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Broncos vowing to avoid annual late-season swoon

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Broncos vowing to avoid annual late-season swoon

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Champ Bailey insists the script in Denver is finally going to flip this year.

For most of the last decade, the Broncos have made late-season swoons an annual rite of winter in the Rocky Mountains.

Altitude. Aptitude. Attitude. Whatever the reasons, the Broncos have followed strong starts with fading finishes. In the six seasons before this one, they were 23-34 in November, December and January.

It'll be different this season, vows Bailey, who points to a new strength and conditioning coach who uses cutting edge techniques and philosophies, and a new quarterback who won't allow anybody to let up.

The Broncos (7-3) can wrap up a 4-0 November with a win at Kansas City (1-9) on Sunday, and their December slate includes a rematch against the Chiefs and just one game - at Baltimore - in which they might be underdogs.

After a brutal early-season schedule when Peyton Manning was still finding his new bearings, the Broncos have built a three-game cushion in the AFC West on the strength of a five-game winning streak, and their remaining opponents are a combined 20-30.

A walk through the Broncos locker room, however, doesn't reveal any let-up, no sighs of relief or perilous swagger that was evident in other years following their AFC championship game appearance after the 2005 season.

The Broncos lost five of their last seven in 2006, four of their last six in `07, and Mike Shanahan was fired after they blew a three-game lead over San Diego with three weeks to go in `08.

Josh McDaniels' first team lost eight of its last 10 after a 6-0 start, missing the playoffs in 2009. He didn't even make it through the next season, getting fired in the midst of a franchise-worst 4-12 campaign that was marked by an embarrassing videotape scandal and six losses in their last seven games.

John Fox entered the fray last year, but after going 4-0 in November during the height of Tebowmania, the Broncos lost their last three games, backing into the playoffs at .500.

The Broncos also started strong and staggered down the stretch from 2001-04, so this nasty habit goes back a ways.

Bailey figures this group is better prepared both physically and mentally to handle the stretch run, and the two biggest reasons for this optimism are the arrivals of Manning, with his notorious high standards keeping everybody on point, and strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson.

Richesson, 38, replaced longtime strength and conditioning coach Rich Tuten. He followed defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to Denver from Jacksonville, where he worked for three seasons after an eight-year stint as the performance team director at the renowned Athletes' Performance in Tempe, Ariz.

A former safety at Kansas and the husband of 1992 Olympic gold medal swimmer Anita Nall, Richesson uses new-fangled techniques in his training programs, including MMA drills during offseason workouts. His program focuses on flexibility, stretching and maintaining core strength, which the Broncos say have reduced pulled muscles and other soft-tissue injuries and which they believe will help them avoid late-season fatigue from all of their training at mile-high altitude.

``I think he's done a tremendous job,'' Fox said. ``I think the science of strength and conditioning, in particular in football, has changed quite a bit. It's differed over history from maybe some other sports, whether it be baseball or basketball. I think football is coming back to a little bit more of that style and that science.''

Fullback Chris Gronkowski, who has played in Dallas and Indianapolis, said he was surprised when he first worked out in Denver in the offseason because players stretched for half an hour before picking up a single weight.

Rather than trying to stretch out tight muscles in the cold weather, the Broncos also conduct their walkthroughs at the start of practice now and only after their blood is pumping 30 minutes later do they gather for stretching exercises.

The muscle pulls that dogged them in the past are fewer and farther between nowadays. They've had 100 percent participation in practice several times this month, almost unheard of for NFL teams once the leaves begin to fall.

``This is the healthiest team I've been on,'' Gronkowski said. ``Either we're getting lucky or this stuff is working.''

Bailey has become a big fan of Richesson's.

``His program is more structured. I think what we did in the past wasn't bad. It's just making sure everybody gets the right work done. We focus on that, so we know everybody's doing the same thing, straying strong,'' Bailey said. ``That's the main thing, just trying to be strong this time of the year. So, he really measures your strength to see how you are, if you're backing down or whatever.''

That's why Bailey said the usual late-season swoon isn't on the Colorado horizon this year.

``And it's a lot more mental than people say. It's not all physical,'' Bailey said. ``As the season goes on, you kind of get caught up in that routine, just forget how you got there, what it takes to get going, getting better. And I think now we've got a mentally strong team, so I don't see that happening.''

Helping form that mental tenacity is Manning, who is such a stickler for detail and efficient preparation that nobody dares slack off in practice or meetings, wide receiver Brandon Stokley said.

