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After crazy weekend, business as usual for Oregon

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After crazy weekend, business as usual for Oregon

After a weekend rife with rumors and speculation, Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks are right back where they started.

Oregon's enigmatic head coach flirted with a trio of NFL teams over three days before deciding late Sunday to stay with the No. 5 Ducks.

On Monday it was back to business. Kelly was at a coaches' convention in Tennessee. Oregon did not formally announce Kelly's decision - for the school his status hadn't changed, he's still the head coach - but athletic director Rob Mullens told reporters he was obviously ``ecstatic'' about it.

It was an anticlimactic end to the whirlwind that started soon after Oregon's 35-17 Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State on Thursday night.

Kelly was peppered with questions about whether he would entertain NFL offers in the days leading up to the bowl game and immediately after it. He told reporters: ``I'll listen and we'll see.''

On Friday, he met with the Cleveland Browns. The interview went on for some seven hours, and by the end of the night, sources close to the team were telling the media that Kelly was ``close'' to signing a deal.

But the next day, Kelly went ahead and met for a reported nine hours with the Philadelphia Eagles about their open coaching position. Somewhere in the midst of all that, he also spoke to the Buffalo Bills.

The roller coaster even took a comical turn when musician Mat Kearney released a song entitled ``Chip Don't Go,'' on YouTube. Kearney, a Eugene native, joked in the song: ``They don't have half the heart or the jerseys.''

By midday Sunday, The Associated Press learned that the Browns had started looking elsewhere because they weren't sure Kelly's heart was in the NFL.

That night, sources connected to Oregon and the Philadelphia Eagles confirmed an ESPN report that Kelly would remain in Eugene.

Mullens said renegotiation of Kelly's contract with the Ducks was not discussed, and he did not know the details of his coach's decision-making process. Mullens did admit to lobbying for Oregon.

``I don't want to speculate on anything, other than to say I think we have something special here. It's a great place. We have a very passionate fan base. We have a unique culture,'' Mullens said. ``I think it's one of the best jobs in all of football. Not just college football, I think it's one of the best jobs in football. I think that weighs heavily.''

Mullens said he was prepared to open a nationwide search for new coach had Kelly decided to leave.

Kelly has not commented publicly on the matter: Mullens explained he was focused on obligations at the convention and then would turn his attention to recruiting.

Kelly is 46-7 in four years as head coach at Oregon. The Ducks have been to four straight BCS bowl games - including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago - and have won three Pac-12 championships.

He originally came to the Ducks in 2007 as offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti. Before that, he was offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, where he started devising the innovative hurry-up offense the Ducks are known for today.

Oregon finished last season 12-1. The team was ranked No. 1 and appeared headed for another shot at the national championship until a 17-14 overtime loss to Stanford on Nov. 17.

The team will return two of its most dynamic players next season: redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota, and speedy sophomore running back De'Anthony Thomas, who ran for a 94-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff of the Fiesta Bowl.

But there may also be some challenges: Oregon still faces possible NCAA sanctions based on its use of recruiting services.

Reports surfaced in 2011 concerning payments Oregon made to two such services, including a $25,000 check sent to Willie Lyles and Houston-based Complete Scouting Services in 2010. Lyles had a relationship with a player who committed to Oregon.

Earlier this year, Oregon requested a summary disposition in the case. The school presented a report to the infractions committee outlining violations the school believed occurred and appropriate sanctions. But Yahoo Sports reported that the two sides could not reach an agreement and now the matter is headed for a hearing, as early as this spring.

And there's certainly no evidence Kelly has ruled out a future in the NFL.

It's hard to argue that his stock has fallen in any way because of the failed courtship by four teams, including his talks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early last year. Kelly obviously has a proven offensive mindset.

That said, there was already speculation that he might be waiting for his ``dream'' job with the New England Patriots, a seat currently held by Bill Belichick.

Only Kelly knows, and he's not saying.

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

The Caps return to action Wednesday as they host the New York Rangers (7 p.m., NBCSN) in a Metropolitan Division clash.

Here are four things you should be watching for in this game.

The schedule finally gives the Caps a break

The early season schedule for Washington has been bizarre to say the least. Finally, they will be catching a break on Wednesday as the Rangers will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back.

That certainly does not guarantee a victory, but it is something the Caps are very aware of and they hope to take advantage.

“I think speed is a big part of the game and for them to be fatigued off the back-to-back is definitely going to help us whether we move the puck a little quicker than we would in other games just kind of knowing they are coming off that back-to-back,” Nathan Walker said.

“We've got to make them skate, we've got to make their D go back for pucks,” T.J. Oshie said. “I don't feel like they're going to look tired at the start of the game, usually that comes towards the end of the game, second half, and so you've got to work to drain them down a little bit and we've got to take advantage of that opportunity tonight.”

Top-line Stephenson

Stephenson was added to the top line on Saturday with no practice other than the morning skate that day. A few days between games has given him a chance to practice with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and it should pay dividends on Wednesday.

This game also should be a good opportunity for Stephenson who was added to the top for his speed. Playing a tired Rangers team is something he will need to take advantage of.

“It's always tough to play back-to-back and with the travel and stuff like that,” Stephenson said. “For the most part, I think that that's going to be important and just to play a full 60, that's something that we want to get consistent with and we haven't been so far … But for the most part, I think the start will really help us tonight.”

Nathan Walker returns

The Caps made a change to the lineup for Wednesday’s game as Nathan Walker will be in for Dmitrij Jaskin on the fourth line.

When asked why he made the change, Reirden said, “Just a different look. A team that's on a back-to-back, we wanted to really come at them with some speed, tenacity and intensity that we know we always get from Nathan so thought it was a good add into tonight's lineup.

The Caps have got to get more offense from their bottom six and adding the speedy Walker to the bottom six could provide a boost. He has had trouble playing within the system in the past and his play has been more frenzied than controlled at times, but with Tom Wilson still suspended, there’s definitely an opportunity for Walker to earn more playing time depending on how he plays Wednesday.

King Henry remains on his throne

In addition to a tired Rangers team, the Caps are also expected to face a tired goalie.

Henrik Lundqvist started New York’s game on Tuesday and is expected to start again on Wednesday against Washington. That is not confirmed as the Rangers did not have a morning skate because of the back-to-back, but it is believed Lundqvist will play again.

There was a time when Lundqvist was considered the best netminder in the NHL and he is off to a phenomenal start this season with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage in five games thus far.

But how will the 36-year-old goalie handle a back-to-back?

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