Nationals

Browns kicker excited about "Cowboy" homecoming

Browns kicker excited about "Cowboy" homecoming

BEREA, Ohio (AP) When he was a kid, Browns kicker Phil Dawson worshipped the Dallas Cowboys.

In Texas, it's mandatory.

``Unless you grow up in Houston,'' Dawson said. ``The rest of the state is Cowboys and that's all you did was follow the Cowboys.''

And that he did.

Like many boys growing up deep in the heart of the Lone Star state, where football and religion intersect, Dawson dreamed of one day wearing the Cowboys' royal blue and famed five-pointed star. He even decked out his bedroom into a pseudo shrine to America's Team.

``I had a Doomsday Defense poster on my wall,'' Dawson said. ``My high school years was the dynasty with the three Super Bowls. I was pretty spoiled as a football fan. My dad, we had season tickets, so I had a few stars sitting around the house and some good memories.''

Dawson hopes to add new ones Sunday, when the Browns (2-7) visit the Cowboys (4-5) in what will be a second homecoming in two weeks for the 37-year-old, who has been perfect so far this season. During the Browns' bye last weekend, Dawson returned to his alma mater of Texas and was inducted into the Longhorns' Hall of Honor, a tribute he's ``still absorbing.''

It will be just Dawson's second game as a pro in Dallas, and his first visit inside 4-year-old Cowboys Stadium, the monstrous $1.3 billion marvel with its enormous high-definition TV screen, platforms of go-go dancers and retractable roof.

Dawson can't wait.

``I just hope they have the roof closed and it's a true dome game,'' said Dawson, who has made 23 straight field goals - the NFL's longest current streak - since last season. ``It'll be fun to see it. I've driven by it. I haven't gone in it yet. But everyone I've talked to who's been in it says it's just ridiculous.''

The only drawback has been filling ticket requests for family and friends. Dawson expects around 30 supporters.

``It's been growing every day,'' he said. ``I'm about to close down the ticket office. I can't afford many more.''

He's not the only Browns player with Cowboy connections.

Rookie running back Trent Richardson is hoping Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith will be in attendance. From the same high school in Pensacola, Fla., where Richardson broke most of Smith's records, the two have developed a close relationship.

Richardson speaks regularly to Smith, Dallas' iconic No. 22, for advice.

``That's one person I said I always wanted to be like when I was growing up,'' said Richardson, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in two straight games despite still being slowed by a rib cartilage injury. ``I'm just trying to follow in his footsteps and see if I can do better than how he did. That's big footsteps to follow.''

Richardson is trying to become the first Browns rookie to string together three straight 100-yard games, a feat even the great Jim Brown couldn't accomplish.

For Dawson, Sunday's game is a chance to continue what has been a personally sublime 14th NFL season.

He's made all 17 field-goal tries and is 16 of 16 on extra points. Dawson is the lone kicker in the league with more than nine attempts who hasn't missed. In his previous game, Dawson accounted for all of Cleveland's points by kicking five field goals in a 25-15 loss to Baltimore.

Ever humble, and mindful of a kicker's fragile existence, Dawson didn't want to make much of his impressive nine-game run.

``We're off to a good start,'' he said. ``I certainly don't want to diminish that, but there's still seven games to go. So I could screw this whole thing up pretty quick. I like where I am right now, but I'm only as good as my next kick, and the last thing I want to do is to go home to my hometown and poop the bed, so to speak.''

So much of Dawson's youth revolved around the Cowboys and trips to their former stadium in Irving, Texas.

He attended high school games there with his father, Robert, an accountant who pointed out football's innate beauty to his son. On Sundays, Dawson would carry books with him to Cowboys games, though he would rarely crack any open, preferring to learn more about Tom Landry's ``flex defense'' than the Revolutionary War.

``I learned the game from my dad and a lot of that was sitting there watching Cowboy games,'' Dawson said. ``He taught me a few things and helped me look at things and explain things. Those were some good memories.''

Dawson's children will be at Sunday's game. He and his wife, Shannon, have kept their three kids in school in Texas, a separation that has been hard on Dawson. They were all together last week in Austin for his enshrinement, and the Dawsons will gather again to watch dad try to beat the Cowboys.

He has spent his entire career in Cleveland, so surely his house is free of any Cowboys paraphernalia.

``I'll go with that,'' he said, cracking a smile.

Dawson confessed that his oldest son, Dru, has a Cowboys bedroom like he had.

``His bedroom is blue,'' Dawson said. ``He's got the star, the NFL emblem, he's got the stadium. I don't know if he has any of the players. He has the mural type stuff all over the place. And then there's obviously Browns helmets.''

Good thing.

So will Dru be allowed at Sunday's game?

``Oh yeah,'' Dawson said. ``No blue though.''

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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