Redskins

Celski, Gehring win national short track titles

Celski, Gehring win national short track titles

KEARNS, Utah (AP) A year ago, JR Celski barely could get to the start line at the U. S. short track speedskating championships because of a painfully swollen broken ankle suffered at a World Cup event in Japan.

Now Celski is good as gold, with a national championship to add to his list of accomplishments during this record-setting season.

His wins in the 500, 1,500 and 3,000 along with a fifth-place finish in the 1,000 helped him lock up the national title Saturday. Lana Gehring won the women's title with wins in every event the past two days.

Both earned spots for the U.S. in the final two World Cups of the season and a chance to compete in the world championships in Hungary in March.

Jeff Simon, Travis Jayner, Chris Creveling, Ed Alvarez and Kyle Carr round out the men's World Cup team, while Jessica Smith, Alyson Dudek, Emily Scott, Sarah Chen and Kimberly Derrick complete the women's. Alvarez qualified for his first World Cup team.

``It was hard not to compete (in this event last year), but it was the right thing to do. I honestly couldn't have skated because it was so painful,'' Celski said of the broken ankle and torn ligaments. ``It was so swollen, I'm surprised I could fit it into my boot.''

He laced up just so he'd be allowed to compete in the relays at the 2012 worlds - not defend his individual title.

Coming into nationals this year, he still wasn't sure he'd be able to compete after suffering a concussion two weeks ago at a World Cup in Japan. He fell in the semifinals of the 1,500, slid into the boards and had his knee pop straight back at him into his eye socket.

``Same place, same rink, so I was worried about being able to get back in time for this one,'' Celski said.

``I never really dealt with a head injury before and from what the doctors said, the only thing to really cure a concussion was rest. I trained and rested. Those were the only things I focused on,'' he said.

Considering the injury he is most remembered for, this one was almost minor.

He had survived a life-threatening high-speed crash at the U.S. trials leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Games, needing 60 stitches to close a six-inch wide-by-two-inch-deep gash where a skate impacted his right thigh.

Still, he made sure the concussion symptoms were pretty much gone before he laced up this week.

``I was really relieved to be able to skate,'' said Celski, who has been a beast on the World Cup circuit and clocked the first-ever sub-40 time in the 500 this fall.

Now, after taking care of business at the Utah Olympic Oval, it's time for a little R&R before training begins in earnest for the stretch run.

He is headed home to Seattle to take in Sunday's Seahawks-San Francisco 49ers game in a battle of NFC West playoff contenders.

``I'm a loyal fan in heart and it's just like ride or die for me,'' Celski said of the Seahawks. ``I'm with them until the end.''

He's also excited about the next World Cup, Feb. 1-3 in Sochi, Russia - site of the 2014 Winter Games.

``It's always good to go and test the waters,'' Celski said. ``We went to Vancouver at the end of 2008 and got to skate at the (site) that was going to be the Olympics. So it was really cool just to see that, experience that and know what you're going to get yourself into.''

The same might be said for two-time Olympian Guy Thibault, who now takes over as head coach of a team that because of scandal had been as fractured as Celski's ankle.

Some athletes continue to have their own coaches, including Gehring, who is back working with Jae Su Chun at a Salt Lake City rink even though he has been suspended and resigned as U.S. coach.

The arrangement (he technically is volunteering as a coach but is allowed into the stands at Utah Olympic Oval like any other spectator) has worked well for Gehring, who said her performances the previous few months weren't ``world worthy.''

She's intent on changing that the next three months and going forward to the Sochi Games.

``I broke down more times this season than I have my entire life,'' Gehring said of the emotions dealing with the controversy and previous poor results. ``It was realizing what I had was gone, things I took for granted. It changed me. I'm such a different athlete, a different person in general.''

Quick Links

Chris Cooley remembers mostly positive reaction to Redskins' name from Native Americans

Chris Cooley remembers mostly positive reaction to Redskins' name from Native Americans

With the Washington Redskins' name change dominating headlines across the sports world, former players have been asked a multitude of questions to get their thoughts on the team's controversial nickname.

One of those has been, "Do you remember people having a problem with the name while you were on the team?"

The answers have, of course, been mixed. Santana Moss told NBC Sports Washington's Matt Weyrich that he first noticed a problem years into his Washington tenure getting off the team bus in Seattle, while Brian Mitchell has said he's been dealing with the negative reaction around the name since the start of his career in 1990.

On Thursday, former Washington tight end Chris Cooley joined the Kevin Sheehan show on The Team 980 and described his unique experience receiving feedback from Native Americans on the team's name.

"It's probably time to change the name, and we're in that world where you can change it, but it doesn't mean that I believe it had anything to do with anything racial. It didn't," Cooley said. "Guys I played for didn't believe that, over 75 tribes that I traveled to didn't feel that way six years ago when I went to those reservations and 30 or 40 more that I went to by myself.

