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Column: Painful losses endure for Kaepernicks

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Column: Painful losses endure for Kaepernicks

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Lance Kaepernick was 23 days old when he died.

He seemed normal when his parents brought him home. Then everything, suddenly, went tragically wrong. Two open heart surgeries couldn't save the tiny baby Rick and Teresa Kaepernick had so joyfully welcomed into their lives.

Their next son never made it out of the hospital. Kent Kaepernick was 4 days old when he died, also of a heart defect.

``You're 25, 26 and you have two sons buried,'' Rick Kaepernick said. ``You grow up in a hurry.''

A daughter, Devon, would follow, joining their healthy, first-born son, Kyle. By then, though, the Kaepernicks were done taking chances and doctors warned them against trying for another pregnancy.

``Maybe the kids would have lived today with all the advances that have been made,'' Rick said. ``But it just wasn't to be.''

But the yearning didn't stop, and one day Teresa told her husband she was ready for another baby.

Their new son was 5 weeks old when they first held him at the Lutheran Social Services office in Appleton, Wis. He was healthy, vibrant, and full of life.

On Sunday he'll be behind center, trying to win a Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers.

``He's ready to roll,'' Rick Kaepernick said this week from his hotel room in this party town. ``He's pretty focused.''

If the story of Colin Kaepernick's meteoric rise from obscurity to superstar in the making is a remarkable one, the story of his life bears some telling, too. Born to a teenager in Wisconsin a quarter century ago, the only memories he has of his early life is with the couple who adopted him.

He doesn't like to talk about it, and has declined chances to meet with his birth mother. For their part, the Kaepernicks particularly dislike it when people refer to their son as adopted.

Of course, they couldn't have imagined when they began the process that the offspring of a blonde, athletic mother and an African-American father who was out of the picture before he was born, would be a star quarterback.

``At the end of the day he's just our son,'' Rick said.

The Kaepernicks will be in the stands at the Superdome on Sunday rooting for him. So will about 15 family members, who have cheered him on since he began dominating games - almost from the minute he was old enough to throw a ball.

The Colin Kaepernick the public knows is cool and collected, not the least bit nervous about the stage he will be on or the job he has to do. Despite the intense efforts of the media to tease out more sound bites during Super Bowl week, he remains a man of very few words.

``What you're seeing is the way he's always been. He's not one to talk a lot about himself,'' his dad said. ``He doesn't care who gets the headlines or the credit and I think you see that in your interviews. He's just not full of himself.''

That was evident Thursday during Colin Kaepernick's last media appearance before the big game. He dutifully answered questions without elaborating, never veering off task before it was finally over and he could return to practice.

``It's not that I'm not comfortable with it,'' he said. ``To me, I'm here to play football. That's what I want to do.''

That's the quality former Nevada coach Chris Ault saw when his starting quarterback went down and he turned to the redshirt freshman. Kaepernick threw for five touchdowns. It's what Jim Harbaugh saw when the backup electrified a national audience with a Monday Night Football rout of the Chicago Bears in November. Starter Alex Smith was on the bench the rest of the season.

It's the same quality his parents have seen almost from the time he first began to talk in complete sentences.

``I'm a parent, but I would say if you sat in the stands and watched him as a kid you could see he had something,'' Rick Kaepernick said. ``He has that `it' factor, whatever that `it' is. In basketball, when it came time to take a 3-pointer to tie or win he wanted the ball. He was never the nervous Nellie, it was like `Give me the ball.' You could see that at a young age.''

That the Kaepernicks are proud parents goes without saying. Every parent who has taken their child to Little League or Pop Warner entertains dreams of someday watching them play in a World Series or Super Bowl.

They're just as proud, though, of how he honors his brothers who never made it. Colin quietly donated part of his first game check to Camp Taylor, a California charity his parents are involved in for children with heart defects, and last July he visited the camp with them.

He showed off his many tattoos while swimming with the kids, letting them climb on his back as he paddled about. He sat on the floor with them and listened as they told him about their different heart conditions, joined them in crafts and ate dinner with them.

When it was time to go, the kids hid his car keys, knowing that if you lose something at Camp Taylor you have to sing to get it back.

And so, the quarterback towered over them and was joined by his parents for a chorus of ``This Little Light of Mine,'' a song he learned in Sunday school.

``He just loves kids, and he ended up spending six or seven hours there,'' his father said, ``It's such a great thing for kids and we want that to be successful. We know how hard it is for parents. So we're pleased he is doing that.''

