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Texans coach Kubiak concerned as injuries mount

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Texans coach Kubiak concerned as injuries mount

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans won another thriller, but coach Gary Kubiak has growing concerns about the health of his team.

The Texans (10-1) rallied late to force overtime for the second straight game and beat Detroit 34-31 on Thanksgiving. Kubiak was back at Reliant Stadium early Friday morning, mulling over a sobering list of injuries to key players.

Linebackers Brooks Reed (groin) and Bradie James (hamstring), and starting right tackle Derek Newton (right knee) underwent MRI exams on Friday after getting hurt against the Lions. Tight end Garrett Graham hurt his left shoulder in the game, and Houston was already playing without starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph (hamstring), nose tackle Shaun Cody (back), linebacker Tim Dobbins (left shoulder) and backup running back Ben Tate (hamstring).

``We've got some damage this morning, no doubt about that,'' Kubiak said Friday, ``but it is a huge win.''

The Texans next play at Tennessee (4-6) on Dec. 2. Kubiak is giving his players the weekend off after a draining five days in which they played nearly 2 1/2 games.

On Sunday, Houston came back from 14 points down to beat Jacksonville 43-37 late in overtime, then rallied from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Lions after just two days of light practice. The Texans gritted out a 13-6 win in rainy Chicago the previous week.

``I'm amazed at the players and the way they held up,'' Kubiak said. ``During that short period of time, to play that much football and in that competitive environment and the way we had to win the last week together, and even if you throw Chicago in there, it's been very taxing on the team.

``I just said that I think the biggest thing is, after what we've been through physically, winning was so important.''

Kubiak says he'd know more about the latest injuries on Monday.

Newton won the starting job at right tackle in training camp and has started every game. Ryan Harris, signed just before the season began, replaced Newton Thursday.

The linebacking corps, meanwhile, is suddenly the Texans' most depleted unit. Brian Cushing was already gone for the season with a torn left knee ligament. Dobbins stepped into Cushing's spot in the starting lineup, but he hurt his left shoulder in the Chicago game.

Reed, who has 2 1/2 sacks and 15 solo tackles this season, pulled up chasing Joique Bell on Thursday, and James left in the fourth quarter after assisting on a tackle of Mikel Leshoure.

Luckily for Kubiak, Darryl Sharpton is back after missing a year with a torn right quadriceps. Sharpton saw his first action since Oct. 30, 2011 against Jacksonville and then started in Detroit. The injuries also create more opportunity for first-round pick Whitney Mercilus, who had four solo tackles and two for loss on Thursday.

``We are in a mode of survival right there at that position until we get some guys healthy,'' Kubiak said.

Aside from the injuries, Kubiak is starting to have concerns about the defense, which was ranked fourth overall and seventh against the pass coming into the Lions game.

But Houston has given up 791 yards passing and six touchdown passes in the last two games, and Kubiak says the mounting injuries are becoming a factor.

``We have not played to our standard the last two weeks defensively,'' Kubiak said. ``Obviously, if we lined up today, we're missing three of our four starting linebackers,'' Kubiak said. ``I mean, that's a concern. Then, when your top corner sits down. There are some things there to say, `OK, we can be better if we can get healthy here.' But still, we've got to look at it and say, `That's not us.'''

The Texans escaped Detroit with a win when Shayne Graham kicked a 32-yard field goal with 2:21 left in overtime. Graham is 20 for 25 this season, but he missed a 51-yarder that would've given Houston the victory earlier in the extra period. He also badly hooked a 47-yarder at the end of regulation against Jacksonville.

Kubiak is also concerned that Graham's kickoffs are coming up short.

``He's just inconsistent hitting the ball and it's something we've been working on,'' Kubiak said. ``It is a concern because field position is so huge in the game. He has kicked pretty well for us. We expect him to make that kick at the end of the game. I know it's a 50-yarder, but that's our business, that's what he's here to do.''

Graham won the job when rookie Randy Bullock tore a groin muscle in training camp. Kubiak says he still has confidence in Graham, despite the recent misses.

``He's kicked in a lot of big games. He's made a lot of big kicks,'' Kubiak said. ``The situation with our kickoffs is something we're concerned about, but we have a lot of other issues with our team right now. So it's hard to go solve that with some of the other things we've got going on.''

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

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USA TODAY Sports

Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”

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Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

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The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

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