Nationals

Welker back in middle of Patriots offense

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Welker back in middle of Patriots offense

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) So much for Wes Welker's disappearing act.

For the Patriots first two games, his playing time mysteriously dropped. In the three weeks since then, he's been on the field for more snaps than any other wide receiver in the NFL.

His comedy routine didn't last long either - just a one-night stand.

The New England star backtracked about 12 hours after saying on Comcast Sportsnet, with a wink and a smile, that he enjoyed catching 13 passes against Denver last Sunday to ``stick it'' in coach Bill Belichick's face.

``It was a joke,'' he insisted on Monday, trying to defuse the issue before the team began preparing for Sunday's game at the Seattle Seahawks. ``I'll make sure to keep that in-house going forward.''

Now Welker is back where he's been for most of his career with the Patriots, at center stage of one of the league's most dangerous passing attacks.

``The dude is fast,'' Broncos linebacker Joe Mays said after the Patriots' 31-21 win. ``He is definitely one of the best slot men in the game, if not the best. What can I say? The dude definitely made plays and we didn't.''

Injuries that have sidelined tight end Aaron Hernandez for three games and wide receiver Julian Edelman for two gave Welker a shot at increased playing time. Would it have gone up anyway? Tough to say, but Hernandez ran hard during practice on Wednesday and could be back against the Seahawks.

Belichick has seen improvement in Edelman and might want to give him more experience knowing that Welker could be gone once his contract expires after this season.

Whatever his reasons, Belichick hasn't said why Welker played only 70.5 percent of the offensive snaps in the first two games. Since then, he's played 91.1 percent, sitting out just 23 of 257 offensive plays, bringing his total to 83.5 percent for the season.

Welker has had 49 passes thrown his way, tied for seventh among wide receivers and just eight behind leader Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts.

The 5-foot-9 speedster may be as dangerous as ever, catching short passes over the middle and swerving around bigger defenders for extra yardage.

Welker led the NFL with 122 receptions last season and with 554 since joining the Patriots in 2007. Despite a slow start this year, he's tied for second with 38 catches. He has 30 in his last three games, gaining more than 100 yards in each of them.

Against Denver, he scored the first touchdown of the game on an 8-yard pass from Tom Brady and did his usual solid job blocking for other receivers.

``He's the same Wes Welker that I've played with every year that I've been here,'' said wide receiver Matthew Slater, a rookie with the Patriots in 2008. ``The guy puts so much into his craft. He really works at it and he's an example to the other guys in that receiving room and the other guys on that offense.

``The guy's a true professional in every sense of the word in how he prepares. He plays the game the right way. He practices the right way. And he takes care of his body the right way. He just does so many things the right way and the guys around here really appreciate and respect him for that.''

That dedication showed after the 2009 season when he worked diligently at recovering from torn knee ligaments suffered in the last regular season game. He was back in time for the next season. Although he had just 86 catches, the fewest in his five full seasons with the Patriots, he played in 15 games while working to get back to full speed.

Last year he posted career highs of 1,569 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.

But Welker had another uncertain offseason this year. He and the Patriots couldn't reach agreement on a long-term contract, which might have left him with a bitter taste. He accepted the team's franchise tag and the $9.5 million salary that goes with it, but with Hernandez and Edelman showing the ability to play slot receiver, this could be Welker's last season in New England at age 31.

If it is, he'll leave `em laughing.

Publicly, Welker speaks slowly with a poker face and an Oklahoma drawl. Behind the scenes, he's the class clown.

``I'm on the receiving end of a lot of his jokes,'' Brady said. ``He's got a great personality. He works so hard and he likes to keep things light. He's a little bit of a jokester. Not only that, he's a great football player. His jokes don't go over very well if he's not playing well.''

His one-liner probably didn't get a rave review from Belichick.

Welker wouldn't say if his coach talked with him about his remark after Sunday's game but doesn't think Belichick will punish him, perhaps by keeping him on the bench for the Patriots' first offensive series against the Seahawks.

That's what Belichick did in the 2011 divisional playoff game against the Jets after Welker made mocking comments about New York coach Rex Ryan.

CBS said during the game broadcast that Welker was being punished for a news conference in which he made about a dozen references to toes and feet, a not-so-subtle reference to foot-fetish reports involving Ryan. The Jets won 28-21 and Belichick said after the game ``I don't have any comment'' on why Welker didn't start.

He was equally secretive about Welker's diminished role in the first two games this year, but Slater said it wasn't a big issue.

``It was never talked about amongst the players,'' he said. ``We don't really put focus on that kind of thing, on who's getting the ball. We just go out and do what we're asked to do and plays will come your way.''

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Online:http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm
 

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hecticfew weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm