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49ers RB Hunter, WR Williams on injured reserve

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49ers RB Hunter, WR Williams on injured reserve

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers lost running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Kyle Williams to season-ending injuries on the very same play during Sunday's win at New Orleans.

A pair of tough blows for the NFC West-leading Niners (8-2-1) as they prepare for a road game at St. Louis on Sunday three weeks after a 24-24 tie with the Rams on Nov. 11 at Candlestick Park.

``That was a major hit,'' running back Anthony Dixon said Tuesday. ``Kyle and Kendall are both go-to guys in our offense. They made a lot of plays for us this year, and to see them go down on one play - man, that's crazy. We pride ourselves on being a stacked team, on being deep, and we've just got to show up this week.''

Now, Dixon likely will take on a larger role backing up Frank Gore and rookie second-round draft pick LaMichael James is expected to be active, along with top draft pick wide receiver A.J. Jenkins.

An announcement on who will start Sunday at quarterback is expected from coach Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday. Colin Kaepernick has won the last two games in his first two career NFL starts, while Alex Smith is now fully healthy from a concussion sustained in the first half of the last meeting with the Rams.

``We've got two good quarterbacks. Whatever way coach decides to go, we're behind him,'' Gore said. ``They're both going to play well. It don't matter.''

Hunter was the second player in two days to be lost for the year after Williams said Monday his 2012 season had ended.

``Two players that help our team,'' Gore said of the losses. ``At the running back position, we've got depth. I respect Tony's (Dixon) game a lot. He makes big plays. I know coach (Tom) Rathman, whoever he's got next on the depth chart, they'll get him ready to play.''

The 49ers said Tuesday both players had been placed on season-ending injured reserve. Williams announced Monday on Twitter that he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, while Hunter is listed out with an ankle injury - though some of his teammates said he was undergoing treatment on his left Achilles tendon in the training room.

Hunter, a fourth-round draft pick in 2011 out of Oklahoma State, had 72 carries for 371 yards and two touchdowns this season in an increased role as the team's second-leading rusher behind Gore.

Hunter and Williams were hurt on the second-to-last play of the third quarter of Sunday's 31-21 win, on which Hunter ran for a 2-yard gain. The players were helped off the field and then carted to the locker room. Harbaugh said Monday that Williams was injured before contact when his foot planted into the turf.

The 24-year-old Williams - a third-year pro who had two costly fumbles in a 20-17 overtime loss to the Giants in last season's NFC championship game - had 14 catches for 212 yards and a touchdown this year.

Now, James will probably get his first true look on the field. The rookie out of Oregon rushed out of the locker room to a meeting before addressing reporters.

``I expect dynamic plays, man,'' Dixon said. ``I watch him every day on the practice field, and he's making plays, going up to get the ball. They have him doing Percy Harvin stuff when we're playing teams like that, and he really is a great talent. I feel like he's going to come in and make plays. I know he's hungry.''

San Francisco activated running back Jewel Hampton from the non-football injury list and added him to the 53-man roster. They still have one open spot on the active roster and worked out kickers on Tuesday morning.

``Dave's our guy,'' punter Andy Lee said of kicker David Akers.

The 49ers also released safety Eddie Whitley from the practice squad and signed wideout and returner Chad Hall to the practice squad.

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Orioles' past and future intersect during jam-packed day at Camden Yards

Orioles' past and future intersect during jam-packed day at Camden Yards

If you were looking for a moment in Tuesday’s game that exemplified the proverbial passing of the torch in Baltimore, it came early.

In the top of the third inning, past Oriole superstar Manny Machado crushed his 100th career Camden Yards home run. It was especially fitting that the ball traveled far enough (455 feet, to be exact) to land in the *visitor* bullpen.

In the middle of the fourth inning, future Oriole superstar (fingers crossed) Adley Rutschman was introduced to a sea of adoring fans wearing orange and black, a sight the former Oregon State Beaver is all too familiar with.

It was hard to tell which player received the louder ovation. The fact that both players, neither of whom was playing for the Orioles Tuesday night, elicited such receptions highlights the crossroads this franchise finds itself at.

Manager Brandon Hyde spoke to this effect pregame.

“Obviously when the game starts I’m going to try to win the game and go with the guys we have,” Hyde told reporters. “I’m also looking at the big picture. I think everybody is really aware of where we are organizationally. It’s the start of the process we laid out months ago. Anytime we get extremely talented guys in our organization, it’s bright, and it feels good, and there’s excitement. And I totally understand it and I feel that too.”

Fans could be forgiven for forgetting there was even a game to be played Tuesday evening, with the excitement surrounding Rutschman’s introduction and the long-building buzz for Machado’s return coinciding on the same day. That can be true of the state of the franchise overall right now.

