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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 are 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 their son 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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Why Santana Moss believes the Redskins have 'something brewing' at wide receiver

Why Santana Moss believes the Redskins have 'something brewing' at wide receiver

Where you see a lack of proven threats at wide receiver for the Redskins, Santana Moss actually sees an opportunity for the team to really surprise at that position.

During an appearance on 106.7 The Fan's Chad Dukes vs. The World this week, the Burgundy and Gold legend explained that he thinks Washington's free agency approach means they're far more confident in their wideouts than anyone else is.

"They have something going on, something brewing with some of those receivers, that they're gonna do something a little differently," Moss said. "I don't know. I'm just saying that's what I'm thinking, because I see how people play chess sometimes."

Moss should know when the Redskins are up to something, considering his past. 

In 2012, Mike Shanahan and the franchise gave no real indication that they'd be running a read-option and pistol-based offense during training camp and the preseason. Then, Week 1 came around and Robert Griffin III lit up the Saints and many other opponents after that with a scheme that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Moss was a part of that roster, meaning he has a true grasp of what it's like to be among a group that has "something brewing." And he's getting those same vibes when it comes to the 2020 Redskins. 

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"I'm just looking forward to whatever they might do," he said.

Rivera and Scott Turner certainly have a lot of options to choose from. Terry McLaurin should be the star again, but after him, there's the intriguing Steven Sims, the physical Kelvin Harmon, the raw yet well-regarded Antonio Gandy-Golden (whom Moss especially likes) and then the versatile Antonio Gibson, who could get involved in many ways.

In fact, Moss believes that crew is talented enough to make up for what's maybe the weakest spot on the entire depth chart.

"I think they have something planned for the guys that they have that's going to allow them to not have to lean so much on a tight end," he told 106.7 The Fan.

Would this entire situation be better if the organization was able to land Amari Cooper? Duhhhhhhhhhh. Everything at receiver would be more definite considering how successful Cooper's been as a pro, instead of all the potential-based discussions that are happening with the current collection of pass catchers.

Cooper remains a Cowboy, though, and the Redskins will proceed with their young corps. In Moss' mind, that's completely fine. In a few months, everyone else will get to find out whether it really is.

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How the Capitals could face the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs

How the Capitals could face the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs

For the past two weeks, updates to the 2020 postseason have been rolling in making it hard to keep track of them all. A very different 2020 postseason awaits when play resumes so you may not know all the ins and outs of how the playoffs will work. Right now the most important things for Capitals fans to remember are that Washington is in, we don't know who they will play in the first round or where they will be seeded and yes, they could play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.

So let's go over the specifics.

Where will the Caps be seeded?

We don't know. Next question!

Washington finished third in the Eastern Conference and first in the Metropolitan Division, just barely edging out the Philadelphia Flyers, but that won't get them much. All this means is that the Caps are among the top four teams in the conference so they will play a three-game round-robin to determine the top four seeds. Washington will play Boston, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia each one time in games with regular-season rules (meaning shootouts instead of endless overtime). The team with the best record in that round-robin will earn the top seed in the conference. It doesn't matter that Boston had 10 more points than Washington when the season paused, the Caps could still jump to the top of the conference should the finish with a better record in these three games.

The only way in which regular-season records matter at this point is to determine the four teams that get to play in the round-robin and as a tiebreaker. Regular season points percentage will be used as the tiebreaker for teams tied after the round-robin.

Who will the Caps play in the playoffs?

We won't know that specifically for three reasons. First, we have to know where the Caps will be seeded and we won't until after the round-robin; second, we won't know until after the play-in round; and third, it was announced on Thursday that the teams will be reseeded after each round so it's possible we won't know exactly who the Caps will play until the play-in round is completely finished.

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If that sounds like reseeding makes things more complicated, it does in a sense, but it was the right decision. Yes, when the playoffs begin we won't be able to have a clear bracket for the playoffs but...so what? I mean, does that really matter? What reseeding does is prevent the top seed from getting screwed. A bracket is made with the assumption that the top team will win each round. That means the No. 4 is supposed to play the No. 5 in the first round, but what happens if a No. 12 upsets the No. 5 in the play-in? All of a sudden, the No. 4 team would be playing the lowest seed left in the tournament while the No. 1 would have to play the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 series.

That does not make sense.

Yes, trying to explain who the Caps could play after their bye from the play-in series is enough to make your head spin, but trust me, it makes a lot more logical sense to do it this way and ensures the better playoff matchups in the later rounds as opposed to the early rounds which has been a problem for the NHL since they adopted their division system.

How could the Caps play the Penguins in the first round?

For most Capitals fans, whenever the playoffs roll around everyone starts looking to see if a Washington-Pittsburgh postseason rematch is in the cards. Despite describing how we basically don't know anything about who the Caps could play in the first round yet, there is actually a pretty straightforward path for a Caps-Penguins matchup.

As the No. 5 seed, Pittsburgh is the highest-seeded team in the play-in round. Now that we know the NHL will reseed after each round, if the Penguins win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, they are guaranteed to play the No. 4 seed in the first round of the playoffs. If Washington finishes last in the round-robin and Pittsburgh wins its series, get out the popcorn and work on that bird celebration, because it will mean a Caps vs. Penguins series yet again.

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