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After another big win, 49ers QBs still in limbo

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After another big win, 49ers QBs still in limbo

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Jim Harbaugh has watched each of his two quarterbacks lead the San Francisco 49ers to big wins in hostile, road environments - Alex Smith in the season opener at Green Bay's Lambeau Field back in September among others, and Colin Kaepernick on Sunday at the New Orleans Superdome.

Which one gets the ball on Sunday when the 49ers travel to St. Louis? Harbaugh is still mum on that, though he did say Monday he will formally announce his starting quarterback by mid-week so the players don't have to face constant questions about what they know about the situation.

Kaepernick said he was told late Saturday in a team meeting ahead of Sunday's start against the Saints.

Then, on Monday, Harbaugh offered this for thought: Yes, he's keeping everybody guessing again. Sort of.

``Alex Smith is our starting quarterback. He has not done anything to lose that job,'' Harbaugh said. ``In fact, he's playing at a very high level. Also, Colin Kaepernick, you can't categorize him as a backup quarterback, because he's started games and played very well in those games.''

Clearly, Harbaugh is growing tired of all the talk about his quarterback situation, even if much of the drama is of his own creation - and he refuses to categorize it as a ``controversy'' with two capable guys in the mix each week. He said again Monday that anything is possible this week, even using both quarterbacks in the game.

``The guys will be hammered,'' Harbaugh said. ``You go to Colin, you go to Alex, `Should you be the starter?' He's got no good answer for you. He says, `Yes, I should be the starter' - we're talking either one - and you look like you're just building up yourself. If you say no, then they hammer you because you don't think you should be the starter. Then the people, so-called subject matter experts, who talk about, ``You should be making a fuss about it or a stink about it, you shouldn't be that accommodating,'' it sends a completely wrong message, to me, for young athletes out there, or high school quarterbacks, where their coach is trying to tell them it's about the team and all of us working together. So that one gets me upset. That's not what our two guys are about.''

The NFC West-leading Niners (8-2-1) now own the second-best record in the NFC behind Atlanta as they head to face the Rams in a game that will mean plenty for both teams after their 24-24 tie Nov. 11.

In recent weeks, Harbaugh has vowed to go with the ``hot hand'' as his quarterback. Now, he has two guys who fit that mold, yet Kaepernick has won back-to-back games in his first two NFL starts - the first last Monday night against the Bears before Smith was medically cleared from his concussion.

For now, Harbaugh seems to be playing both sides. He wouldn't say when asked whether he has already made a decision for Sunday.

``I think it starts with this week, this game, what gives our team the best chance to win this game, like it would at any position,'' Harbaugh said. ``So in a unique situation, you have two quarterbacks that are playing at a very high level. One's your captain, your starting quarterback. The other has played great football the last three football games.''

Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick, hardly looked happy on the sideline Sunday. Last week, he said the 49ers have a good problem with him and Kaepernick able to lead the team to victory, and he plans to remain positive regarding what's best for the 49ers.

``He's a class act all the way -team player, that's why he has been voted captain by our players,'' Harbaugh said. ``They're great team guys, they're great example guys. We need them both. Both have played extremely well.''

In his lone two NFL starts last week, Kaepernick completed 48 of 74 passes for 680 yards and three touchdowns with one interception and was sacked six times. He has a 102.3 passer rating.

``He's a good athlete and I know that we respected him. You don't really know until you get on him for real,'' Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Monday. ``I tip my hat to him. We had some people on him who could have finished him and didn't and that's because he's a pretty good athlete and that makes it tough. He's going to make a lot of people miss.''

Smith, meanwhile, has completed 26 of his last 28 passes and sports a 104.1 passer rating with 13 touchdowns.

While so much attention is on the team's quarterback situation, the 49ers' opportunistic defense produced a pair of pick-sixes - by Ahmad Brooks and Donte Whitner - and sacked record-setting Saints quarterback Drew Brees five times Sunday.

Harbaugh will be looking for the same kind of performances Sunday against the Rams. Both teams missed field goals in overtime and left Candlestick Park feeling as if they let the game slip away. It was the NFL's first tie in four years.

Not that Harbaugh is looking back at that frustrating finish.

``Really have a whole new light on unfinished business. I think all this is new business,'' he said. ``The new business is this game, this most important game because it's our next game. It's just that hard focus on that. It's not about unfinished business, it's about new business. New business is getting prepared to travel well, prepare to practice well and prepare to go there and do what it takes to be victorious.''

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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this story.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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