While their son has been the definition of coolness under pressure in games and in front of cameras and microphones this week, Rick Kaepernick admits to feelings of anxiety and excitement heading into Sunday. He and Teresa have been watching him compete all his life but this, obviously, is on a different level.

And while they savor this moment, they'll also be thinking of two little guys who never got to live a full life.

``There's not a day that goes by we don't think of the kids,'' Rick said. ``Everybody grieves differently and you try to get through it. But you never forget.''

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org orhttp://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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Canadiens halt Capitals' point streak at 13

Canadiens halt Capitals' point streak at 13

WASHINGTON -- You've got to lose sometime. The clock finally struck midnight on the Capitals' point streak on Friday as Washington fell 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens. A sleepy first period gave way to an onslaught in the second where Montreal scored four of its five goals.

The loss was the Caps' first regulation loss since Oct. 14, ending a streak of 13 straight games with at least a point.

Here is how the Caps lost.

Ovechkin’s hit

Early in the second period, it would be fair to call this a lifeless game. The score was tied at 0 with neither team generating much in the way of offense. There were no real highlight plays, highlight, nothing. It was just...blah.

Alex Ovechkin changed that.

Just over four minutes into the second, Ovechkin obliterated Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin with a heavy hit.

Drouin was slow to get up and immediately headed to the locker room. Those type of hits can be momentum-changers, but it is not always the hitter that gets that momentum boost. In this case, it seemed to wake up Montreal and not the Caps.

About two minutes after the hit, Phillip Danault would score the first of four goals the Canadiens would score in the second period. All four goals came in a span of 8:20.

It's hard not to draw the connection between the hit and the immediate response from Montreal on the scoresheet.

Defensive zone turnovers

Defensive zone turnovers are very dangerous in hockey. When a team has possession of the puck and is trying to break out, players head down the ice ready to transition from defense to offense.

In the second period, the Caps and Canadiens were locked in a board battle off a faceoff in Washington's defensive zone. John Carlson kicked the puck up near the blue line and T.J. Oshie stepped in. It looked like he was going to get the puck out or at least that's what his four teammates thought. Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were already out of the defensive zone and both while Carlson and Kempny began skating up after them. Tomas Tatar and Ben Chiarot continued battling for the puck on the boards and prevented Oshie from getting it out. The puck squirted away from the boards and Montreal took possession. The Caps thought they had the puck on the breakout, but the defense suddenly found itself out of position thanks to the turnover. Tomas Tatar passed to Danault who was all by his lonesome in front of the net and he made it 1-0.

It wasn’t just that one moment. Puck management was an issue all night long for the Caps and it cost them again about five minutes later.

Now down 2-0, the Caps shut down an offensive zone possession for Montreal and had taken away the puck. Lars Eller attempted a stretch pass from the defensive zone right up the middle, but Tatar batted the puck down with his stick and Nate Thompson picked up the puck right behind the blue line and took it right back in to continue the offensive pressure. Less than 20 seconds later, Jordan Weal backhanded a shot that hit off the post and bounced off Samsonov to barely trickle over the goal line.

Out of gas

Lengthy streaks can be exhausting for teams and it certainly looked through 40 minutes like the Caps were just out of gas.

Montreal played well, but each goal in the second seemed to take more of the wind out of Washington's sails until there wasn't much left in the second period.

Through the first 40 minutes, the Caps were being outshot 30-18 in shots on goal and 50-36 in total shot attempts. The team rallied somewhat in the third period with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov each scoring to make things interesting, but there was not enough time or energy left for Washington to mount a real comeback.

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Karl-Anthony Towns gets technical foul for frustration with Mo Wagner

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Karl-Anthony Towns gets technical foul for frustration with Mo Wagner

Mo Wagner became the NBA's leader in charges drawn Friday night, and his activity during the first half helped him get under Karl-Anthony Towns' skin. 

After Wagner attempted to draw yet another charge on Towns, the Minnesota big man finished a layup on the drive and laid the ball in Wagner's lap when the foul went uncalled. 

Towns received the technical foul as the Wizards continued to play a strong first half against one of the better offenses in the league on the road. 

Towns has been on a mean streak this season. He got in an epic brawl with Joel Embiid earlier this season and got into it with Rudy Gay just a few nights ago. He's demonstrated that he's a player you can get to, and Wagner did just that early on. 

The Wizards' defense has seemingly responded to Wagner's activity, so we'll see if they can keep it up to supplement one of the league's best offensive units. 

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