TJ Jones follows father's footsteps to title game


TJ Jones follows father's footsteps to title game

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) TJ Jones is the second player from his family to play for a national championship with Notre Dame.

He wishes the other one was still here to share the experience with him, as he and the top-ranked Fighting Irish prepare to play No. 2 Alabama for the BCS championship on Monday night in Miami.

Jones' father, Andre, was a defensive end on the last Fighting Irish team to win the national title in 1988. He died in June 2011 of a brain aneurysm. He was 42.

``I don't know if it's helped the healing process. There's a lot of things I wish I could have talked about (with him) to kind of figure out how to deal with things,'' TJ Jones said Friday. ``The mindset to take in certain situations. It's definitely helped me reminisce a lot about what we used to talk about and the times we used to have. But as far as healing, that's only time I guess.''

Andre Jones played for coach Lou Holtz from 1987-91. He played in 42 games and started four in `88, then a total of 18 in 1989 and `90.

He had a short professional football career. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and spent time with the Detroit Lions and in the Canadian Football League. Later, Jones was an executive for a sports management company in Atlanta. He left behind a wife, Michelle, and five children.

TJ, a junior receiver who is second on the team in catches and yards receiving, said his father wasn't one to display mementos of his football career.

``He had his Notre Dame stuff in his closet and in his bathroom,'' he said. ``He used to wear his rings around all the time. But he was more into art, so we had delicate painting on the walls and artsy stuff, rather than Notre Dame stuff.''

TJ and his father used to have long phone conversations. His father was his biggest fan and toughest critic. Not being able to share some of the highlights of this season with him have been especially tough for TJ.

``The game-winning catch against Stanford was definitely one of them,'' TJ said. ``We always talked about making a game-winning catch, having a game-winning catch in any game is what you grow up practicing, whether it's in the street or flag football.

``And definitely after we won the USC game knowing we were going to the national championship. That's something I wish I could have called him and just talked for hours about what we were going to do. How crazy it was that we were both going to be in the national championship. Really just celebrate those moments with him.''

He misses his father, for sure, but he said Andre Jones isn't totally gone.

``I feel he's here with me every day,'' TJ said. ``I feel he's watching over me. He's watching over Notre Dame and my family as well. I never feel lost. I don't feel like there's a void in my life. I know I miss him and I can't talk to him, but at the same time I don't have an empty feeling that he's gone.''

Some of his father's old teammates, Ricky Watters, Reggie Brooks, Pat Terrell and Rocket Ismail, TJ's godfather, have been sure to keep in touch with Jones

``All those guys who I have normally talked to, they've reached out just to kind of say, `What's up?' - give me a little advice about how to handle this game,'' he said.

Andre Jones taught his son many lessons, but TJ said what sticks with him most is to appreciate the gifts life gives you.

``Never to get too full of yourself,'' he said. ``To always give praise to the lord for the blessing you've been given. Because as soon as you've given them, they can be taken away. And you never know what tomorrow will bring. When you live in the present give praise and be thankful for what you have.''


WHAT'S IN A NAME? Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart shared a secret to the defense.

The Crimson Tide is known as a 3-4 team with three down linemen and big, versatile linebackers, but that label is partly about recruiting the type of players Alabama wants. Coach Nick Saban has said `Bama only lines up with a three-man front about 20 percent of the time.

So why stick with the label?

``We're not in 3-4 as much as people think, but that's what we recruit to,'' Smart said. ``We do that for a lot of reasons: It gives you ability to recruit more linebackers, more skilled players. We have to line up in both. In today's day and age, offenses force you to.''

He said it also allows the Tide to have outside linebackers big enough to grow into defensive linemen, where they often line up.

``It's more about that, and we still think it's the best defense to be in for two-back offenses,'' Smart said.

He pointed to NFL teams like the Texans, the Ravens and the Patriots who are 3-4 teams that play both.

Alabama has six linebackers as starters or second-teamers that are listed as 243-plus pounds, including the 6-foot-3, 262-pound Xzavier Dickson.

Two similarly huge linebackers - Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw - were among the NFL's top 35 draft picks last year.


GOOD SEATS: Yes, some tickets are still available to the Notre Dame-Alabama matchup that will decide the national championship on Monday night.

Available to the deep-pocketed, that is.

As of Friday afternoon, about 3,000 tickets to the BCS title game were available for purchase on the online site StubHub. None were cheaper than $899.

And that's in the upper deck of Sun Life Stadium - in the 30th row of the upper deck, to be precise. Nothing in the lower bowl was available for less than $1,000 per seat.

Want four seats, together, in the corner of the lower bowl? They can be yours for the low, low price of $40,000 (plus $15 processing, of course). And according to some South Florida tourism experts, more than 50,000 Notre Dame and Alabama fans will be in the South Florida area this weekend - just for the experience of being near the game, and with no chance of getting tickets.

``They've been traveling with us all year,'' Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin said. ``It's crazy to see.''


ANOTHER LONG SEASON: Say this much for Chuck Martin: When someone hires the Notre Dame offensive coordinator for a season, he tends to make that season last as long as possible.

When Martin was coaching at Division II's Grand Valley State - first as an assistant, then the head coach - he was part of six trips to the national title game in nine years, winning the crown in four of those seasons.

And now in his third season at Notre Dame, Martin is again coaching in the final game: The top-ranked Fighting Irish play No. 2 Alabama for the BCS national title on Monday night.

``It doesn't feel any different,'' Martin said. ``I know everybody says, `Well, it's a bigger stage,' and it's not. It's a football game and it's a national championship game, and fortunately for me it's seven times in 12 years we've gotten to go try to win it all. It's been a good time - more fun than we should be allowed to have, actually.''

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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