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Rookie Jones enjoys charmed life with Patriots

Rookie Jones enjoys charmed life with Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Before beginning his interview with the media on Friday, Chandler Jones had one question for reporters.

``Do I have anything on my face,'' New England's defensive end said with a grin while staring into a sea of cameras and microphones focused solely on him. ``I appreciate it, guys.''

The Patriots certainly are grateful for everything they're getting out of him, too.

Halfway through his first season, Jones leads all NFL rookies with six sacks and has bolstered a defensive line that now ranks among the league's best at stopping the run.

One year after finishing 17th in the NFL, yielding 117.1 yards rushing per game, New England (5-3) is tied with Pittsburgh for seventh this season, surrendering just 88.6 yards a contest.

Jones is a major reason why.

The 21st overall pick out of Syracuse leads the Patriots in sacks and has recorded 33 tackles, good enough for fourth on a defensive unit that is struggling to defend against the pass.

That's hardly all, though.

His three forced fumbles have New England atop the AFC in turnover ratio at plus-13, trailing only Chicago (16) and the New York Giants (14) in the NFL.

And his emergence couldn't have come at a better time, either, as the Patriots lost their top two pass rushers from a year ago to free agency. Defensive ends Andre Carter and Mark Anderson recorded 10 sacks apiece last season before signing with Oakland and Buffalo, respectively.

``I think, number one, your job as a defensive lineman is to help stop the run and he understands that. And we've made that clear in our room, from Day 1, that's going to be part of your role and your job,'' New England defensive line coach Patrick Graham said of Jones. ``He's done a good job doing that and I think he has room to improve.''

So does Jones.

During his first bye week as a professional player, Jones worked even more on his pass rushing and run-stopping techniques.

``From quarterbacks to kickers, self-scouting is huge,'' Jones said. ``You can only critique yourself. If you can critique yourself, then you're doing a good job. Self-scouting is very valuable.''

It may be even more crucial now as first-place New England opens the second half of its season Sunday at home against Buffalo (3-5). The Bills boast the No. 6 rushing attack in the league. Led by C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, the Bills are running for more than 140 yards a game, but were slowed the last time they played the Patriots, totaling just 98 on 27 carries in a 52-28 loss Sept. 30. Hampered by injuries earlier in the year, Spiller had just 33 yards that game.

Jones, however, knows what the speedster is capable of.

``C.J. Spiller is a great player. He's a good running back,'' he said. ``It's our job as a team to contain him, but he's a great player.''

Buffalo coach Chan Gailey attributed the Patriots' stingy running defense to their physical play up front.

``They are hard to run (against) in between the tackles the way those inside guys play and the way those linebackers play. It makes it hard,'' Gailey said. ``You get those defensive ends coming off the edge with good pass rush and playing the run as well as they have. They make it hard overall to run the football.''

Jones remembers his first meeting with the Bills. In fact, Sunday will be the first time in his entire football career that he will play a team for the second time in one season.

He can hardly wait.

``That's pretty exciting,'' Jones said. ``Actually, when you play a team twice, I feel like, I have personal notes and I'll look over them again, definitely.''

While he still has eight regular-season games remaining in his rookie season, Jones is well aware of what is at stake this week.

``This is another conference game,'' he said. ``It's a must-win game and we've got to go out there and execute.''

Just like he has his first eight games.

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NOTES: Patriots RB Brandon Bolden has been suspended by the NFL for four games without pay for violating its policy on performance-enhancing substances. The league's announcement Friday did not specify the substance. The Patriots had no immediate reaction. ... The Patriots and the New England Revolution of MLS will dedicate an empty seat at Gillette Stadium ``to honor servicemen and servicewomen who have been listed as prisoners of war or missing in action.'' ... Buffalo Bills DE Chris Kelsay (neck) is questionable for Sunday. ``It's not major, but I don't know if he can get ready for this week,'' Gailey said. ``We have to wait and see how the treatment goes.''

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Panthers honor Florida shooting victims before game against Capitals

Panthers honor Florida shooting victims before game against Capitals

Prior to their matchup against the Capitals, the Panthers honored the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Thursday night's game was the Panthers' first game on home ice since the shooting last week. BB&T Center, the home of the Panthers, is located about 20 minutes south of Parkland.

Both teams wore the school’s hat during warmups, and the Panthers will wear the school’s logo on their helmets and “MSD” patches on their jerseys for the rest of the season.

There was a was a moment of silence and ceremony prior to the game, during which the video board showed the pictures and names of all 17 victims.

Following the video Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo, who lives in Parkland, took the ice to give his own moving tribute. 

"It's time for us, as a community, to take action. Enough is enough." Luongo commended the school's teachers and said of the students, "You guys are an inspiration for all of us. You guys are giving us hope for the future." 

"When I'm done playing hockey, I want to spend the rest of my life in Parkland," Luongo said. "I love that city."

In addition to the ceremony and uniform tributes, the Panthers hosted a blood drive beginning at today noon and lasting through the second intermission of the game in an effort to replenish local blood banks.

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5 things to know about new Wizards player Ramon Sessions

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5 things to know about new Wizards player Ramon Sessions

The Washington Wizards signed point guard Ramon Sessions to a 10-day free agent contract on Thursday. Here are five things to know about the newest Wizards player...

**Sessions has played for Washington before. He was acquired by the Wizards at the trade deadline in 2015 and played out the 2014-15 season, appearing in 28 regular season games and 10 more in the playoffs. Sessions then spent the whole 2015-16 season with the team before leaving the following summer to sign a free agent deal with the Charlotte Hornets. In 1 1/2 seasons with the Wizards, Sessions averaged 9.2 points, 3.0 assists and 2.5 rebounds. He shot 46 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from three.

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**Sessions played one season for the Hornets and spent part of this year with the New York Knicks. The Knicks waived Sessions on Jan. 13. Over the past two seasons in Charlotte and New York, Sessions has averaged 5.7 points, 2.5 assists and 1.4 rebounds while shooting 37 percent.

**This is Sessions' 11th NBA season. In addition to the Wizards, Hornets and Knicks, he has spent time with the Bucks, Cavs, Lakers and Kings. He began his career in Milwaukee after getting selected in the second round of the 2007 draft.

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**Sessions went to the University of Nevada from 2004 through 2007 and left an impressive legacy as one of the best players in the program's history. The school's practice facility is, in fact, named after Sessions. It is called the 'Ramon Sessions Basketball Performance Center' and Sessions donated $1 million towards construction costs.

**Sessions overlapped with former Wizards player JaVale McGee at Nevada. Sessions was in his final season as a junior when McGee was a freshman. The Wolfpack were quite good that year. They peaked at No. 10 in the nation, the highest ranking in school history, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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