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Cowboys trusting Bryant to make call on finger

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Cowboys trusting Bryant to make call on finger

IRVING, Texas (AP) The Dallas Cowboys couldn't trust receiver Dez Bryant to even run the right routes less than two months ago.

Now they're letting him dictate whether he plays with a broken left index finger. They are also drawing inspiration from Bryant's insistence on waiting until after the season for a surgery serious enough for owner Jerry Jones to startle his emerging star by mistakenly saying it would involve taking bone from his hip.

``Finding a way to play shows a lot of toughness because that's not easy to do,'' said tight end Jason Witten, who would know because he once ran 30 yards downfield without a helmet before getting tackled and played in the opener this season with a lacerated spleen. ``He earned my respect.''

Bryant broke the finger on a catch against Cincinnati two weeks ago. He scored a critical touchdown in the 20-19 win after the injury and made it clear early last week that he would play against Pittsburgh.

Playing with a padded glove that exposed the tip of the broken finger, Bryant looked like a decoy in the first quarter because Tony Romo kept throwing to Miles Austin, but he still scored a touchdown for the sixth straight game - catching a ball away from his body, fingers first - and finished with four catches for 59 yards.

The Cowboys (8-6) beat the Steelers 27-24 in overtime last weekend and emerged with control of their playoff hopes. Dallas moves on with wins over New Orleans (6-8) at home on Sunday and at Washington in the finale.

``I just wanted to be out there and I felt like I needed to,'' Bryant said. ``Miles came up to me and said, `We're all really inspired by you playing.' I can tell from the guys that it meant a lot.''

Seven weeks earlier - in that same locker room - Bryant had to acknowledge that his route-running wasn't precise enough, and that it cost Romo one of four interceptions in a 29-24 loss to the New York Giants. He also botched a punt return so badly that coach Jason Garrett took those duties away from him.

Bryant did have 110 yards receiving that day - a season high at the time - and made a spectacular catch that appeared to win the game in the final seconds. But a replay showed that his fingers came down first out of bounds, so he still had just two touchdowns through seven games.

The third-year pro was on his way to another mediocre season, and still didn't know whether Dallas County prosecutors would pursue family violence charges against him over an altercation with his mother during the summer. That incident came after his first two years were marred by lawsuits over unpaid bills for tickets and jewelry and a scene at the mall for wearing sagging pants.

Just as his career-best touchdown streak started, though, Bryant got word that a deal had been reached that could lead to dismissal of the family violence charges. He celebrated by having the same career high in receiving yardage twice - 145 against Cleveland and Washington. With eight touchdowns in six games, Bryant is now tied for the among NFL receivers with 10 scores.

``I'm proud of him,'' Witten said. ``You talk about him dealing with all the stuff he's dealt with the three years he's been here. He's almost like a little brother. You keep offering him support and encouragement. He's a good kid. It kind of seemed like he's put it all behind him.''

Jones, ever the optimist, has been guarded as Bryant kept stringing together good games. He gushed about the receiver after beating the Steelers, but scared Bryant a little by offering the possibility of a bone graft involving Bryant's hip ("You're not touching my hip,'' Bryant told reporters Sunday after hearing the Jones diagnosis). Turns out Jones just misunderstood the doctors. The bone will come from the hand. But Jones' point was clear: the injury is serious.

``He certainly is playing with some risks, but he was inspirational out there to everybody involved in the organization,'' Jones said. ``He meant it because we were still playing for all the marbles, and he wanted to give everything he could.''

While Dallas coach Jason Garrett said medical opinions did factor in the decision, Bryant said his reasoning was simple: The Cowboys were still in the playoff hunt. Had Dallas been eliminated, he said he might have gone ahead with surgery. There's some personal incentive, too. Two more 100-yard games would give him six for the season and probably push him past 1,300 yards. With that kind of production, he could end up leading the league in touchdowns. He might go to his first Pro Bowl.

``I know that you go by catches and yards and touchdowns, but I go by how many times he does the right thing, makes the right choice, runs the right route, the depth that he's at, the timing that he came out, his ability to read the coverage,'' Romo said. ``You know there's a lot of stuff involved and he didn't do as well in the beginning of the year, but he's really come on as of lately.''

Bryant's come so far, the Cowboys are trusting him to call the shots.

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Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter athttps://twitter.com/lschuylerd

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Nationals cancel 2021 Winterfest due to COVID-19

Nationals cancel 2021 Winterfest due to COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic will prevent fans from attending Nationals games during the 2020 season and it appears will also cost them an annual offseason tradition.

The Nationals announced Wednesday their plans to cancel Winterfest 2021. The convention was originally scheduled for January 2021.

"Due to the continued uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Winterfest 2021, which was scheduled to be held in January," the team said in a statement. "We know how important this event is to our fans. That said, we look forward to offering a variety of alternative opportunities for our community to come together to celebrate our team."

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Details regarding the alternative opportunities are unknown as of this writing. 

In the meantime, Washington will continue to play its 2020 season without fans. They are 4-5 entering a series with the Orioles Friday and had to take four days off after the Marlins experienced a COVID-19 outbreak within their clubhouse and the Nats' series with Miami was postponed. 

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Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

It's been several weeks since the Washington Football Team announced it was retiring its former name and logo after more than 80 years. Ever since FedEx became the first known sponsor to formally ask Washington to change its name, fans have taken to social media to voice some of their favorites among potential replacements. I spoke with several marketing experts about a few of the fan-generated names, and will use their responses to make a case for some of the most popular suggestions. This is the case for Warriors.

Case for: Washington Warriors

When it comes to the Washington Football Team, developing a new brand has as much to do with separating itself from the previous identity as it does creating a new one.

While the team’s previous moniker provided a sense of pride and joy to some people, it was considered derogatory by others. Those offended by the name had expressed resentment for decades before the team finally decided to take action this summer. But the team only did so after its bottomline was at risk of taking a hit by corporate sponsors threatening to end their relationships with the team.

If Washington wants people to take its rebrand seriously and view it as more than a money-saving play, the team will need to completely distance itself from Native American imagery. That being considered, is Warriors a good choice as the replacement name? It depends, says Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business.

“It depends on which direction you go with it,” Derdenger said. “I’ve read things that they want to keep the feather and go in that direction as opposed to a military warrior, more of the Indian warrior. And if they do it the latter, they’re completely missing the mark on why they’re changing their name.”

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This conundrum highlights the different things that have to be considered when undergoing a name change. It isn’t just the name; it’s also the logo, the branding on team gear and uniforms, the stadium atmosphere, the fan experience, and so much more. If the team was able to rebrand itself as the Warriors without singling out a specific race or group of people, the name could work. The Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association have a great brand and don’t use human imagery at all, going with the Bay Bridge as their primary logo.

Matt White, president of WHITE64, pointed to Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder's background in advertising and branding as a reason he thinks the team could pull it off.

“I think what you have to do is, do it in a thoughtful, logical manner, where you’re hiring a firm, which he has relationships with that can really do a great job,” White said.

The option for thoughtful branding exists in a way for "Warriors" that it doesn’t for a name like "Braves." Some fans had tossed around the latter as an option because of its history as the Washington franchise’s original name for one season in 1932, when the team was still located in Boston. But that’s a piece of history most fans likely forgot, if they ever knew it. And a Brave, by definition, is specifically a Native American warrior. The name doesn’t allow for a change in branding the same way Warriors does.

“The Cleveland Indians are already being asked to change their name. The Atlanta Braves apparently are even being looked at with that,” White said. “And again, there’s gotta be a solution that doesn’t offend somebody but that can still capture the spirit.”

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That's where Warriors could be used, like Braves, to appease the base of fans who never wanted to part with the old moniker. However, Brad Nierenberg, the CEO of RedPeg Marketing, thinks choosing that name is also a choice to please those particular fans over the people who want to see a clean break. 

“If you’re gonna stay close with the Redskins, I think you’re gonna be staying with a fan base that ... you’re gonna placate the challenge to changing the name, then the Warriors and Braves are gonna be that next step,” Nierenberg said.

“I think there’s gonna be people saying they didn’t go far enough. That’s my gut.”

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This is where everything else that accompanies the name change becomes so vital. Because while it’s likely true everyone won’t be happy with Warriors, it’s possible to win over a few more people with the proper branding and imagery.

"The logo is then going to be the key part,” Derdenger said. “And what that logo will look like and how it connects back to the military warrior.

“I can’t right now see in my head what a Warriors logo looks like. ... But they have to go away from the connection to the Native Americans.”

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