Nationals

Bengals CB Jones: No love for Cowboys

Bengals CB Jones: No love for Cowboys

CINCINNATI (AP) Adam ``Pacman'' Jones loves Cowboys owner Jerry Jones but not his team, which let him go after one season that was disappointing all-around and became a turning point for his troubled career.

The 29-year-old cornerback has revived his career with Cincinnati, earning a regular role on defense and special teams. The Bengals (7-5) have won four in a row heading into their game against the Cowboys (6-6) on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

It'll be Jones' first time playing against the Cowboys since they released him following a 2008 season that included a six-game suspension for getting into an alcohol-related scuffle with a bodyguard provided by the team.

``I have nothing against them,'' said Jones, who is friends with cornerback Mike Jenkins. ``I have no love for the Cowboys. I have all the love for the Bengals.''

Jones was suspended repeatedly during his first three seasons in the league with Tennessee, a team that eventually gave up on him, as well. The Cowboys took a chance, trading a fourth-round pick to get him before the 2008 season.

Jones played in nine games for the Cowboys, starting six, but didn't snare an interception. He returned 21 punts but averaged only 4.5 yards. He got into the scuffle that drew another suspension and ended his stay in Dallas.

The Cowboys waived him on Feb. 9, 2009, and he was out of the league for a year before Cincinnati brought him aboard for the 2010 season. Jones has settled down and turned into a mainstay on defense, on the field for at least 70 percent of the plays during Cincinnati's four wins.

Jones also is third in the NFL with an average of 15.3 yards per punt return. He ran one back 81 yards for a touchdown against Cleveland.

``I'm happy that the Bengals did me right,'' Jones said. ``A little time, a little confidence and the opportunity. They've been patient with me through the ups and downs. Now that I get the time, I'm getting a lot of confidence.''

Coach Marvin Lewis said Jones has been receptive to coaching and putting in the time to become better.

``He is under foot daily, in both defense and special teams, and that's helpful,'' Lewis said. ``Anybody who is worth his salt and wants to be a great player in the NFL needs to be coached and wants to be coached. I think that is the step that he has really warmed to over his time here with us.''

Lewis said Jones ``was longing for that, he needed that'' when he signed with Cincinnati, which has expanded his role as he has grown.

``We're really getting into the inner guy that's got so much ability and talent,'' Lewis said.

Jones didn't want to rehash his time in Dallas, although he said he's so eager for the game that he probably won't sleep on Saturday night.

``I just want to win,'' he said. ``Whatever we need to do to win the game, we must do it. I don't have any bad blood over there, but I don't care about them.''

He said he's still fond of their owner.

``I love Jerry with all my heart,'' he said. ``I'm not going to get into what I don't like about them, but it's not about Jerry. He's done a lot for me.''

Jones said it's a different feeling than he has for Tennessee, where he was close to coach Jeff Fisher.

``In Dallas, a lot of (stuff) is fairytale, I should say,'' Jones said. ``It's not real life. They don't tell you how it really is. I have nothing against Tennessee. My coach down there is a great friend and father figure to me. I have no hard feelings against none of them, but down deep, this is the one you want.''

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NOTES: The Bengals signed kicker Josh Brown, who played five seasons with Seattle and four with St. Louis. He kicked for the Jets during preseason and was released on Aug. 27. They needed a kicker after Mike Nugent hurt his right calf during practice on Wednesday. ... C Jeff Faine was waived to open a spot for Brown, an indication that C Kyle Cook is ready to return on Sunday against the Cowboys. Cook hurt his right ankle in the final preseason game and needed surgery, prompting the Bengals to sign Faine. Cook returned to full practice on Wednesday for the first time. The Bengals will have to make another roster move to activate him off injured reserve. ... TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring), RB Cedric Peerman (ankle) and CB Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion) also missed practice on Thursday.

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Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

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USATSI

Nationals set to enter defining seven-game stretch

WASHINGTON -- Most baseball managers try to operate in monochromatic fashion. They see one goal each day, and it only rests in those 24 hours. Some -- like Davey Martinez -- claim they don’t look at the standings in June. His standard message is to “win today” then move to tomorrow.

Human nature often runs interference on compartmentalization. It even crept up on Martinez on Sunday morning when in the midst of an answer about Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner playing daily. 

“For me, this is a big week,” Martinez said. “We have a chance to make up some ground here. I want these guys readily available to play.”

He’s right. The claim of significance is valid for once in mid-June, not a concept drummed up by overzealous television promos or interminable Internet space. 

The Nationals have seven games in seven days against two teams near the top of the division. Damaged Philadelphia arrives Monday. The Phillies’ bullpen is hurting and ineffective. Bryce Harper could miss the All-Star Game for just the second time in his career. Philadelphia is 6-8 in June. Meanwhile, Atlanta is rolling along. Its lineup remains deep, the pitching functional and Dallas Keuchel set to make his debut here in D.C. next weekend. The Braves hold a 2 ½-game lead in the not-so-great National League East. 

