Nationals

AFL great Gonsoulin on mend after heart attack

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AFL great Gonsoulin on mend after heart attack

For just a moment, former Denver Broncos standout Austin ``Goose'' Gonsoulin didn't think about the open-heart surgery he underwent a few weeks ago or the cancer that has spread throughout his body.

For a brief instant, the American Football League All Star almost felt like a safety again, transported back to a time when he used to make interceptions like this.

The 74-year-old Gonsoulin had just woken from a nap on the couch when he caught a flash across his television screen: Denver cornerback Chris Harris stepping in front of a pass and racing down the sideline for a 98-yard touchdown against Baltimore last Sunday.

Gonsoulin gawked at each step, his chest hurting from sitting up so suddenly and his heart thumping with enthusiasm.

``I remember exactly what that feels like,'' said Gonsoulin, who's known around the Mile High City as an ``Original Bronco'' after being acquired in a trade before the team's first season in 1960. ``Such a great feeling when you're in the open like that.''

Gonsoulin broke into a robust laugh as he chatted on the phone from his home in Beaumont, Texas.

``Only, I couldn't have run that far,'' he said. ``That's a long, long way.''

These days, Gonsoulin feels pretty good, even with all his health concerns.

Just last month, he had a heart attack that led to quadruple bypass surgery.

That was on top of this: Nearly a year ago he went in for an exam and there, all over the X-ray, was the return of his cancer. Only this time it appeared in his ribs, collar bone and shoulders. It was near his knees, back and hips. It showed up along his legs and arms, too.

``I lit up like a Christmas tree,'' he said. ``Doctors made it sound like I wasn't going to last much longer.

``But I'm still here.''

And enjoying the simple pleasures like gloating about his grandkids, hanging out with his wife of nearly 50 years and watching his beloved Broncos.

``That Peyton Manning is pretty good, huh?'' Gonsoulin said.

And so was Gonsoulin back in his day.

After a standout career at Baylor University, Gonsoulin was picked in the AFL draft by the Dallas Texans, who then shipped him to the Broncos for fullback Jack Spikes in the team's first trade. Gonsoulin showed up at his first camp in `60 along with 120 other guys, some of whom were truck drivers and oil field workers, and was concerned about making the roster.

He instantly shined as he had 11 interceptions his rookie season, which remains a Broncos record. Gonsoulin also played in five All-Star games - would've been six, but one of the games was canceled - and was enshrined in the team's Ring of Fame in 1984.

His fear of being cut, though, led him to pack up all of his clothes from his apartment for every road game.

``Just in case,'' said Gonsoulin, who also played one season with San Francisco after seven seasons in Denver. ``If they ever said, `You're not coming back,' well, at least I had my stuff, right?''

Like he really had anything to worry about. He snared the AFL's first interception against Boston and finished his Broncos career as the former league's all-time leader with 43.

Only Steve Foley has more interceptions (44) in a Denver uniform, but Champ Bailey is closing with 34. As he works his way up the all-time list, Bailey is learning more and more about Gonsoulin.

``From what I understand, he was a great pro,'' Bailey said. ``Obviously, he's one of the best to play here.''

Very true. Gonsoulin once had four interceptions in a game against Buffalo and another three off Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson.

``Lenny was so mad. He walked by at halftime and swore at me,'' Gonsoulin recounted.

Dawson wouldn't be the only quarterback cursing Gonsoulin's name. The durable defensive back also picked off the likes of George Blanda, Jack Kemp and John Hadl.

The toughest receiver he ever faced? Easy, Lance Alworth of the San Diego Chargers.

``Especially when he was in the slot,'' Gonsoulin said.

Over his career, Gonsoulin dished out plenty of bone-jarring hits.

He took a few, too. Like when he tried to tackle Houston Oilers running back Billy Cannon on a swing pass. Gonsoulin went low and hit his helmet on Cannon's knee. Not only was Gonsoulin knocked out, he swallowed his tongue.

He was choking on the field and yet no one could pry open his jaw.

Just when trainers were ready to break his teeth to save him, teammate Bud McFadin rushed over and forced his mouth open enough to retrieve Gonsoulin's tongue. When Gonsoulin woke up in the ambulance a little while later, he was still in uniform and wondering what had happened.

Two days later, Gonsoulin was back on the field.

He's got quite a few ailments from his playing days. His collar bone juts out from an injury that didn't heal properly and his knees constantly ache.

Oh, and then there are the concussions. There's no telling how many he suffered in his career.

``A lot of times you hit someone hard and you'd be dazed on sideline,'' said Gonsoulin, who operated a construction company after his football career. ``They'd be like, `What's your name? Where are you from?' You simply take some smelling salts and go back in.''

That's why he got involved in a lawsuit against the NFL. He said he's joined a suit that claims the league concealed and misrepresented the neurological risks of concussions.

``More than anything, I don't think (the league) really took care of us back then,'' Gonsoulin said. ``My memory is fading and I don't know if it's because of the concussions. Having this cancer doesn't help, of course, but I think playing football did hurt my memory.

