Nationals

Briggs says Bears' focus on Detroit, not changes

Briggs says Bears' focus on Detroit, not changes

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Bears linebacker Lance Briggs insisted all he's thinking about is Chicago beating the Detroit Lions and reaching the playoffs.

The idea that this could be the last go-around with his coaches and some teammates?

The seven-time Pro Bowler said he's not thinking about what might happen if the Bears (9-6) lose Sunday at Detroit. They're in danger of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, and even if they beat the Lions, they would need help from rival Green Bay.

If they don't reach the postseason, there is speculation that coach Lovie Smith could be gone. Brian Urlacher has an expiring contract and might be on his way out, too, but Briggs wasn't thinking about those possibilities.

``My job right now is to focus on beating the Detroit Lions,'' he said Thursday. ``I think that's what all of our jobs are right now. That's what we need to focus on - trying to get ourselves into the postseason.''

These are awkward times for the Bears. They're in a situation they never would have envisioned after a 7-1 start, trying to slip into the playoffs and in need of a big assist even if they do their part against the Lions. They would also need Green Bay to beat or tie Minnesota. Chicago could also get in with a tie if the Packers beat the Vikings, but if they don't make it, there's a feeling that an era could be ending.

If management is ready to pull the plug on Smith, special teams coordinator Dave Toub urged them to reconsider.

``Lovie's a great coach,'' he said. ``He needs to stay here.''

If the speculation is bothering Smith, Toub doesn't see it.

``He's been steady,'' Toub said. ``We've been very lucky - the Chicago Bears are very lucky - to have Lovie Smith. You better realize that. Everybody better realize that.''

It's not just Smith's job possibly on the line. The rest of the staff could be gone, too, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said he's not worrying about that. He sees a game coming up that the Bears can't afford to lose. He sees a once-promising season coming down to this - one final chance - and sees no time to worry about the what-ifs.

``To me, it's not difficult at all,'' he said. ``You've got a job at hand, do your job. Do what men are supposed to do.''

But what about human nature?

``You take human nature, I take a man's responsibility,'' Marinelli said.

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice seems to be taking more of a Zen-like approach. If he's feeling more pressure, he's keeping it to himself.

``That would be bad because then the guys would think I'm uptight,'' he said. ``So I don't want to be uptight. That's the worst thing that I can be is uptight.''

He paused, smiled and added: ``I have to come up with some new material.''

Briggs put in a plug for Smith and said the players want to win this one for him. More than that, though, he doesn't want to see the wrecking ball hit the Bears.

``More than just Lovie,'' he said. ``You want to win it for us. Win it for us. If you've enjoyed your time here in Chicago and the way that Lovie has treated you and us together and this camaraderie that we have then win for that. If Lovie is not here, that goes - that goes with him. I've enjoyed every moment of being here, here in Chicago. And I don't intend on that changing. So it's time to go out and beat Detroit, and then we'll pull for the Packers.''

Notes: RB Matt Forte went through a limited practice on Thursday after sitting out the previous day. He left last week's win over Arizona after injuring his right ankle for the third time this season, and the Bears hope to have him against the Lions. ``We're hopeful for him, which we thought all along,'' Smith said. ``I know he's been pretty optimistic about the plan. So hopefully that will be the case.'' ... The Bears continued to hold LB Brian Urlacher out of practice because of his hamstring injury, along with LB Blake Costanzo (calf), S Chris Conte (hamstring) and backup RB Armando Allen (knee). DT Henry Melton (chest) was limited again after missing the past two games.

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Nationals vs. Astros spring training opener: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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Nationals vs. Astros spring training opener: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Nationals will send Max Scherzer to the mound on Saturday as they take on the Houston Astros in what will be their first organized game of baseball since facing off in the 2019 World Series.

Washington and Houston have shared their spring training facility in West Palm Beach since 2017 and have made it a tradition to kick off their respective Grapefruit League schedules against each other.

Nationals manager Davey Martinez hopes his players will "act professional" when facing the Astros, a team mired in controversy, for the first time.

Here's everything you need to know before first pitch Saturday night.

Nationals vs. Astros Spring Training Opener: How to Watch

Who: Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros
What: Grapefruit League opener
When: Saturday, February 22, 2020 at 6:05 p.m. ET
Where: FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach, FL
TV Channel: You can watch Nationals vs. Astros on MASN
Radio: 106.7 The Fan

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Manager Davey Martinez hopes Nationals ‘act professional’ in first spring training game against Astros

Manager Davey Martinez hopes Nationals ‘act professional’ in first spring training game against Astros

When the Nationals take the field the for their Grapefruit League opener on Saturday against the Houston Astros, Washington skipper Davey Martinez isn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary from his players.

“I’m hoping that on our side—I can’t tell you anything about the Houston Astros or what they’re going to do, whatever—but for us that we act professional, we go about our business and get ready for the season,” Martinez said. We’re going to “go out there and compete and just get ready to play.”

Max Scherzer will be making the start for the Nationals and is only expected to throw a couple of innings. He’ll be facing reigning Astros Minor League Pitcher of the Year Cristian Javier, manager Dusty Baker announced Thursday.

The Astros and Nationals, who faced off in the World Series last October, have shared the FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches spring training facility in West Palm Beach since 2017. They’ve opened their respective Grapefruit League seasons against each other every year since.

Although the Nationals didn’t lose to the Astros in a pivotal postseason series like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers did, several of their players including Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Kurt Suzuki, Howie Kendrick, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Zimmerman have weighed in on the scandal that’s dominated baseball’s headlines for most of the offseason.

Saturday’s contest will be the first of six Grapefruit League games between the two teams.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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