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Chiefs' Brady Quinn shines in time of trouble

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Chiefs' Brady Quinn shines in time of trouble

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) This should have been a big week for Brady Quinn.

The Kansas City Chiefs quarterback is coming off one of the best games of his career, helping his team win for only the second time this season. He's heading back to Cleveland, where he washed out as a first-round draft pick, brimming with confidence in his strong right arm.

But as with the rest of the Chiefs, everything in Quinn's world has been cast in shadow.

Rather than going to a postgame news conference and answering questions with pride, he stood before the bank of television cameras and talked about a tragedy. It had been barely 24 hours since linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself.

The way Quinn handled the situation was almost universally praised, and showed the kind of leadership ability that so far in his NFL career he's yet to truly replicate on the field.

``Well, Brady has been very level-headed all along,'' Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said. ``He handles himself very well, and as a quarterback, he is somewhat a born leader, because you have to be a leader to be a quarterback. And he displayed that leadership last weekend.''

There were plenty of expectations placed on Quinn when he was drafted by the Browns out of Notre Dame. Perhaps the weight of them proved to be too much, because he never managed to lead a franchise that only now is coming out of a morass to much success.

He was eventually dealt to Denver, where he couldn't climb over Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow on the depth chart. So when free agency hit, Quinn packed his bags and headed for Kansas City, where he hoped the tenuous grasp that Matt Cassel had on the starting job would prove him an opportunity.

It didn't come until Cassel sustained a concussion, allowing Quinn to move into the lineup. He showed plenty of rust in a loss at Tampa Bay, and then sustained his own concussion the following week against Oakland, putting Cassel back under center.

But once Quinn was cleared to play, he was back leading the Chiefs.

On the field and, more importantly, away from it.

``I feel like I can do a decent job of adjusting to pretty much anything,'' Quinn said. ``I don't know. I think anytime you have an opportunity to play more and get more experience, you're going to continue to grow and improve as a player.''

The Chiefs weren't even certain they'd have a game Sunday until hours after Saturday morning's shootings, when team captains voted to play their game against the Carolina Panthers as scheduled.

The team arrived at Arrowhead Stadium long before kickoff, went through the same pre-game routine as usual - save for a moment of silence to remember victims of domestic violence. Then the game started, and for just a few hours on an unseasonably warm afternoon, things seemed normal.

The coaching staff relayed plays to Quinn, he crouched behind center and read the defense. He took the snap, dropped back and kept finding open receivers. Again and again, all day long.

He completed 19 of 23 passes for 201 yards, the best completion percentage of his career in a game he's started. Quinn threw touchdown passes to Jon Baldwin and Tony Moeaki without throwing an interception, the first scoring tosses he'd thrown since Dec. 6, 2009, when he was with the Browns. His quarterback rating of 132.1 was the second-best of his career.

``He had an outstanding game,'' said Browns coach Pat Shurmur.

It was after the game that he was truly outstanding, though.

The locker room was opened and players were forced to speak publicly for the first time about a pair of shootings that changed their lives. There were tears mixed with mud on many of their faces, but not the tears of joy over ending an eight-game losing streak.

As usual, the quarterback was summoned to the microphone in the auditorium just outside the locker room, and there Quinn was asked about the incident the previous day.

``I don't think anybody ever imagines waking up the day before a game and, you know, getting informed that a player, a leader on your team, has done something like that,'' he said.

Speaking from his heart, Quinn continued on.

``I think trying to understand the situation was tough, or getting a sense of what happened and who it will now affect,'' he said. ``In moments, tragedies like this, they can define you or redefine you, and I think this team took an event and allowed it to redefine us as a team. We were battling through a lot of emotions, a lot of difficulty on the field, and guys stepped up and played a heck of a game.''

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Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The “Polish Machine” who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t quite land the Hollywood movie script ending in his return to Washington.

Don’t fret for Marcin Gortat. Sure, the Wizards, his former team, fought back from a 24-point deficit for a 125-118 win. He’s good with his new scene. Gortat also has thoughts on his former situation and the turmoil brewing.

Gortat made his first appearance in the arena he called home for five seasons Tuesday night since a June 26 trade sent him to Los Angeles for Austin Rivers. He wasn’t sure of how the local fans would react. His journey in Washington ended bumpily, but the overall ride coincided with a positive turn for the franchise. The Wizards reached the playoffs in four of his five seasons.

“Well, obviously a very emotional moment,” Gortat said of his return. “Bottom line is that we came here to get a win. Unfortunately, we lost today. …It was great to be here.”

