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FINLAY: A lifetime of football, helped shaped by Dad

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FINLAY: A lifetime of football, helped shaped by Dad

Never rooted for the Steelers in my life. Didn’t hate them, but as a kid, they just weren’t much on my radar. Their glory years predated me, and the mystique of the Black and Gold meant little to me in 1996.

Still, I made very clear to my dad we were rooting for the Steelers. It made sense, of course, to root for Pittsburgh as the only other option was the Cowboys. At that age, growing up in D.C., there was simply no way I could root for Dallas. 

For me as a teenager, going to the Super Bowl was the peak of my existence. An unreal spectacle, and more importantly, the pinnacle of football. It didn’t matter that the Cowboys were playing, my dad and I were at the Super Bowl. The experience trumped the contestants, and eventually, the result.

My dad moved to America in the mid-1970s. He never loved football, but he loved me. As early as I can remember I loved the sport, loved playing it, loved watching it, and even as a young kid, loved writing and talking about it. 

My dad drove me to football practices. My dad drove me to football games. He watched me play, and together, we watched plenty of others play. 

How he made a Super Bowl trip happen I’m still not sure. My stepmom pulled a billion strings to get us tickets, and luckily, we had family friends in Arizona we could stay with. No chance we could swing the hotel prices of Super Bowl week, but only having to figure out airfare, my parents made it work. 

As much as I remember the game, the scene I remember most was the lobby of some downtown Phoenix hotel where we picked up our tickets. A scene I now know, for my young eyes, it was incredible. Players walked around, coaches, GMs, just about anybody associated with the NFL walked through that lobby. 

I was a precocious kid, and even then, obsessed with sports media. I’ll never forget seeing Peter King and tugging on my dad’s shirt. 

“Dad, that’s Peter King!”

“Who’s that?”

“Dad! He writes for Sports Illustrated!”

Dad certainly didn’t know who he was, but he encouraged me to go over to speak with him. I went. King could not have been nicer as I drilled him with questions about the Redskins quarterback controversy. Heath Shuler or Gus Frerotte. At the time, it was the most pressing issue in my universe. 

Looking back now, I wonder if the palpable buzz of that hotel lobby in some way got me where I am now. I’ll never know. 

What I do know is I never would have gotten where I am without my father. And now he’s gone. 

He passed on Master’s Sunday, somewhat suddenly. While it’s shocking and incredibly hard, he also went peacefully, surrounded by family. As far as going goes, it’s what many hope for. 

The days since have been tough. I’m not sure what will come ahead. I’ll miss him everyday of my life, and I will think about him often. I have my own young daughter to raise now, and while she will never really know my dad, I hope to show her his personality. 

I haven’t written about the Redskins in almost a week. I’m not sure that’s happened, in some blog or other capacity, in nearly a decade. Or maybe more. Or maybe less. I’m honestly not sure. 

What I am sure of, when it mattered, my dad loved football. Because he loved me. 

And I love him too. I’m going to get back on my feet and back on the beat and attack news and information like I have the past year. I’ll try to have fun along the way as well, like I think I have for the past year. 

Plenty of folks have lost their dad. I’m not unique, and I’m much luckier than many. I know that and appreciate it. 

Thanks for indulging me on this story. Maybe you learned something about me. I learned a lot about myself. I’ll close with this: Give your loved ones a hug. Life can be fleeting. Chase your joys. Love life and be good to one another. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Where's Galette, Cousins' future

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Where's Galette, Cousins' future

NEW ORLEANS—Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, November 18, one day before the Washington Redskins play the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: AM walkthrough and then travel to New Orleans. No media availability.

Days until:

—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 6
—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 13
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/19) 23

Quick Redskins news hits

C Spencer Long tried to play last week and he couldn’t make it more than a dozen snaps before sitting down for the rest of the day. He is out against the Seahawks tomorrow.

With Brian Quick and Ryan Grant questionable with concussions and Terrelle Pryor out with an ankle injury, the Redskins are down to three healthy wide receivers. While Quick and Grant might play, the depth chart could have Doctson, Crowder, and Harris on it.

The Redskins week that was

2 reasons Redskins didn't trade Terrelle Pryor—If you want to know why the deal with the Browns didn’t happen, follow the money. Between his signing bonus and the half of the year’s salary, the Redskins have already paid $4.5 million. Although he hasn’t been nearly as productive as they hoped he would be, there was no point in letting him go to save $1.5 million unless they got a second-day draft pick, or maybe a fourth, in return. See that Jay Gruden said that he didn’t hear of the proposed trade, talks must not have become too serious.

Remember Junior Galette? The Redskins don't seem to—As with Pryor, everyone is waiting for Galette to break out. But unlike Pryor, he’s not an expensive unproductive player. He’s making the veteran minimum. Against the Vikings, he played just 19 snaps. Perhaps a return to New Orleans for a game against his old team will spark a sack or two.

Recent comments from Cousins may hint at future in D.C.—Cousins has been big on making statements about the long-term future with the Redskins (read the post for specifics). That doesn’t mean that it’s a lock that he stays in town. But it should give some pause to those who believe that it is a lock that he will be in another uniform when 2018 or, at the latest, 2019 rolls around. He has never been inclined to go to the highest bidder and if the Redskins make a competitive offer that delivers what he wants he could well stick around.

How the Vikings scored 21 unanswered points against the Redskins—The 21-0 run in about seven minutes of game time that the Vikings used to make a competitive game at FedEx Field a rout was a combination of good offense by the Vikings and bad defense and offense by the Redskins. They couldn’t cover Adam Thielen on either drive. Cousins threw an interception off of his back foot and that set up the middle of the three touchdowns. If the Redskins end the season a game out of a playoff spot that seven-minute stretch will be one of the big reasons why they failed to make it.

Player one-liners, defense— Usually, the offensive edition of the player one-liners tends to be the most popular but this week it was the defense that drew the most interest. The defensive player I’m going to keep an eye on the most in the last seven games is rookie safety Montae Nicholson. He has the speed and hard hitting ability that the secondary needs. When asked what will happen when Nicholson is healthy, Jay Gruden said without hesitation that he is the starter. Nicholson’s health will be important for the defense down the stretch. DeAngelo Hall is better suited to a part-time role at this stage of his career.

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

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Redskins getting thin at receiver with two more injured wideouts out on Sunday

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Redskins getting thin at receiver with two more injured wideouts out on Sunday

In August, Redskins fans would freak out if they heard Jordan Reed and Terrelle Pryor would both miss a November game.

In November, that news doesn’t carry much worry.

Washington coach Jay Gruden announced that Reed and Pryor, along with center Spencer Long, won’t play Sunday against the Saints.

RELATED: KEYS TO VICTORY AGAINST THE SAINTS

Reed hasn’t played in a few weeks as he is dealing with a hamstring injury. It seemed he might have returned last week before a setback slowed down his progress.

In his place, Vernon Davis has proved to be a sturdy backup capable of some big games.

Long injured his knee and while he played last week, he did not practice this week.

Not having Pryor is a bit of a surprise. His ankle injury popped up this week and he will see a specialist next week to examine the joint. In the middle of a disappointing season, the Redskins offense won’t lose much with his absence.

Elsewhere on the injury list, a number of players will be questionable for Sunday’s contest against the 7-2 Saints.

Perhaps most important, Trent Williams is questionable but will probably play.

MORE ON THE REDSKINS: FIVE PLAYERS UNDER PRESSURE

Receivers Ryan Grant and Brian Quick are expected to play after undergoing concussion protocol, but that will leave the Redskins with only three fully healthy wideouts: Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Maurice Harris.