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Chiefs line holding its own during miserable year

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Chiefs line holding its own during miserable year

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Here's a situation that would send shudders through any head coach: Starting a rookie left tackle next to a rookie guard next to a center playing out of position, all against the NFL's best pass rush.

That's exactly what the Chiefs did last Sunday against Denver.

With left tackle Branden Albert out with an injury, and veteran guard Ryan Lilja now at center because of another injury, Kansas City's reshuffled line looked nothing like coach Romeo Crennel expected when he broke training camp a few months ago.

But lo and behold, with rookies Donald Stephenson and Jeff Allen starting alongside Lilja, the patchwork offensive line played well in a 17-9 loss to the Broncos, providing the shakiest of silver linings to the eighth straight loss in a season of misery.

``If they play with that kind of attitude and energy, like I tell them - that kind of energy and effort, that makes everything better for everybody,'' Crennel said.

The offensive line is rarely a sexy topic. Even more rarely is it the one thing that coaches, players and fans can feel good about.

Usually, those anonymous big guys up front are only singled out when they give up a sack, or get called for a penalty. When a running back breaks a long run, he's the one in the spotlight, not the guys prying open holes along the defensive line.

Or when a quarterback stands stoically in the pocket, surveying the field, and then delivers a perfect pass down the seam, the pass-catch combo gets all the love - certainly not the five guys up front who were sacrificing their bodies to give them enough time to make a play.

``Most of us are used to each other,'' right guard Jon Asamoah said. ``I'm used to Lilja and he's used to me. We're on the same tempo. I don't know. We spend so much time together, we've developed that through games and practice, things most people don't see.''

There are plenty of reasons why they're 1-10 and barreling toward one of the worst seasons in franchise history, and the offensive line has been part of the problem.

They've given up plenty of sacks, allowed pressure to force several fumbles in the pocket, and rarely created much running room for Jamaal Charles and Co.

It hasn't been entirely their fault, though.

Second-year center Rodney Hudson was poised to take over the position from veteran Casey Wiegmann, but he broke his leg in late September and landed on injured reserve. That forced Lilja, a career guard, to slide over to center.

Allen, the Chiefs' second-round pick out of Illinois, moved into the void that created at left guard. He got off to a rough start in the NFL, routinely blown back by bigger, quicker defensive tackles, but has started to hold his own over the past few weeks.

Stephenson, the franchise's third-round pick out of Oklahoma, got his when Albert hurt his back a couple of weeks ago. It was trial-by-fire against Cincinnati, but he performed well last week against Denver, holding its fearsome pass rush at bay most of the game.

The Broncos came into the game with a league-leading 35 sacks, but the only ones allowed by the Chiefs were to Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard, and only Woodyard's was for a significant loss.

``Yeah, Cincinnati, I was trying to feel it out,'' Stephenson said. ``This game, I knew that if I tried to go out there and try to feel it out and figure out how the game was going to go, I'd probably get my butt kicked, so I came out aggressive and knew I had to play hard.''

Stephenson said it helped to be able to practice with the first team all week, just as he's been doing this week with Albert still questionable for Sunday's game against Carolina.

``The more you prepare yourself through the week and how hard you practice, it kind of gives you more confidence,'' said Stephenson, who grew up in the Kansas City area.

``If you don't prepare right and you don't practice right, you have a right to go in there a little bit nervous, because you don't have confidence in what you did all week.''

NOTES: The Chiefs have several injury concerns this week. Lilja (knee) and Albert (back) did not practice Wednesday, along with Pro Bowl linebacker Tamba Hali (knee), wide receiver Dexter McCluster (head/neck) and safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder). ... The Chiefs released linebacker Bryan Kehl. Crennel said he expects to fill the roster spot later this week.

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Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

Wizards' John Wall reveals he's about to start jogging in rehab from Achilles injury

A couple of weeks ago, John Wall was spotted at a Washington Mystics game with no brace to support his Achilles injury, a sign that his rehab from the injury was moving in the right direction. 

