the league.

``Those are self-inflicted wounds,'' Tomlin said. ``We won't tolerate that. We cannot tolerate that. It's my job to get them fixed.''

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

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USA TODAY Sports

In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."

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How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Things did not look good for the Capitals after two games.

Facing a 0-2 series hole after losing both games in Washington, it looked like it could be an early summer. The Caps were going to be the first team to ever lose a series in the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

HOW DID THE CAPS WIN THEIR SERIES AGAINST COLUMBUS? FIND OUT HERE

But the Caps rallied.

Washington won the next four games and turned what looked like it would be another postseason disaster into a postseason triumph.

Only once in franchise history had the Caps rallied from a 0-2 deficit and only once had the Caps won four straight games to win a series. They managed both against the Blue Jackets.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally to a first-round victory over Columbus.