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Athletes, stars lend hands in Super Bowl host city

Athletes, stars lend hands in Super Bowl host city

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Some athletes and celebrities headed to New Orleans for Super Bowl weekend are picking up hammers and packaging food for the homeless in the big game's host city.

The downtown area where most Super Bowl festivities will take place has arguably never looked better, with a renovated Superdome and resurfaced streets and sidewalks. But a closer look reveals homelessness, crime and outer-lying neighborhoods that still bear the scars of 2005, when levees collapsed during Hurricane Katrina and inundated more than 80 percent of the city with floodwater.

One of the city's biggest areas of need is housing. In some areas, flood-damaged houses remain untouched, gutted homes have been abandoned, and many lots are overgrown with weeds where houses once stood.

While in town, some athletes and celebrities are working with Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together to help the city's rebuilding effort. Others are working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Second Harvest, a New Orleans-based nonprofit community food bank.

``Every ounce of support helps,'' said Jon Luther, vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans, which has been working with the NFL Players Association for months to build homes in the city's Lower 9th Ward neighborhood, which saw some of the worst flooding after Katrina.

``For them to show such interest and generosity of their time to our city, we are so grateful,'' Luther said.

Through the NFL's Touchdown for Homes program, three homes have been built not far from actor Brad Pitt's Make It Right houses. A ribbon-cutting will be held Friday.

This week, more NFL players are getting to work on homes in other parts of the city. Some are working Thursday with Habitat for Humanity to build a new home for a New Orleans resident in the Central City area. On Friday, they'll work on another home in the same area for a local family.

But not all the goodwill is labor intensive.

On Friday, country music star Garth Brooks will join Saints players Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Curtis Lofton and Deuce McAllister to help the Starkey Hearing Foundation fit more than two dozen local children with hearing aids.

On Saturday, NFL players Larry Fitzgerald, Tommie Harris, Chris Doleman, Craig Stevens, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Brian de la Puente will help the Starkey foundation provide about 100 hearing aids to residents, including 12 local musicians.

``Because music is the heart of New Orleans' vibrant culture, and hearing is so vital to music, I can't think of a more perfect setting,'' said Brady Forseth, the foundation's executive director.

This is the fourth year in a row Starkey has conducted a mission in the Super Bowl host city. The group will fit residents at the Musicians Village, a rebuilding effort in the city's Upper 9th Ward headed by New Orleans native jazz musicians Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis.

Portions of proceeds from some of the big Super Bowl weekend concerts also will benefit locals.

The NFL's Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, headlined Friday night by Grammy-winning rhythm and blues singer Fantasia, was launched in 1999 and each year donates a portion of proceeds and hundreds of tickets to local and national charities.

This year's benefactors will include the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, founded by the New Orleans Saints player, and The Sharper Kids Foundation, founded by Darren Sharper - a former Saints player and brother to former Seattle Seahawks player Jamie Sharper.

Proceeds from the DIRECTV Super Saturday Night concert with Justin Timberlake and Ahmir ``Questlove'' Thompson of The Roots as DJ will benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children. It is co-hosted by Mark Cuban's AXS-TV.

``Giving back should be natural,'' said Questlove, who lives in New York but has played in New Orleans with The Roots for decades. ``It shouldn't be like a big event or a special thing. It should be natural.''

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Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

The Baltimore Ravens went into the Tennessee Titans' home and completely robbed them in a 21-0 shutout win.

Here are the players and plays that stood out from the afternoon.

PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME: Ravens Defense

The Ravens defense had a historic afternoon recording a franchise-record 11 sacks. Yup, you read that right. 11 sacks.

Za'Darius Smith led the way with three, followed by Patrick Onwuasor with two and Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr. and Chris Wormley with one apiece. The 11 sacks tied for the second most by a team in league history and the most in a game since 2012.  It was so historic, the Ravens changed their Twitter name to included 11 S's. 

But that wasn't the only impressive part of the Ravens' afternoon. Marcus Mariota was limited to 10 completions and the defense allowed just 51 passing yards  —  the fewest in franchise history  — and 55 rushing yards. The Titans finished the afternoon 1-for-10 on third down as well.