On Monday night at the 2019 NBA Awards, the Wizards point guard gave affirmation that he is indeed continuing to get healthier and stronger.

"I feel great, man," Wall told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller on the red carpet. "I'm doing a great job with my body, taking care of that."

Specifically, Wall has been able to slowly increase what he can do on his legs. The recovery and rehab for an injury as severe as his is a long road, and the point guard is making sure not to speed up the process and risk hindering the progress. However, he's about to reach a pretty big milestone in the journey during the coming weeks.

"I'm about to start jogging in like two weeks. Just riding the bike, I get to do exercises standing up now, so I don't have to sit down. I'm able to move, do ladder steps, doing those types of things," Wall said. "Just taking my time and progressing and letting everything heal the right way so I don't force myself back and get another injury."

As Wall continues to work to get back on the court, he's had plenty of motivational factors pushing him through some grueling months. His recent string of injuries have left some wondering if he'll still be an elite player when he finally.

He's heard those comments and he's using them to his advantage.

"I'm one of those guys that's very driven by all the hate and all the negative talk I'm getting. Keep it going," Wall said.

"Everybody said I can't be myself, I won't be nowhere near as good again. That's all the other stuff that's going to fuel me. I don't get upset about it, you're entitled to your own opinion. Please keep it going."

The haters have given Wall some extra juice, but so has his son Ace. Spending the offseason getting right has allowed Wall to work in another area of life: fatherhood.

The newest addition to his family has taken his desire for greatness to new heights.

"I've always had that drive that I want to be the greatest. To have a son like that, that's watching everything I can do. Even though he doesn't understand what's going on, he's putting memories in his head," Wall said. 

"So that gives me extra, extra motivation to another level I never thought I could. Like I said before, that's the best blessing a man could ever ask for is to have a son."

While Wall's offseason has been a busy one as he juggles rehab and being a dad, he's still been very involved in everything going on inside the franchise.

He's already chatted with first-round draft pick Rui Hachimura, and is excited for what is to come for the Wizards. Wall is also hoping that Hachimura will help improve his Japanese so that he can grow a larger following internationally. 

As the calendar slowly turns to July, both Wall and the Wizards' offseasons will ramp up. It's been an up and down time for both lately, but he's excited about the future.

"I think it's good," Wall said about the Wizards situation. "We added some pieces. See what we do in free agency to add some guys to bring back or we're going to go after somebody new. I think we'll be fine."

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Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

Bradley Beal wins the 2019 NBA Cares Community Assist Award three years after John Wall

While he was putting together the best season of his career, Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal was also making a profound impact off the court and those efforts have earned him a significant honor, the NBA's 2018-19 Community Assist Award.

The news was revealed at Monday's NBA Awards in Santa Monica, CA as Beal got the nod over nine other finalists. He is the second Wizards player to win the honor in just the last four years following John Wall in 2015-16.

Beal was involved in a variety of charitable efforts this past season. He has partnered with the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Northeast Washington to help underprivileged youth. He visited the school in December and gave out shoes.

During the All-Star break in February, as he made his second appearance in the annual showcase, Beal handed out meals at a food bank alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This past year he also gave out Christmas presents in the Washington area and took a group of kids on a tour of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

Beal was named a finalist for the Community Assist Award in April along with Jarrett Allen (Nets), Mike Conley (Jazz), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Donovan Mitchell (Jazz), Dwight Powell (Mavs) and Pascal Siakam (Raptors). Part of the criteria was based on fan voting through social media that was held from April 24 through May 25.

Beal, 25, continues to ascend on the court as well. This year he posted career-highs in points (25.6/g), assists (5.5/g) and rebounds (5.0/g). He nearly made All-NBA in late May with the most votes of any guard that was left out.

In Beal and Wall, the Wizards have quite the combination. Both have been All-Stars on the court and now both can say they won the NBA's top honor for charity work as well.

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