Redskins

Azarenka's shrieks put to music

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Azarenka's shrieks put to music

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Music fans will soon get to hear the symphonic-like shrieking that Victoria Azarenka brings to her tennis.

The No. 1-ranked player and reigning Australian Open champion is known as one of the more vocal players on the women's tour, accompanying almost every whack of the ball with a high-pitched ``Ooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuwww.''

In a silent stadium, the sound can linger in the air.

Azarenka's friend, the American rapper Redfoo, who has produced multiple hit singles, has recognized some musical potential in the shriek. He recorded it and has mixed the sound into a new song due to be released soon, she said Monday.

``It's my grunt. It's not my vocals,'' Azarenka said, clarifying that she was not recorded singing. ``I don't take high-key or low-key there. It's just natural.''

Center court at Melbourne Park got a 57-minute Azarenka concert on Monday as she beat Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-1 in the fourth round and continued her confident run toward the defense of her title. Going into the quarterfinals, Azarenka has dropped only one set.

Known for his wild hair and even wilder music, Redfoo has been seen cheering from Azarenka's players' box and signing autographs during most of her matches. Azarenka was quoted as telling Australian media that Redfoo, the LMFAO frontman whose real name is Stefan Kendal Gordy (he's the son of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy), had to fly off to a gig in Malaysia but plans to come back later in the week.

As an insider to the music world, Azarenka gets to listen to tunes the public hasn't heard yet - like a remix by Redfoo's friend GoonRock that she called ``Sweet Baby'' and says is ``really good.''

``Sweet Baby'' was piping into Azarenka's earbuds as she walked onto center court Monday, as she often does soaking in some last-minute musical inspiration before turning to tennis.

``If it's bad music, it's going to be a bad match,'' she said. ``So I really choose it very carefully.''

Music is a ``very important'' part of her pre-match preparation, Azarenka told a post-match news conference.

It helps ``focus, pump you up, get your feet a little bit moving, kind of get excited,'' she said. ``I kind of get in the zone.

``It just makes me feel good inside. When I feel good inside, I love to go out there and do the best job as I can.''

The 23-year-old Belarussian rose to the top of the rankings after winning last year's Australian Open and has stayed there for all but a few weeks ever since. She needs to defend her title to hold the top spot from No. 2 Maria Sharapova or No. 3 Serena Williams.

All three top-ranked women remain in contention, meaning the women's quarterfinals contains all of last year's Grand Slam winners. Sharapova won the French Open and Williams won at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Next up for Azarenka is Svetlana Kuznetsova, who entered the season's first major ranked No. 75 but has won titles at the 2004 U.S. Open and 2009 French Open.

Kuznetsova advanced after a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 win over Caroline Wozniacki, a former No. 1-player who will now slip out of the top 10.

The 27-year-old Kuznetsova said she noticed a difference in the temperment of Azarenka, who was prone in the past to hot-headed outbursts on court.

``She's changed and just become so stable,'' said Kuznetsova. ``I think she just got calmer. She's consistent.''

Going into the match feeling like the underdog gives Kuznetsova added confidence, she said.

``She's No. 1. I have nothing to lose. She has all the pressure,'' she said. ``I've got the game to give her some problems, and I will just do my best and try to enjoy it.''

Azarenka smiled when told her opponent had complimented her composure.

``I'm always going to be an emotional player,'' she said, adding that now she's learning how to pick the right reaction for each point.

``Sometimes you need to be more aggressive ... to pump yourself up,'' Azarenka said. ``Sometimes you just need to relax and breathe.''

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The Redskins finally have a fullback again, and he's ready to pave the way in the run game

The Redskins finally have a fullback again, and he's ready to pave the way in the run game

For the first time since Darrel Young was contributing in the backfield from 2010-2015, the Redskins have a legitimate fullback on their active roster.

Michael Burton got the call from Washington on Sunday night in which they said they were interested in adding him, caught a flight on Monday, worked out for the team on Tuesday and, after signing his contract, took the field for his first practice on Wednesday. He's been a busy man lately, but in a conversation following that Wednesday practice, he used the word "excited" a handful of times to describe his current mood.

He should be feeling that way, too.

Burton's arrival is yet another commitment to running the football by interim coach Bill Callahan. The Redskins have been using Ryan Anderson in a pinch in short-yardage and goal-to-go situations as a lead blocker, but now, they have someone who's played the position in the NFL for multiple seasons. 

Under Callahan, Burton could very well have a role. 

"I think it can give the defense different looks," Burton said of fullbacks. "I think they can do a lot of different things, whether you start us out wide and you bring us in, that can kind of be a tell to what the defense is doing. It just adds another blocker from the backfield. It makes it a little more difficult for the linebackers to fit. We can create more creases. Obviously, I'm a big fullback fan."

Jay Gruden often spoke about how he'd like to keep one on his final rosters, yet he never found room in recent seasons. But when backup tight end Jerome Cunningham was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, Burton was chosen to take his place.

Of course, a huge chunk of the league continues to emphasize the spread and speedy skill-players and attacking defenses in the air. 6-foot, 240-pounders aren't exactly in high-demand.

That is precisely why Burton feels like he can be a sneaky asset for the Redskins.

"They don't see it in practice all the time," he explained. "When you play that team that hasn't seen it, it's difficult to prepare for that in a week... I think it just adds another element to the offense."

Now, it remains to be seen whether Burton is long for the Burgundy and Gold. These kinds of mid-season acquisitions are often gone before their lockers are fully set up. 

However, with Callahan in charge and Adrian Peterson being a featured piece again, perhaps Burton can become effective and beloved like Young and Mike Sellers were for the organization. He's not worried about that, though. He's instead focused on much simpler goals.

