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Bears, Lions downplay any ill will

Bears, Lions downplay any ill will

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Hard feelings? Bad blood?

The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions for the most part did their best to downplay the idea leading into their game on Monday night.

It wasn't exactly an easy sell.

The way emotions boiled over the last time they met at Soldier Field, it's safe to wonder if sparks might fly this time, too.

If they do, players and coaches insisted it'll be because two division rivals are meeting in a game with quite a bit riding on the outcome and not because of the shenanigans last year.

The Bears (4-1) are trying to solidify their spot at the top of the NFC North, while the last-place Lions (2-3) are trying to jump back into the race.

``With anybody in our division, we're not going to like them and they're not going to like us,'' Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. ``It's a game we want to win and they want to win. It means a lot to each side. We've got to do our best to go out and get the W.''

Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford wasn't taking the bait, either.

``I think both of these teams have a lot of respect for each other and what we can do on the field,'' he said. ``It's a division game. We're rivals. They know what we're going to do; they know what we're going to do. It's just going out there and executing and that's what makes it physical and intense.''

It was certainly that way last year, when the Bears beat the Lions 37-13 at Soldier Field.

Things were already heated when Chicago's Tim Jennings picked off Stafford in the fourth quarter and got shoved hard out of bounds by Nate Burleson. As that unfolded, Stafford grabbed Moore by the helmet and threw him to the ground near the Lions sideline, setting off a confrontation that led to Moore's ejection.

That happened a few plays after the Bears' Lance Briggs delivered a hard hit on Calvin Johnson, but the tension started earlier in the game.

Cutler had his helmet ripped off by Ndamukong Suh after a run, and he got slammed to the ground by Nick Fairley on a late hit in the third quarter.

It all added up to this: Moore getting fined $15,000 Friday by the NFL for charging into Stafford and Stafford getting hit for $7,500.

``I don't think it's bad blood,'' Moore said. ``I think it's just a guy was frustrated. He did something, I did something, and then that was pretty much it. I don't really see it as something that just keeps going. If it happens again, I wouldn't react any different than I did.''

But for now, he's feeling nothing but love for the Lions. Right?

``Yeah, hugs and kisses. Birthday wishes,'' Moore said, grinning.

Not that they're expecting this one to be gift-wrapped.

With Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams up front on defense and Stafford and Calvin Johnson leading the offense, the Lions came in with high expectations.

A three-game losing streak nearly derailed them just as the season was starting.

That skid ended last week when they rallied to beat Philadelphia 26-23 in overtime. Now, they have a chance to get back to .500, a small but important step for a team that won 10 games a year ago and made the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

They want to show that they're more than just a one-year wonder, that they're built to last. Beating Chicago would be a good start.

``We can sit there for a long time and talk about the talent that's on the field and the respect that we have for them,'' Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. ``But that means that we're certainly going to go and give our very best, and we're going to try to play as tough and as physical as we can. And I think the team that executes the best, the team that plays with the most passion, makes the fewest mistakes, that's the team that's going to win - not the team that's chippiest or anything else. That's just a side story, I guess.''

It would help if Detroit cut back on the penalties after committing 16 against Philadelphia and if Stafford and Johnson connected in the end zone. That hasn't happened yet.

Johnson has just one TD catch, and it was on a pass from Shaun Hill. Even so, they just might be the league's most dangerous quarterback-receiver tandem. If they are, Cutler and Brandon Marshall aren't far behind.

So there's another side story.

``They're awesome,'' Stafford said. ``They do a heck of a job. They've had some really big games this year and they're really sparking their offense. They are definitely a dangerous combo.''

And Johnson has a big fan in Marshall. Chicago's prized offseason acquisition, he has 10 receivers that he analyzes on his iPad, hoping to pick up some tips.

Marshall wouldn't name them all, but he did say Johnson is one.

``I really like what he's doing,'' he said. ``I really like where his career is heading. He had an amazing year last year, and a lot of us guys are trying to keep up with the pace he set.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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