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UNC TB Bernard entering NFL draft as sophomore

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UNC TB Bernard entering NFL draft as sophomore

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina tailback Gio Bernard is eager to make his early jump to the NFL.

The sophomore announced Friday he would enter next spring's draft after a big year in which he ranked among the nation's top rushers and punt returners to earn All-America honors.

``I didn't want to base my projections or where I was (in mock drafts),'' Bernard said during a news conference. ``I think it was moreso that I wanted to move on to the next step in life and fulfill a dream.''

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound tailback led the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing, scoring, all-purpose yards and punt-return average. He was a first-team all-ACC selection the past two years, and was a third-team All-American by The Associated Press earlier this week.

A native of Boca Raton, Fla., Bernard is draft-eligible because he has been out of high school for three seasons. He missed the 2010 season with a knee injury and also missed almost three full games this year with another knee injury, but said fear of another injury wasn't a major factor in his decision.

``It didn't really weigh that much,'' Bernard said. ``As a football player, you take risks. Playing the game is a risk in itself. Those things happen. You don't really have control of those things. ... Those are things that you can't really think about it. You just have to go into it with an open mind and just play the game.''

Bernard said he planned to come back to earn his degree in spring 2014.

Bernard entered the season with questions about how he would fit in new coach Larry Fedora's spread offense. But he ran for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns, ranked 11th nationally by averaging 122.8 yards per game and led the country by averaging 16.4 yards per punt return.

He scored a league-best 19 touchdowns, including two on punt returns. That included a 74-yard return for the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left to beat North Carolina State 43-35 in October, snapping a five-year losing streak in the rivalry.

``We've always prided ourselves on being balanced,'' Fedora said. ``I just knew that I was excited about the opportunity of having a player of his caliber. At the time, I really didn't know how good Gio was because I hadn't seen him on film.

``I don't like to make decisions on guys when they're in shorts. But in the first two days of spring ball, we were in shorts and I knew right then how special he was and what he was going to be in the offense.''

Bernard tore his right anterior cruciate ligament on his third day of preseason practice in 2010, but returned a year later to run for a UNC freshman record 1,253 yards while becoming the first Tar Heel to run for more than 1,000 yards since 1997.

Bernard leaves UNC with 2,481 yards rushing in two seasons, good for 10th in the school record book.

``I don't want to say it's not about money because it's a business and he's going to be making a living and that plays a part in it,'' Fedora said. ``But I think for him, it's more about fulfilling a dream. ... I dreamed about it as a kid. I didn't go very far, but he has this opportunity and I'm ready to live through him in this opportunity.''

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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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