It’s easy to talk about top draft picks and high-level prospects in the minors, but there are games going on every night for the big league club as well. But with another historic season taking place on the field, it’s much more appealing to look elsewhere.

Adley Rutschman provides a level of hope fans can’t get from the Major League roster, and Hyde recognizes that.

“We’re just looking to get talent, guys that can be impact players,” Hyde explained. “You don’t want to label a guy or put too much pressure on someone, but obviously he’s done a lot of really good things at the amateur level and we’re really excited to have him in our organization. So there’s a lot of excitement.”

The Orioles manager came to Baltimore from a Chicago Cubs franchise known for developing high-end talent.

“I was the farm director when we drafted Bryant, obviously saw Almora and Baez and all those guys,” Hyde answered when asked how Rutschman compares. “He’s along those lines of being a real mature kid, looking forward to go play, you can tell he’s really excited and we’re obviously looking forward to getting him going and watching him play.”

Of course, it’s not just former Cubs prospects who have provided a template for success Rutschman can follow. Somebody a little closer to home just so happened to be sitting in the third base dugout Tuesday night.

“Just soak it all in, enjoy it all," Manny Machado told the media to laughter when asked what advice he would give Rutschman. "You know I wasn’t a number one overall pick, so it’s different. I mean just enjoy yourself. It’s an opportunity that he worked for his entire life to get to that situation, he finally got drafted by a ballclub...the only advice I can give is to continue to have fun, just enjoy yourself every moment of the way and just keep working as hard as you possibly can to reach your goals. Just because you got picked, one of those goals is scratched off, but there’s so many more to be accomplished. Just keep working as hard as you can to be the best person you can be, the best ballplayer you can be, and everything else will just take care of itself.”

It’s a mature response from a matured player, one who not too long ago found himself in the same position as Rutschman: top prospect for a franchise desperate to field a winner.

Trying to build that winner is GM Mike Elias, who emphasized just how critical bringing in a player like Rutschman is.

“This was the biggest decision this organization is going to make this year, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome,” Elias said Tuesday. “We’re looking for building blocks and found a big piece of that with Adley.”

It’s going to be a few years until Rutschman is able to truly take over the mantle of face of the Orioles. As Hyde reminded the media, “it’s still so far away.”

For now, Rutschman will have to settle for face of the rebuild, a position Machado was all-too-familiar with. 

But even an elongated timeline couldn’t keep Tuesday from feeling like a milestone in the history of the franchise, at the intersection of it’s past, present and future. It was a figurative passing of the torch, if not a literal one.

It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Fans at the park felt that as they welcomed back Manny Machado with open arms.

And if their warm reception for Adley Rutschman is any indication, they are more than ready to love again.

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Not everyone thinks the Redskins need to invest more at wide receiver

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Not everyone thinks the Redskins need to invest more at wide receiver

While the rumors about the Redskins potentially trading for Marvin Jones from over the weekend were total nonsense, a reason they resonated so much with fans is because many believe Washington needs major help at wide receiver.

But during a segment of Monday's Redskins 100 show, analyst Trevor Matich assessed the position group and actually thinks that, as a whole, the team should be relatively pleased with the talent it has outside.

"I like it better than I have in recent years, especially if Paul Richardson stays healthy," Matich said.

His "especially" qualifier is a common one, and that's because Richardson is the most established wideout currently on the roster — and he still has just 1,564 career receiving yards to his name. However, a healthy Richardson (which the 'Skins never really saw in his first year, considering he got injured early in training camp and was never the same) provides Jay Gruden the field stretcher he loves to have.

Richardson isn't the only player Matich is anxious to see, though.

"Terry McLaurin, their draft choice from Ohio State, is legitimately a 4.3 guy," he said. "He gets deep down the field and catches the ball in space."

One of the biggest issues for the 2018 Redskins was a lack of speed at every single spot. In Richardson and McLaurin, the Burgundy and Gold now have a pair of pass catchers who can fly past corners, do damage 30-plus yards down the sideline and open things up for other targets as well.

Overall, in reacting to the Jones storyline, Matich really doesn't see a huge need for the organization to make any additions to that collection of pieces. 

"I think that when you take a look at all the other guys, Trey Quinn in the slot, things like that, this receiving corps is fine," he said. "It's not desperate. They don't need to invest resources to bring extra people in."

Now, is "fine" and "not desperate" the level the front office and coaches want their receivers to be? Of course not. But Matich's stance is intriguing, because he's content with who'll be lining up there while plenty of others absolutely don't see it that way and feel a trade would be prudent.

If you're in that second group, recent history indicates this is the dead zone for NFL deals. So try not to waste your time refreshing Twitter over and over and over.

Perhaps Washington gets to Richmond and, after a few weeks of practices and a couple of exhibition contests, realizes their depth chart could use another name. Or maybe an injury happens and forces their hand. But according to Matich, as of now, the offense can function with the parts it has in place.

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