"You know what, it's completely fine if you change your mind on something like that," Cooley said. "And I'll be all for it, but when I was with the Washington Redskins I don't believe anybody felt it was a racially driven name."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE REDSKINS TALK PODCAST

Cooley traveled to several reservations across the country to gain an understanding of a culture his former team's likeness was representing. Instead of having to tie his opinion to polls and other methods for gathering a group of people's opinion, he got his information straight from the source.

"The overwhelming majority was, 'Don't forget us,' 'Don't care,' 'That's fine but I'm a Cowboys fan,'" Cooley said. "It was just a conversation that was had very comfortably."

Cooley emphasized going to reservations alone in order to get honest answers from its residents. If he were there with the Redskins in a larger group, he feared he wouldn't get the same feedback as if he were alone. Ultimately, after speaking to hundreds of Native Americans, the Wyoming native got a similar response to his questions.

RELATED: NEW NAME REPORTEDLY WON'T INCLUDE NATIVE AMERICAN IMAGERY

"We would go to casinos, we would go to rodeos, and [I'd] ask them like 'Hey how do you feel about the Redskins' name?'" he said. "People would tell us, and it was more than 9-to-1 that felt positively about it, at least on the trips that I went."

However, as Cooley acknowledged, people can and are allowed to change their minds. The response a few years ago may have been positive, but that may not be the case anymore. 

According to a report from the Associated Press, more than a dozen Native American groups sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asking the league to force Washington to change its name. 

So, in the end, Cooley isn't going to be "an old man on the front porch" as he called it, and push against change just to keep things the way they were. 

"Times change with people and all I'm saying is I don't feel like in my time there it was ever racially driven," he said. "But I'm also not going to sit here argue for it. If people want it changed then let's change it."

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS UNCOVERED

Stay connected with the Redskins in the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

Quick Links

Redskins assistant coach witnessed former Raider Barret Robbins' early mental-health issues

Redskins assistant coach witnessed former Raider Barret Robbins' early mental-health issues

Sports Uncovered is a six-part weekly podcast series that explores the stories that took the national sports world by storm. The newest episode, The Mysterious Disappearance That Changed A Super Bowl, dives into how Oakland Raiders star center Barret Robbins missed Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003 after 24 hours of partying. 

Barret Robbins was just a junior at Texas Christian when his manic episodes began. 

A potent mixture of steroids, alcohol and marijuana left the future NFL offensive lineman in a daze. It felt like he was sleepwalking. Driving to Austin from his school in Fort Worth, not really knowing what he was doing, seeking some level of attention, he smashed the window of a car dealership. 

Robbins had no intention of taking anything. But it looked like he was trying to burglarize the place. So, Austin police arrested him. It was so out of character, his TCU coaches, including current Redskins tight ends coach Pete Hoener, weren’t sure what to make of the episode. 

“My first inclination on something like that with him was ‘Man, he must have been really drunk,’” Hoener told NBC Sports Bay Area for the sixth episode of NBC’s Sports Uncovered podcast. “You know, been with the wrong person or something.”

Robbins went to jail and then to rehab before being allowed to play his senior year at TCU. But it was the beginning of a descent that continued long after Robbins failed to post for the Raiders’ appearance in the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003. 

The latest Sports Uncovered podcast by NBC Sports takes a look at Robbins' infamous Super Bowl disappearance and what has happened to him since then. Listen to the full episode below or by subscribing wherever you get your podcasts:

LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE BELOW

Who knows if the outcome would have changed? Oakland lost 48-21. But Robbins’ life has never been the same. One of the best offensive linemen in football was out of the NFL by 2004 and left alone to deal with the depression and bipolar disorder that plagued him since college. 

The incident at the car dealership led to a diagnosis of depression by the TCU medical staff. Robbins’ story is difficult to listen to. He spoke with NBC Sports Bay Area for a 2011 interview that serves as the basis for the podcast, but otherwise few know his whereabouts now, including his former Raiders teammates. 

Robbins told NBC Sports Bay Area he likely had episodes before that one in college. But nothing where he ended up in trouble. It wouldn’t stay that way. He managed a nine-year career in the NFL before things fell apart. 

That saddens Hoener, who left TCU in 1997 and has spent the past 20 years as an assistant in the NFL, including nine with Rivera on the Carolina Panthers’ coaching staff and again this season with the Redskins. 

Hoener knew Robbins when he was just a teenager. The answer when odd things happened to a player back then was he must be drinking too much. Robbins just didn’t have the same support system that would be in place today for players at almost any level of football. Mental health is treated so much differently now. It might have made a difference for Robbins. 

“I think the thing that’s come of all this is there’s much better communication now with the medical staff and psychologists,” Hoener said. “And everybody up through the college level – maybe even the high school level – up through our level. So that a lot of those things don’t slip through.”

Want more Sports Uncovered? Check out Sean Taylor, the NFL superstar we didn't get to know, also part of the Sports Uncovered podcast series.

To never miss an episode, subscribe to Sports Uncovered and get every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is also available on the MyTeams app, as well as on every major podcasting platform: AppleGoogle PodcastiHeartStitcherSpotify, and TuneIn

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO SPORTS UNCOVERED

MORE NEWS: