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Cowboys, Bengals meet in pivotal game

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Cowboys, Bengals meet in pivotal game

CINCINNATI (AP) A lot of Andy Dalton's friends and family are flying in for a game that has big interest back in his home state.

``I guess being from Texas, everybody's excited about this one,'' said the Bengals quarterback, who grew up in suburban Houston.

They're headed this way for a pivotal game that was overshadowed for the Cowboys on Saturday. Defensive lineman Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter charge after a one-vehicle accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown in Irving, Texas.

The Cowboys (6-6) have gotten into the NFC wild card race by winning three of their last four games. The Bengals (7-5) have run off four straight wins to get in position for an AFC wild card and, perhaps, a division title. Neither can afford a loss at this stage.

``It's kind of a prelude to the playoffs,'' Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. ``Teams are going to turn it on and try their best to get into the (postseason) show, so you're going to get everybody's best every week.''

A sign of the game's importance: Paul Brown Stadium will be sold out for the first time in the last three home games. A lot of those fans will be cheering for the Cowboys, who have made it exciting lately by putting up a lot of points. Dallas has scored 38, 23, 38 and 38 points in the last four games.

The Cowboys are one of four teams in the NFC tied at 6-6, one game behind Seattle for the last wild-card spot. Like the Bengals, the Cowboys started 3-5 and have recovered by putting together their best stretch of the season. They're one game behind the New York Giants for the NFC East lead, tied with Washington for second place.

The Cowboys finish the season at Washington.

``When you think about the East, it's always been down to the wire,'' linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. ``It's always been close. It's a brutal NFC East, grind `em conference, division. It's going to come down to the wire.

``We just need to keep playing well, think about a game at a time and eventually hoping we get to the end.''

That's the same approach the Bengals have taken while digging out of their 3-5 start. One difference: Cincinnati's defense has been much better over that span. The Bengals have scored 31, 28, 34 and 20 points during their four wins while holding opponents to 13 points or less.

As a result, Cincinnati is tied with Pittsburgh for the final wild card spot, although the Steelers won their first game this season. Both trail Baltimore by two games in the AFC North with four to play. Cincinnati ends the season at Pittsburgh and home against the Ravens.

``We've got to take care of our business and let everything else fall into place, but I think there's a chance,'' Dalton said. ``Baltimore's in control of their destiny too. We'll see.''

The defense has given up only one touchdown in the last three games and leads the NFL with 39 sacks. End Carlos Dunlap was the AFC's defensive player of the week for getting five tackles, two sacks and forcing two fumbles in a 20-13 win at San Diego. Tackle Geno Atkins leads all NFL interior linemen with 9 1/2 sacks. End Michael Johnson has eight sacks.

``Everybody is getting to the quarterback,'' Dunlap said. ``This week fortunately it was me. We're all just working in tandem. I feel like that's starting to pick up this season. We didn't start out the season the way we've wanted, but we've gotten better each week.''

The Cowboys' biggest concern is stopping Cincinnati's running game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has run for more than 100 yards in each of the last three, and will be trying to become the first Bengal to do it four games in a row since Paul Robinson in Cincinnati's inaugural season of 1968.

The Bengals signed Green-Ellis as a free agent from New England to replace Cedric Benson. The running game struggled in the first half of the season, but has finally found its stride.

``Physically the line is good up front, but he just has a good feel for running,'' Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. ``I think anybody who's followed his career when he was in New England, he just seemed to make a lot of yards. He's certainly doing that in Cincinnati.''

The Bengals have three links to the Cowboys, providing some interesting subplots. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer was the coordinator in Dallas from 2000-06. Cornerback Terence Newman played there from 2003-11 before being released. Cornerback Adam ``Pacman'' Jones was traded to the Cowboys from Tennessee in 2008 and got waived in 2009.

Given the stakes, this one is more than personal.

``I want the game more because we need it,'' Jones said. ``I don't want Dallas to win any game. I'm not a Dallas fan. I'm not cheering for no one. That's just how it is.''

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AP Sports Writer Schuyler Dixon in Irving, Texas, contributed to this report.

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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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