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Banged-up Packers focused on Arizona

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Banged-up Packers focused on Arizona

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers played without eight starters last weekend, and coach Mike McCarthy added two more players to the injury list on Monday.

The flood of injuries affected Green Bay's practice schedule in the run-up to Sunday's lackluster 24-15 victory over Jacksonville, but McCarthy isn't about to use them as an excuse.

``The injuries are part of the game. It's unfortunate on a personal level,'' McCarthy said. ``There's things that go on in our world in the game of football that are just unsaid. It's just the way you go about your business. It's what you accept and it's part of the grind of an NFL season.

``People ask me, `How does it impact your football team?' I've never taken the time to try to quantify the impact it has on your team.''

Wide receivers Greg Jennings (torn abdominal muscle) and Jordy Nelson (hamstring), fullback John Kuhn (hamstring) and running back Cedric Benson (sprained foot) were among the starters who missed Sunday's game. Safety Charles Woodson (broken collarbone), cornerback Sam Shields (ankle) and linebackers Nick Perry (knee), D.J. Smith (knee) and Desmond Bishop (hamstring) also were out.

Jennings was scheduled to undergo sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but McCarthy said it was postponed because of the superstorm on the East Coast.

``Exactly when he will go? That has not been determined yet,'' McCarthy said.

McCarthy also added defensive ends Jerel Worthy (concussion) and Mike Neal (knee) to the list of injured players.

The increasing amount of injuries affected Green Bay's preparations for the game against Jacksonville. For instance, with so many players down, McCarthy cut practices short on Wednesday and Thursday. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements estimated that the team lost roughly 15 percent of its regular practice snaps.

``Which we had to do just because of the injury situation trying to keep guys healthy,'' he said. ``But we didn't have as many `live reps,' if you want to call them that.

``Obviously when you don't have quality guys like (Jennings and Nelson), you have to overcome it. (But) injuries are a fact of life in the NFL. You try to avoid them, and it's unfortunate when top guys get hurt, but you have to play with the guys who are there.''

Said defensive coordinator Dom Capers: ``You have to adapt based on who you have out there, but I don't think it's made us any less aggressive. If you look at our numbers over the last three weeks, we've been the most aggressive. So maybe it goes the other way. But you adapt.''

Amid Green Bay's health-related misfortune, there is good news: It should get most of the ailing players back. Benson is on injured reserve but has been designated for return, which he says he is on schedule to do.

``That is the positive,'' said Benson, who could play in the Dec. 9 game against Detroit. ``Everybody's expecting to come back and looking forward to coming back and really excited about coming back. That is the positive thing in all these injuries.''

And the Packers (5-3) are still winning despite all the missing players. They have won three in a row heading into Sunday's home game against Arizona.

``Especially if you can get victories now with your key playmakers down,'' outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. ``Getting those guys back, they should return with fresh legs, healthy, ready to make an immediate impact. If we're looking down the road, guys like Charles Woodson, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, a healthy B.J. (Raji), you get all these guys healthy, you have your team at full strength, and that's when you want to peak is at the end of the season.''

NOTES: Third-year running back James Starks, who had an 8-yard run and 9-yard reception Sunday, won't see his role expand significantly but could see slightly more playing time, according to McCarthy.

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Devante Smith-Pelly named a starter in return to Chicago after ugly racial taunts

Devante Smith-Pelly named a starter in return to Chicago after ugly racial taunts

The top line for the Capitals on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks is Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, but the starting lineup is Ovechkin, Backstrom and Devante Smith-Pelly. Why the change?

It all has to do with the last time the Caps visited Chicago nearly a year ago.

On Feb. 17, 2018, Washington went into the United Center and were obliterated by the Blackhawks 7-1. But that wasn’t the ugliest thing to happen that night.

While sitting in the penalty box, Devante Smith-Pelly faced racial taunts from some Chicago fans who began chanting “basketball, basketball” at him.

In the wake of the incident, Smith-Pelly handled himself about as gracefully as one could. So, in the team’s return to Chicago Sunday, head coach Todd Reirden felt he should be on the ice for the national anthem.

The starters traditionally stand on the ice for the anthem while the rest of the players stand at the bench.

Smith-Pelly has remained active against racism in the sport. He and teammate John Carlson invited a youth hockey team whose lone African-American player had faced racial taunts during a game to the Caps’ game on Monday.

Sunday’s move by Reirden is a classy tribute to Smith-Pelly who handled an ugly situation about as well as one could. 

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The Wizards refuse to tank, so be skeptical of those Bradley Beal trade rumors

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The Wizards refuse to tank, so be skeptical of those Bradley Beal trade rumors

Apparently Wizards owner Ted Leonsis could have been even more clear when he delivered the edict last week that his team will "never, ever tank."

Despite publicly stating the Wizards would not go through a rebuild, the trade rumors surrounding All-Star guard Bradley Beal have persisted. Bleacher Report created some buzz on Saturday with an extensive look at Beal's trade value and there will likely be many more stories written in the next several weeks leading up to the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 7.

What Leonsis said, however, should change how any rumors are viewed. He expressed firmly what team officials have been indicating for weeks, that if they are active at the trade deadline, it won't be with deals involving their main guys.

That means Beal is highly unlikely to be dealt. Otto Porter Jr. can be considered similarly and John Wall should go without saying given his current injury status and hefty trade kicker.

All of that doesn't mean the Wizards won't get calls. There are reasons why people are connecting the dots on Beal and Porter. The Wizards have underperformed this season and they are good, veteran players. That is generally the most basic formula for trade speculation.

Leonsis, though, made it clear that he doesn't want to go through a rebuild anytime soon and trading Beal would signify a reset. If the Wizards want to make the playoffs this season, as Leonsis said, they have a much better shot with Beal in the mix than without him.

So, for the Wizards to trade Beal, that would require a serious change of face and in a short period of time. Or, it would require someone in the organization with a differing opinion to overrule the owner. Neither scenario sounds realistic.

If the goal is to build on what they have rather than tear it down and start over, you could argue they would be crazy to trade Beal. He is 25, an All-Star who is still improving and he's under contract two more years. The roughly $56 million he's owed through 2020-21 is a relative bargain in this era of supermax contracts.

The Wizards can't 100 percent rule out a trade of any player, of course. No front office really can, with rare exceptions like MVPs or all-time greats in their prime. Generally, everyone has a price.

Nothing can be taken as a guarantee in these situations. But Leonsis' comments have made it about as clear as possible that Beal isn't going anywhere. Just keep that in mind when the rumors inevitably crop up in the next few weeks.

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