“Not thinking too big picture,” Adam Eaton said. “But knowing we have an in-division rivalry, we’ve got to win those games. It’s important. We’re trying to chase at this point. Not to put too much emphasis on it, but we need to play some really competitive baseball. And we shouldn’t beat ourselves these next four games. Play good baseball and not beat ourselves. If we play the brand of baseball we know how to play, and play clean, we have a good chance.”

Washington is five games under .500. Days are clicking off the calendar. Departing along with them are opportunities to chop at an 8 1/2-game deficit in the division. Following this week, only seven games against Philadelphia remain. However, 13 with Atlanta remain on the schedule, including seven in 10 days in September. The question is if those will matter. Sink this week and they won’t. Pull off a deficit-halving six of seven and everything changes. 

This week’s ramifications will first be felt on the phone lines in a month. The non-waiver trade deadline arrives July 31. Drag back to a double-digit deficit this week and plunk down the “for sale” sign. Rocket through the week and perhaps reinforcements will be found.

Monday brings a dreaded series opener. The Nationals are 6-17 in the first games of series this season. No one knows why. It doesn’t make sense. But, here they are, incapable of winning a first game and constantly playing from behind.

Patrick Corbin will be on the mound attempting to counter the trend. He, like the team when a new opponent shows up, has been in arrears the last three games. Corbin’s ERA dipped to 2.85 following a 116-pitch shutout of Miami on May 25. He’s been bludgeoned since. His ERA is up to 4.11, he will start twice this week, and the Nationals need him to right his ills.

Friday, Corbin threw a bullpen session focused on his line to the plate. Pitching coach Paul Menhart describes what they are trying to accomplish to get Corbin back to the version he was earlier this season:

“His lines and his east-west motion have made it very difficult for him to get the ball to where he wants it to be,” Menhart said. “He needs to be more direct to the plate and have more of a north-south rotation with his upper body and being more stable lower-half wise will allow him to do that and have his deception and hide the ball better and keep that tunnel.”

Corbin agreed. He doesn’t watch much video to cure ruts. He also doesn’t want too much information. The team’s analytics trackers have informed him his arm slot remains in a good place. He thinks his body is still in a running at a high level, dismissing any correlation between his struggles and the workload against Miami. He’s also going through the most common element of reduced success: trying not to chew on it too much.

“I think when I’m away from the field, you think about it more,” Corbin told NBC Sports Washington. “You’re frustrated about it a little bit -- what the heck is going on? But when you get here, you just try to work, try to do things to get better. That’s how I approach it. I’m just looking forward to my next start on Monday going out there and trying to get back to how I know I can pitch.”

Philadelphia arrives after being thumped in Atlanta on Sunday, 15-1. Washington had the opposite day in a 15-5 win. Monday night starts a reckoning of sorts for both. The Nationals will send out their three high-end starters during the four games. Philadelphia is trying to right itself and not let the Braves get out of touch at the top of the division. So, even for the one-day-at-a-time crew, the coming seven carry significant weight, and they’re finally admitting it.

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Capitals re-sign forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract

Capitals re-sign forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract

WASHINGTON — The Capitals bolstered their forward depth and its penalty kill by re-signing two-time Stanley Cup champion Carl Hagelin before he hit unrestricted free agency next month. 

Washington has officially re-signed forward Carl Hagelin to a four-year, $11 million contract extension, a move that goes a long way toward re-establishing a third line that had some openings entering the offseason. 

Hagelin, 30, was a pending unrestricted free agent. Washington acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21 just four days before the NHL trade deadline. Hagelin played primarily on the third line – although injuries in the Stanley Cup playoffs pushed him onto the second line. 

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Hagelin had three goals and 11 assists in 20 regular-season games with the Capitals and became an instant staple on the penalty kill. His 47 minutes, six seconds on the PK in those 20 games were enough to rank sixth among all forwards on the team.

Traded twice last season, Hagelin had a total of five goals and 14 assists with the Capitals, Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins in 58 games. He had a sprained knee (medial collateral ligament) with Los Angeles that kept him out for 20 games.  

"[Hagelin] was a good fit,” Washington general manager Brian MacLellan said on April 26. “I thought he fit seamlessly from day one. Really liked him on the third line, the way we used him, we bumped him up obviously with the [T.J.] Oshie injury. Our PK got a lot better. Fits in well with his teammates. It's a really good fit for us, yes." 

The Penguins traded Hagelin to the Kings on Nov. 14. He was a key part of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup winners in 2016 and 2017, which came at the expense of Washington in the playoffs each time. 

This was the last year of a four-year, $16 million deal that Hagelin signed with the Anaheim Ducks in 2015. He was always viewed as a likely trade chip for Los Angeles, which finished in last place in the Pacific Division and eventually flipped him to the Capitals. 

Even after the disappointing first-round Stanley Cup playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, Hagelin said he was open to re-signing with the Capitals before he hit unrestricted free agency on July 1. His signing follows the trade of defenseman Matt Niskanen on Friday. The NHL Draft is this coming weekend in Vancouver with more moves expected.   

“I liked the fact that I got a good look from the coaches,” Hagelin said on April 26 of his time with the Capitals. “I got to play with good players, I got to play in key situations. I felt comfortable here.”

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