``Still, I'm lucky to be in the shape I'm in now.''

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Brewers’ unlikely run continues to shrink wild-card gap with Nationals

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Brewers’ unlikely run continues to shrink wild-card gap with Nationals

The Brewers. They are surging instead of sliding, partying in St. Louis over the weekend after winning two of three against the division-leading Cardinals thanks to a ninth-inning grand slam by Ryan Braun on Sunday.

They have won nine of 10 and six of seven since MVP candidate Christian Yelich broke his kneecap, ending his season. Things are tight because of their run. Just two weeks remain in the regular season.

So, here’s where things stand overall: 

  • Chicago is 1 ½ games behind the Nationals for the top wild-card spot.
  • Milwaukee is 2 ½ games behind the Nationals and just a game behind the Cubs. Those three teams mark a breaking point in the standings.
  • The Mets are four games behind the Cubs for the second wild-card spot and 5 ½ behind the Nationals.
  • Philadelphia is six games behind the Nationals and 4 ½ games behind Chicago after back-to-back losses to end the weekend.

 

Fivethirtyeight.com puts the Nationals chances of making the postseason at 93 percent.

 

Coming up Monday:

San Diego at Milwaukee, 7:40 p.m., Richards (5-4, 3.66 ERA) vs. Davies (9-7, 3.77)

Washington at St. Louis, 7:45 p.m., Strasburg (17-6, 3.49) vs. D. Hudson (15-7, 3.38)

Cincinnati at Chicago, 8:05 p.m., Gausman (3-8, 5.83) vs. Hamels (7-7, 3.89)

New York Mets at Colorado, Matz (10-8, 3,84) vs. Senzatela (9-10, 6.87)

 

Philadelphia is off.

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Case Keenum isn't the Redskins problem, and Dwayne Haskins won't fix it either

Case Keenum isn't the Redskins problem, and Dwayne Haskins won't fix it either

The Redskins have lots of problems, but Case Keenum isn't one of them. Through two games this season, Keenum has thrown for 600 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. 

He hasn't been great, and he's missed some big opportunities, but Keenum isn't even close to the main reason why the Redskins are 0-2. Not even close. 

"I think he handled it really well. He might’ve miss a few throws here or there," Washington head coach Jay Gruden said of Keenum after the Cowboys loss. "He’s not taking many sacks, he’s getting out of the pocket, he’s making plays, and I love his competitiveness. I think that will rub off on the entire football team if it hasn’t already. Guys like to play for him and play with him.”

The Washington defense surrendered at least 30 points in consecutive losses to the Eagles and the Cowboys to start the 2019 campaign. The defense has given up at least 400 yards in both losses. The defensive front, the presumed strength of the Redskins team, has piled up a whopping two sacks through two games. Two. 

Offensively, the Redskins haven't been great, or even very good. Keep in mind, however, the expectations for Washington's offense weren't particularly high. Gruden has frequently talked how his team is built to "win ugly" and that the head coach is fine with low-scoring victories. 

Well, Keenum has delivered enough for those type of wins. The defense just isn't holding up their end of the bargain. In two games the Redskins have averaged 24 points with zero turnovers. That's more than enough to win ugly. 

And the truth is Keenum deserves almost all of the credit for the Redskins offensive production. The run game has been abysmal thus far. Through the first two losses, no running back has gained even 30 yards, and the Redskins collectively have less than 100 yards rushing. 

Whatever offense there has been has come from Keenum. He's missed a few big plays - a potential TD throw to Terry McLaurin in the second half of the Eagles loss and a blatant miss of a wide-open Paul Richardson against the Cowboys really stand out. But he's also made plenty of good throws and engineered some good drives. 

Keenum has also proved quite level-headed. He came to Washington knowing he had to compete for the starting job. His whole career he's been overlooked, and that has molded him into a veteran presence with a clear head. 

"Sometimes you must grind it out. It’s not always going to look pretty either, but I trust all those guys in that locker room and know that they’re going to fight no matter what," Keenum said.

Since this is Washington, there are always fans calling for the backup quarterback. In this case there is genuine excitement for Dwayne Haskins, the rookie 15th overall pick and Keenum's backup. Haskins has All Pro potential but hasn't hit the field yet. And frankly he shouldn't. Keenum has done plenty to keep a stranglehold on the starting job.

That said, late in both games this season the Redskins have been playing in situations where the result was mostly out of hand. Could Gruden give Haskins a drive to get him some real game action? Sure, but that would create a laundry list of postgame questions that Gruden probably wants to avoid. Plus, there are senior Redskins officials that are truly committed to Haskins spending the year on the bench to really learn the game. A random fourth quarter drive won't change that tremendously, in either direction. 

For now, it's Keenum, and it's the right call. He's been pretty good, and he's done enough for Washington to be in games.

"None of us expect to be average. We all want to score 100 points," Keenum said after the loss to Dallas. 

Of course the quarterback doesn't want to be average, but before the season started, the Redskins would have taken average from their QB. The plan was for low-scoring football that Washington wins with defense. 

Keenum has been better than average, the defense just hasn't shown up.

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