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Bengals CB Kirkpatrick close to debut

Bengals CB Kirkpatrick close to debut

CINCINNATI (AP) Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is getting close to his injury-delayed debut.

The Cincinnati Bengals' top draft pick hurt his left knee while working out during the summer, forcing him to miss out on the chance to compete for a starting job during training camp. Finally, the knee is healed and the 17th overall pick in the draft is ready to get on the field for the first time.

It could happen Sunday night against Pittsburgh.

``It's possible,'' coach Marvin Lewis said on Wednesday. ``We'll see what happens through the week.''

The Bengals (3-3) have struggled to overcome a series of injuries to defensive backs all season, starting with Kirkpatrick's knee. They have only two interceptions, tied with Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Detroit for second-fewest in the league. Dallas has only one.

Cincinnati has repeatedly shuffled its secondary, finally deciding to start Terence Newman at cornerback opposite Leon Hall and moving cornerback Nate Clements to safety, which has been a problem area. They also brought back safety Chris Crocker, who has one of the two interceptions. Defensive lineman Michael Johnson has the other.

Kirkpatrick expected to be playing long before now. He recovered from the knee injury in time to practice in August and was hoping to play in the final preseason game at Indianapolis. He developed tendinitis in the knee after a few practices, forcing him to back off the workouts.

He was cleared to resume practice on a limited basis two weeks ago, and has gradually increased his number of plays.

``I'm coming along,'' Kirkpatrick said Wednesday before practice. ``I'm getting there. Every day is a process, and I'm managing it well and going as hard as I can every day.''

Kirkpatrick still gets treatment on the knee, but said it hasn't given him any problems. He found it easy to be patient when he was just starting his rehabilitation program.

``Early on it was because I knew I couldn't go out there,'' he said. ``Now it gets frustrating sometime, but my dad is a pastor and he is putting wisdom and the right things in my head.''

The Bengals have to decide whether to let him play on Sunday night against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers (2-3), or sit him one more game and then give him the bye week to do more catching up. The Bengals play against Denver and the Giants coming out of their bye.

Kirkpatrick knows that Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning will make a point to test a rookie cornerback.

``It's not going to be easy,'' he said. ``Every day is a challenge. That's why I look up to the leaders to help me in the film room and show me what I'm not doing right.''

Lewis likes how Kirkpatrick looks during practice, when he splits time with the starting defense and the reserves.

``I've been really impressed with Dre Kirkpatrick in practice - more impressed than any time he's been here,'' Lewis said. ``Even more impressive than when he was here in rookie minicamp. He's competing well, he's practicing very hard, he's getting his conditioning to where it needs to be to sustain playing in an NFL game, play after play after play.

``He said this is the best he's felt since 2010 at Alabama. He said the knee bothered him most of last year, so he's feeling good about it.''

Cornerback Leon Hall missed two games with a hamstring and calf injury. He has started the last two at right cornerback, with Newman across the field. Adding Kirkpatrick as an extra cornerback would give the Bengals another playmaker on passing downs.

Hall thinks the secondary is settling down after being in flux because of injuries.

``I think we are kind of getting into a little bit of a groove,'' Hall said. ``We are still making some mistakes that are pretty big within the game. As far as having the same people out there and having some confidence and trust in people out on the field with you, it is definitely better.''

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NOTES: RB Brian Leonard missed practice Wednesday with sore ribs, injured during the second half of the loss in Cleveland on Sunday. Lewis said he's day-to-day. Otherwise, the Bengals are in good health heading into the Steelers game. ... C Kyle Cook walked around the locker room without a boot on his right foot, a sign of improvement. Cook hurt his right ankle in the final preseason game. Although he went on injured reserve, the Bengals designated him as their player who could return to the active roster if he heals during the season.

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

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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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Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

Believe it or not, this isn't the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup

In what is perhaps the most unexpected Stanley Cup Final pairing in recent memory, the Washington Capitals and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are going to make history this year.

Either it is going to be the first expansion team to win a title in their first season, or it will be a team looking to end a 27-year title drought for one of the biggest cities in the United States.

But what it will not be is the first D.C. vs. Vegas postseason matchup.

Going even farther back than the Capitals last Stanley Cup appearance (1998), the Georgetown Hoyas and UNLV Rebels met in the 1991 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Sin City took the first, and up until now, the only postseason bout between these two cities. The Larry Johnson-led University of Las Vegas squad powered right past the Hoyas in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament.

[D.C. sports and Second Rounds, I know right?]

Coming fresh off the NCAA title in 1990, UNLV waltzed right to the Final Four before meeting their demise against Duke. It also ended up being the last game for Dikembe Mutombo in a Georgetown uniform.

While in all likely-hood this will not be the final game/ series for Alex Ovechkin rocking the red, it may be his last and only chance for him to play this far into a postseason.

In the past two seasons, Vegas has gone from zero professional teams to having a Stanley Cup contender, a WNBA franchise, and lined up to take over the Oakland Raiders in 2020. 

Now time for the Golden Knights' Cinderella story to come up a little bit short. 

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