"If Coach Callahan wants to get the run game going, I take pride in that," he said. "I'm going to put that on my shoulders every single day to make sure we have a successful run game."

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Here's who is on the DC Defenders roster, alongside Cardale Jones

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Here's who is on the DC Defenders roster, alongside Cardale Jones

The next step in the XFL's 2020 relaunch was completed on Wednesday, as each team completed the five-phase open draft.

The DC Defenders, one of the eight teams in the revamped football league, pulled in quite the haul.

While he wasn't a draft pick, former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones was assigned to the Defenders on Tuesday. He joins the Redskins' Dwayne Haskins as former Buckeye QBs playing in the nation's capital.

Here's a look at their full roster, with the names and important notes to know.

Skill Positions:

Rashard Davis, WR, James Madison
Tre McBride, WR, William & Mary
Jhurell Pressley RB, New Mexico
DeAndre Thompkins, WR, Penn State
Khari Lee, TE, Bowie State
Orson Charles, TE, Georgia
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
Max McCaffrey, WR, Duke
Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo
Adrien Robinson, TE, Cincinnati

Offensive Lineman:

Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford
Logan Tuley-Tillman, OT, Michigan
De'Ondre Wesley, OT, Brigham Young
Jon Toth, OC, Kentucky
Rishard Cook, OG, Alabama-Birmingham
Chris Brown, OG, Southern California
Toby Weathersby, OT, Louisiana State
James O'Hagan, OC, Buffalo
Chase Farris, OG, Ohio State
Casey Tucker, OT, Arizona State

Defensive Front Seven:

James Vaughters, LB, Stanford
Charles Harris, DE, Buffalo
Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington
Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
Tracy Sprinkle, DT, Ohio State
Jameer Thurman, LB, Indiana State
Sam Montgomery, DE, Louisiana State
Jonathan Celestin, LB, Minnesota
KeShun Freeman, DE, Georgia Tech
Daryle Banfield, DT, Brown

Defensive Backs:

Elijah Campbell, CB, Northern Iowa
Desmond Lawrence, CB, North Carolina
Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota
Doran Grant, CB, Ohio State
Bradley Sylve, CB, Alabama
Reggie Cole, CB, Mary Hardin Baylor
Rahim Moore, Safety, UCLA
Tyree Kinnel, Safety, Michigan
Carlos Merritt, Safety, Campbell
Ladarius Gunter, CB, Miami (FL)

Phase 1: Open Draft

Terrence Lee-Alls, WR, James Madison
Dimitrios Tsesmetzis, TE, Western Connecticut State
Duvonta Lampkin, DT, Oklahoma
Tavaris Barnes, DE, Clemson
Jake Ceresna, DE, Cortland
Brian Khoury, DE, Carnegie Mellon
A.J. Tarpley, LB, Stanford
Matt Elam, Safety, Florida
Tre Sullivan, Safety, Shepherd
Hunter Niswander, Punter, Northwestern

Phase 2: Open Draft

Khalid Abdullah, RB, James Madison
Ryan Yurachek, RB, Marshall
Levern Jacobs III, WR, Maryland
Richard Mullaney, WR, Alabama
Ronald Patrick, OC, South Carolina
Cole Boozer, OT, Temple
Randall Harris, OT, Towson
Siupeli Anau, DT, Northern Arizona
Koa Farmer, LB, Penn State
Max Redfield, Safety, Indiana (PA)

Open Draft: Phase 3

John Thomas, RB, Penn State
Jamal Custis, WR, Syracuse
Deion Holliman, WR, Missouri State
Jaylen Smith, WR, Louisville
Justin Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
Terron Prescod, OG, North Carolina State
Trae Moxley, OT, Colorado State
Josh Augusta, DT, Missouri
Kristjan Sokoli, DT, Buffalo
Jordan Jones, LB, Kentucky

NOTES:

  • One name that is familiar to many college football fans is running back Donnel Pumphrey. He left San Diego State the NCAA's all-time leading rusher. Prior to the XFL, Pumphrey was a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in 2017, but multiple injuries prevented him from making an impact on the field.
     
  • Linebacker Scooby Wright should make an immediate impact for the Defenders. At Arizona State, he won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award. After bouncing around multiple NFL teams, Wright will sue the XFL as hopefully a form of stability in his NFL career.
     
  • Cardale Jones will take the QB headlines, but Tyree Jackson is no slouch, either. Just 21 years old, Jackson went undrafted in 2019 and was released by the Bills during final roster cuts. He was one of the more intriguing prospects coming out and his slip was surprising to many. Expect Jackson to compete with Jones for snaps at the very minimum.
     
  • Maryland's own Levern Jacobs will stay local, as the Defenders selected the former Terrapin in the open draft phase. Jackson spent time with the Redskins during training camp in 2017 but was released during final roster cuts. 
     
  • The older brother of NFL MVP candidate Christian McCaffrey was selected by the Defenders as well. Wide receiver Max McCaffrey had a stellar career at Duke but was unable to find footing in the NFL after going undrafted in 2016. He'll look to revamp his football career with the Defenders.
     
  • One player with significant NFL experience is cornerback LaDarius Gunter. In 2016, he was a full-time starter for the Packers opposite of Damarius Randall. He was released in 2017 and appeared in four games with the Carolina Panthers in 2017. His most recent football came from the AAF, where he was a member of the Orlando Apollos.
     
  • If you want to talk about athleticism, one Defenders' wide receiver is as good as they come. Deion Holliman and his 65-inch vertical will be on display for D.C.
     
  • Former Ravens first-round pick Matt Elam brings incredible experience to the Defenders as well. He spent four years with Baltimore, and off the field issues derailed his NFL career. Expect Elam to use the XFL as a way to catch attention from other NFL teams.