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Browns' Shurmur not focused on his future

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Browns' Shurmur not focused on his future

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns coach Pat Shurmur has already developed thick skin. Now, he's bulking up his record.

With two straight wins, the Browns are showing major signs of improvement in their second season under Shurmur, whose future in Cleveland could hinge on how his team plays in its final four games - if it hasn't been determined already.

On Sunday, the Browns (4-8) snapped a 12-game road losing streak with a 20-17 win over Oakland, putting the Raiders away with a clutch, 94-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, when Shurmur made a gutsy fourth-down call.

The Browns have gotten better and so has Shurmur. He has been harshly criticized by some Cleveland fans for his game management and play calling, and there's a chance he won't be around for a third year once new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner finish their postseason assessment.

Shurmur won't predict what's ahead.

``I don't want to talk about my future, OK?'' he said. ``I'm trying to make this the best Monday of the year, and I'm trying to get our team ready to play the Chiefs and then after that and so on and so forth. I don't look at it that way. I'm not taking any half-swings here. We'll just play it out and see what happens.''

There's no denying that the Browns, with 17 rookies on their roster, are growing up.

They've been competitive since Week 1, but in back-to-back wins over Pittsburgh and Oakland, they've finally shown the ability to finish games. It's an important step in the development for any team, even more so for one starting a rookie quarterback, running back, wide receiver, right tackle - and with a coach under fire.

Shurmur acknowledges his team's evolution, but he knows the Browns are far from a finished product.

``I feel good about where we're going, we've just got to keep going,'' Shurmur said. ``It's easy to let that momentum stop. That's what I'm guarding against, and I think our locker room understands that it's important you jump right back in the process.

``You'll get tired of hearing me say that. As long as I'm here, you'll get tired of hearing me say, `jump back in the process.' Because I think that's most important. Initially for the season it's 16 processes and how well you get that right. Because that gives you the best opportunity to be successful on Sunday. And that's where we all want to be, at our best.''

Shurmur may be down to his last four Sundays, but he's committed to making the most of them.

Last week, Haslam said in an interview with the Plain Dealer that he believed the Browns were ``very close'' to being a playoff contender. He was noncommittal about Shurmur's future and reiterated that he and Banner would wait until after the season before making any personnel decisions.

Shurmur was pleased to learn his new boss sees progress. That doesn't mean it's time to stop.

``It's always good to hear good things,'' Shurmur said. ``I do know this. What's important to me - and it's very narrow-minded - is this next game, period. And then whatever gets determined gets determined, but what I can control right now with this football team is what happens this week.''

On Sunday, the Browns will host the Kansas City Chiefs (2-10), who pulled together and beat Carolina one day after linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, before driving to Arrowhead Stadium, where he committed suicide in the practice facility's parking lot.

After facing the Chiefs, the Browns will host Washington before closing out the season with road games at Denver and Pittsburgh. Cleveland has already matched its win total from last season, and if Shurmur bumps up his resume with another win or two or three, he could make it very difficult for the Browns not to bring him back.

He's made his share of mistakes, but Shurmur appears to be learning from them. Earlier this season, he was slammed for electing to punt on a critical fourth down against Indianapolis. Two weeks later, his gamble on a similar play against Baltimore backfired in a loss. On Sunday, Shurmur chose to go for it on 4th-and-1 after quarterback Brandon Weeden was stuffed on a sneak.

Following a timeout, Shurmur had Weeden run the same play and the Browns converted to keep alive their game-winning drive.

``Any time you do something more and more, you get better at it,'' Shurmur said when asked if he's improved. ``It becomes clearer. There are things I see better now. There's other things that come in to this now. I know my coaches and players better. I understand how everybody on our team is going to respond in most situations. Yeah, I think there's things we're doing better - me included.''

Browns defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin sees a difference in Shurmur from last season, his first as an NFL head coach.

``He's getting more comfortable and he knows the players more,'' Rubin said. ``He's getting acclimated and has a feel for our opponents. Coming in and playing the Steelers and the Ravens and the Bengals is pretty difficult every year, so this conference and division is hard to get acclimated to.''

With a youthful, talented nucleus, the Browns have a promising future. What's unclear is who will coach them after this season.

Shurmur has his fans and critics, who even find faults when he wins. He's managed to block out the personal attacks and remains focused on winning.

It's not always easy.

``I really believe in this group we have and I really believe this is the foundation of something that could be really good,'' he said. ``Even though I say that and believe in it, until we start winning football games, that's what shows it. That's really my concern. Some of the other stuff about me personally - what more can they say about me?

``I don't listen to it, but I'm told frequently about it. That's where the thick skin part comes in.''

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Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

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It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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