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Arkansas eyes winning streak after Auburn win

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Arkansas eyes winning streak after Auburn win

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) John L. Smith's positive outlook has never wavered this season, even as Arkansas' preseason hopes crumbled under the weight of a four-game losing streak.

The Razorbacks coach's eternal optimism spread to his players on Monday, two days following the team's streak-snapping 24-7 win over Auburn.

A win, any win, was exactly what Arkansas (2-4, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) needed in the worst way. That it was the Razorbacks' first this season against an FBS opponent didn't matter in the least for a team that's fallen from the preseason top 10 to one just hoping to earn a bowl berth.

``You kind of see that belief back in people's eyes,'' quarterback Tyler Wilson said.

That belief came in the face of more disheartening news: Smith said leading tackler Alonzo Highsmith is out for the season with a foot injury sustained against the Tigers, another blow to an already thin linebacker corps.

Highsmith, who began the season at outside linebacker, leads the Razorbacks with 54 tackles. He was moved to middle linebacker two weeks ago after Tenarius Wright, who missed the Auburn game with a shoulder injury, was moved back to his natural position of defensive end.

Smith said Wright was set to have an MRI late Monday to determine his status for this week's game against Kentucky (1-5, 0-3).

``It's a big blow,'' Smith said. ``Because you're without your two middle linebackers that you were hoping to start the season with and continue on with. But it's just something that we have to do, and I think our football team realizes that. We've had to adjust for other guys missing time, and whoever's there has to step in and play and go make plays.''

The Wildcats enter the week reeling with injuries of their own. Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said Monday that freshman quarterback Patrick Towles will miss Saturday's game after sustaining a high right ankle sprain last week against Mississippi State.

Arkansas is all-too familiar with injury woes this season. In addition to Highsmith and Wright, the Razorbacks' secondary has been decimated with injuries to safety Eric Bennett and cornerbacks Tevin Mitchel and Kaelon Kelleybrew. Starting fullback Kiero Small and backup Kody Walker also have been lost for the season with injuries, and tight end Chris Gragg missed the win against Auburn with a bone bruise in his leg.

Despite the setbacks, Smith is now hopeful Arkansas can reel off a different kind of streak - a winning one - and re-enter the bowl picture. It's a possibility Smith said is ``definitely'' on his mind, one that starts with this week and is followed by a bye before facing another team that's winless in the SEC in Mississippi.

``Maybe we can sit back and relax and take a breath and get healthy, or more healthy,'' Smith said of the looming bye week. ``I don't know that we can ever get totally healthy.''

For Wilson, the possibility of a winning streak of any kind seemed anything but possible leading into the Auburn game. The Razorbacks had lost their first two conference games to No. 1 Alabama and Texas A&M by a combined score of 110-10, but their much-maligned defense had eight sacks against Auburn.

Wilson was 22 of 29 for 230 yards passing against the Tigers. The senior didn't throw a touchdown in the game, though he didn't mind in the least.

``I'll take that and throw no touchdowns with a win any day of the week,'' Wilson said.

More than anything, Wilson said the win was a relief for Arkansas. The Razorbacks returned to practice Sunday evening, doing so with an added bit of motivation.

``It's like night and day in confidence,'' Wilson said. ``And everybody's mind in the locker room, on the plane, wherever you're at, guys feel better about themselves. Consequently, they practice harder. They have belief in what we're doing, what we're trying to accomplish as a team; all that helps you.''

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Nationals the latest team to extend protective netting in stadium

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Nationals the latest team to extend protective netting in stadium

The Nationals return to the nation’s capital Monday night for their first homestand of the season’s second half. When they do, players and fans may notice a slight change at Nationals Park: extended netting.

The issue of extending protective netting down the lines of baseball stadiums has grown more and more prominent in recent years, especially with the rash of avoidable injuries fans are incurring on foul balls.

As hitters have grown stronger and exit velocities have skyrocketed, it’s become harder for fans in certain sections to protect themselves or their children from these dangerous shots into the crowd.

More and more teams have announced plans to extend the netting at their stadiums all the way down the lines, though it’s come with a little (misguided) controversy.

Monday night marks the debut of the Nationals’ extended netting.

“Throughout Major League Baseball there have been some tragic incidents this year,” Nationals VP of Public Safety and Security Scott Fear explained in a statement priovided by the team. “So we at the Washington Nationals decided to extend the netting to make sure our fans are safe.”

“And that’s what this is all about,” Fear continued. “We want to protect our fans, the children, the adults, everyone that comes to the game, to make sure they have a great time without worrying about being hurt.”

Perhaps in anticipation of some pushback from fans concerned about a diminished view, the Nats were quick to describe the new netting as being nearly see-through.

Plus, with the changes, the Nationals installed retractable netting, allowing it to come down prior to gametime. This will afford fans even more opportunities to interact with players and ask for pregame autographs and pictures.

“This is something we feel is going to be very positive, and our fans will feel safe being here watching the game,” Fear concluded.

Ultimately, safety should be the number one priority of any major franchise, the Nationals included. They are one of the first teams to embrace this change in the name of safety, and they certainly won’t be the last.

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Trent Williams will not report to Richmond to open training camp, per report

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Trent Williams will not report to Richmond to open training camp, per report

Trent Williams will not report to training camp this week when the Redskins head to Richmond to officially begin their 2019 season, according to NFL Network.

The news comes as no surprise, as Williams missed all of the Redskins voluntary offseason workouts and skipped the team's mandatory minicamp in June. Reports streamed out that Williams was upset about his contract and looking for a new deal -- not to mention reports that he was angry with the team's medical staff after a missed diagnosis with a growth on his scalp. 

Williams has made no official statements, and the Redskins organization offered very little in terms of a timeline for his return. Washington team president Bruce Allen said he knows "the truth" about Williams' situation, and head coach Jay Gruden said he hoped things would be resolved before Week 1 in Philadelphia. 

A seven-time Pro Bowler, Williams is arguably the best left tackle in the NFL. He's an immensely talented offensive lineman with two years remaining on his deal. Beyond the medical situation, Williams could be upset that in 2020, the final year of his deal, there is hardly any guaranteed cash. The team could release Williams with less than $2 million in salary cap penalty and save nearly $13 million against the cap. 

Without Williams, the Redskins could be in real trouble. Second-year pro Geron Christian did not seem capable of playing at a starting tackle level last fall, and that was before a knee injury landed him on IR. Morgan Moses should be locked in as the right tackle, but opposite him in Williams' spot will be dicey. 

Multiple sources with the Redskins and around the NFL suggested more cash could change Williams' mind before Week 1, and for now, it looks like the 31-year-old will be waiting for that increased payday. If Williams missed actual games, he would begin to lose money from this year's $14 million salary.

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