With the shutout, the Ravens defense cemented its place as one of the NFL's most elite units in 2018. A win that must have been extra sweet after a 12-9 overtime loss to the Browns the week prior and with former defensive coordinator Dean Pees staring back from the opposite sideline. The Ravens remain the only NFL team to not allow a second-half touchdown this season. 

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE GAME: Michael Crabtree

After dropping what would have been the game-winning touchdown Week 5 against the Browns, Michael Crabtree said his priority this week was to get back into the lab and correct his mistakes. Out the gate, the veteran receiver stayed true to his word finishing the Ravens' first drive catching three passes for 52 yards and one touchdown. Earlier in the week, Joe Flacco had faith his receiver would get over the hump of six drops in five games and was willing to stand by him until it happened.

"Besides just trying to give him the confidence that, you know, I'm still going his way when he calls for it and I still believe that it's going to be the difference...it's something that he'll definitely get over," Flacco said.

The patience worked as Crabtree finished the day with six receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown leading all Ravens receivers.

But more importantly, the relationship between Crabtree and Flacco continues to grow.

"That’s trust. That’s what you need in football, you know," Crabtree said postgame. "Quarterback, receiver relationship. It’s only going to get better. It’s all about how much time you put in, how much work you put in. I’m new; this is my first year here so I got to do what I got to do."

STAT OF THE GAME: Flacco makes his way into the history books

With 25 completions Sunday against the Titans, Flacco became the third different quarterback in NFL history to complete 25 or more passes in nine consecutive games, per the NFL's communication department. Drew Brees sits atop the list with 11 and 10 consecutive games followed by Peyton Manning with nine. Flacco finished the 21-0 win 25-for-37 with 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

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Wizards' preseason showed how Jeff Green can help bench score from inside and out

Wizards' preseason showed how Jeff Green can help bench score from inside and out

When Mike Scott left to join the L.A. Clippers, the Wizards replaced him as the backup power forward with Jeff Green and in doing so found a guy who is similar in many ways, albeit for a cheaper price. He is experienced, versatile offensively and even a local guy who roots for the Redskins.

Where they differ on the offensive end is the ways they like to score. Scott is more of a three-point threat, while Green is more comfortable operating in the post. 

Last season with the Wizards, Scott attempted only a third of his shots from less than 10 feet, while Green took 54.2 of his attempts from that range. Nearly a third of Green's shots (30.3) came within five feet of the rim.

Green's ability to score inside and with his back to the basket may end up complementing others in the Wizards' second unit quite well. Three-point shooting is more important than ever in today's NBA and his ability to draw the defense inside can open up the floor for others like Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers.

The Wizards did not have anyone on their bench last season with Green's level of skill in the post and Green showed in the preseason a willingness to pass from the paint.

Against the Knicks in the Wizards' fourth preseason game, Green had the ball in the post when he noticed Satoransky's defender was moving closer inside, perhaps anticipating a rebound. He fired the ball to Satoransky, who pump-faked a three and dribbled to his right before knocking down a jumper at the top of the key.

"It's just smart basketball. There are a lot of unselfish guys," Green said of the Wizards' bench. "I think we just work well together. We feed off each other. I think we know how to play the right way."

Satoransky led the Wizards with a 46.5 three-point percentage last season. He knocked down 51.2 percent off catch-and-shoot plays. Rivers shot 37.8 percent from three last year for the Clippers and 37.1 percent on catch-and-shoot looks.

Oubre shot only 34.1 percent overall from three, but that number dropped significantly towards the end of the year. He can get hot from three and is dangerous when cutting to the basket off the ball. Ian Mahinmi, though not highly skilled in the post, can make defenders pay for leaving him on double teams.

It's not only about threes for Rivers and Satoransky, as Satoransky showed on that one play in New York. Both are solid at catch-and-gos. Rivers is decisive and quick and Satoranksy has made noticeable strides since he entered the league and taking off once he gets a pass. 

Green, 32, is still learning their strengths.

"I try to use their attributes to our advantage and creating what I can create," Green said. "If they can shoot and I'm being doubled, I'm going to make the right play and get it to the shooter."

The Wizards made upgrading their bench a big priority this offseason and the net result may be the most versatile group they have had in years. They can shoot threes, run the floor and, with Green in the mix, work inside and out.

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