His arrival in 2013 following a trade with Phoenix led to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2008. Three more postseason trips followed as did Mohawks and fabulous quotes. Gortat provided the power just before the NBA veered away from hulking frontcourts. His fame and fortune increased in Washington. His affable and oversized personality attracted fans.

Fans that watched the 6-foot-11 screen-setting center consistently provide double-doubles graciously applauded for the ex-Wizard during pre-game introductions. Gortat, who started 400 of 402 games played in Washington, appreciated the gesture.

“It was weird to sit on that side of the court and play against your guys,” Gortat said. “It was tough, very emotional and weird, but it’s business.”

Gortat wasn’t immune to criticism from fans and teammates during his time in Washington. Part of the reason he now plays for the Clippers is that the relationship with former pick-and-roll partner John Wall soured. When disapproval only went so far up the Wizards’ player hierarchy, it often stopped with the man in the middle.

The Wizards entered Tuesday’s game flailing. Many of the same players from prior seasons remained. Not Gortat, meaning any blame must land elsewhere. With drama engulfing the Wizards, Gortat proudly felt vindicated. He waited for the pack of reporters to clear before expressing such thoughts.

“Listen, the way I was traded out of that team, it looked like I was the cancer of the locker room,” Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “I think that thing was verified and it was complete [expletive]. It is what it is now.”

Pregame Gortat wondered if the Wizards would join the ranks of teams creating tribute videos for returning players. He would be left wanting.

Rivers, the son of the Clippers head coach, received one in October upon his first arrival back with the team he played for over four seasons. Gortat remembered.

As the formal postgame scrum ended, the ex-Wizard made it clear he had thoughts to share and asked to be asked about the lack of a video tribute.

“Well, what do I think about that? A lot of guys around the league are getting tributes. It ’s obviously up to the organization, but I guess Austin Rivers did enough to get his tribute, but I didn’t do enough to get a tribute here,” Gortat said to NBC Sports Washington. “A few guys around the team understand. It was kind of weird.”

Taking the court with his former teammates was more different than weird, but ultimately cordial and competitive.

“Brad (Beal) fouled me a few times. He admitted he fouled me, but I didn’t get a call,” a chuckling Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “John, yeah, we had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, there’s no bad blood. We spoke at the end of the game, said good luck, stay healthy.”

Ultimately, Gortat made peace with his time in Washington. The fond memories outweighed the knocks. Members of the Wizards organization stopped by the Clippers locker room for a chat and a laugh. Gortat bear hugged Wizards equipment manager Jerry Walter to the ground.

The loss stung. Los Angeles does the stinging most nights. The Clippers entered with a five-game winning streak. Their 11-6 record puts them among the Western Conference elite. Gortat’s minutes are down (18 per game). Such limits would have bothered him in Washington. 

At 34 and knowing his NBA life could be fleeting with his contract expiring this summer, Gortat is cool with his new world.

“I’m great. I’m great where I am,” the 12-year veteran said. “I get to play and help the team as much as I can either on the court, off the court, in the locker room. I’m going to try to help my team and lead us as much as I can. We have great chemistry and a great team.”

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Former Raven Ed Reed takes step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement

Former Raven Ed Reed takes step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement

To the surprise of no one, former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed is one step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Tuesday that Reed was named one of the 25 semifinalist for the 2019 class. Reed, cornerback Champ Bailey and tight end Tony Gonzalez are the only first-year eligible players that made the cut.

An obvious first-year ballot Hall of Famer, the next step in the selection process for Reed will take place on Thursday, January 3 when the semifinalist are cut down to 15 Modern-Era Finalist.

Finalist then must receive 80% positive vote from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee on "Selection Saturday," one day prior to Super Bowl LIII. No more than five Modern-Era Finalist can be elected in a given year. The finalist will be formally enshrined Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Canton, Ohio.

The Ravens selected Reed in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft, and he would go on to play 11 seasons with the organization. During those 11 seasons, he was voted to the Pro Bowl nine times, was a five-time First-Team All-Pro and started 159 of 160 games. 

On the field, Reed had 61 interceptions for 1,541 yards and seven touchdowns. In addition, the safety raked up 11 forced fumbles and 13 fumbles recovered for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Not to forget a Super Bowl XLVII championship.

Reed's enshrinement would make him the third Raven in the history of the organization to be enshrined in his first-year of eligibility alongside linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. 

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