Bailey, Stokley and other veterans who have been through the fading finishes that ruined strong starts in Denver, such as Wesley Woodyard, D.J Williams and Elvis Dumervil, have another drill sergeant on their side now.

``Yeah, all the leaders have got to play a role in that because we've been here, done it,'' Bailey said. ``We've seen it go bad. Now, we're seeing it get better.''

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Redskins vs. Jets Preseason Week 2: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

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Redskins vs. Jets Preseason Week 2: Date, time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

After a fight-filled start to joint practices between the Redskins and Jets, the Skins' 2018 NFL preseason schedule continues Thursday night at Fed Ex Field against New York. 

Week 2 of the NFL preseason still doesn't provide a lot of answers to questions about team performance, but it begins to reveal the depth the Redskins could have this season.

One storyline that won't be taking place, is the return of former Redskin Terrelle Pryor, who told reporters after Monday's practice he won't be playing in the game.

The Redskins have bigger things to worry about though, like who will replace rookie Derrius Guice, who's now out for the year with a torn ACL.

The Redskins also have one less name in the fight for receiver depth as well, after Robert Davis suffered a season-ending leg injury as well. 

Ahead of Thursday's preseason matchup, here's everything you need to know to watch.

REDSKINS vs. JETS, PRESEASON WEEK 2

Who: Washington Redskins vs. New York Jets

What: Game 2 of the 2018 NFL Preseason

When: Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, 8:00 p.m. ET

Where: Fed Ex Field, Landover, MD

TV Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: Watch ESPN

Radio: Redskins Radio Network

Point Spread: Washington, -3

Over/Under: 39.5

Weather: 90 degrees, partly cloudy

REDSKINS vs. PATRIOTS TV SCHEDULE:

5:00 PM: Redskins 100
5:30 PM: Redskins Nation
6:00 PM: Best of the Sports Junkies
7:00 PM: Redskins Kickoff Live

REDSKINS 2018 PRESEASON SCHEDULE

Week 1: Thurs., 8/9, vs. New England Patriots, 7:30 p.m. (L, 26-17)

Week 2: Thurs., 8/16, vs. New York Jets, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN)

Week 3: Fri., 8/24, vs. Denver Broncos, 7:30 p.m. 

Week 4: Thurs., 8/30, vs. Baltimore Ravens, 7:30 p.m. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS

 

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Jeff Green happy to reunite with head coach Scott Brooks on Wizards

Jeff Green happy to reunite with head coach Scott Brooks on Wizards

The city of Washington, where he grew up near and was a star in college at Georgetown University, isn't the only factor that makes joining the Wizards familiar for Jeff Green. He is also reuniting with his former coach, Scott Brooks, who now leads the Wizards.

Long ago, Brooks was cutting his teeth on the sidelines while Green was finding his way on the court. When Green was a rookie on the Seattle Supersonics in 2007, Brooks was a 42-year-old assistant coach. The team moved to Oklahoma City the following year and by late November of 2008, Brooks was the head coach after P.J. Carlesimo was fired.

Brooks helped oversee Green's first four seasons as an NBA player and Green remembers those days well.

"He looked way better than he does now," Green joked.

Brooks, now 53, has a knack for taking playful shots at those he works with, whether that be players, fellow coaches or the media. Green is clearly on that level and feels comfortable ribbing his head coach, knowing he can both dish it out and take it.

All jokes aside, Green is still appreciative of the tutelage he received from Brooks back in the day.

"Scotty was my No. 1 guy, he’s always been, but when I first stepped foot on an NBA floor, he was there for me. He was a coach with Seattle when I first got into the league," Green said.

The NBA has taken Brooks and Green to very different places in the seven years since they split ways. Green left for the Celtics and has since played for the Grizzlies, Clippers, Magic and most recently the Cavaliers. Brooks stuck around with OKC through the 2014-15 season before he was let go. After taking a year off, he joined the Wizards.

Much has changed in Brooks and Green's lives. They have lost and gained jobs. Their families have grown. Now, they are back on the same team and Green is excited about it.

"We’ve been close and tight ever since. We never lost contact. So, I’m looking forward to being coached by him again. I know he’s going to put us all in great positions to succeed. We just have to do our part on the floor," Green said.

Green spoke with Brooks on the phone before deciding to sign with the Wizards as a free agent in July. His presence was one of the many reasons he felt Washington was a good fit.

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