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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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Redskins at Packers Week 14 Inactives: Washington thin at WR in Green Bay

Redskins at Packers Week 14 Inactives: Washington thin at WR in Green Bay

When the Redskins take the field to face the 9-3 Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Washington will be without two of their starting wide receivers.

Both Trey Quinn (concussion) and Paul Richardson (hamstring) were ruled out on Friday and will be inactive. Washington's likely starting wide receivers will be a trio of rookies: Terry McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims.

Quinn suffered a concussion during the Redskins Week 13 victory over Carolina while attempting to receive a punt. Carolina's DeAndrew White was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty on the play and was fined by the league this week for his helmet-to-helmet hit.

Richardson will miss his third game in four weeks. He first injured his hamstring during the Redskins Week 9 loss to Buffalo. He missed the Redskins loss to the Jets in Week 11 but returned the following week. No. 10 re-aggravated the hamstring injury in the Redskins Week 12 victory over Detroit and has yet to return since. 

After missing the first game in his nine-year NFL career last week, Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan returns to the lineup vs. Green Bay. Kerrigan was cleared from the concussion protocol on Wednesday and practiced in full all week.

Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses, who exited early last week with a back injury, is active. Earlier this week, he said he expected to play, and held true to his word. Moses has not missed a game since 2015.

Packers wide receiver Ryan Grant, who spent four years with the Redskins, will be inactive against his former team. Additionally, Green Bay will be without starting cornerback Kevin King.

Here are the full inactives:

Redskins at Packers Week 14 Inactives

Redskins Inactives:

QB Colt McCoy
WR Paul Richardson
WR Trey Quinn
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons
CB Aaron Colvin
LB Chris Odom
OL Ross Pierschbacher

Packers Inactives:

WR Ryan Grant
CB Kevin King
RB Dexter Williams
CB Troy Brown
CB Ka'dar Hallman
OL Adam Pankey
OT Yosh Nijmans

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Nationals sign reliever Kyle Finnegan to major-league deal

Nationals sign reliever Kyle Finnegan to major-league deal

The Nationals announced their first move toward rebuilding their bullpen for the 2020 season Sunday, signing right-hander Kyle Finnegan to a major-league deal.

Finnegan, 28, became a free agent for the first time this winter after seven seasons in the Oakland Athletics’ minor-league system. The A’s drafted him in the sixth round of the 2013 Draft out of Texas State, originally developing him as a starter until converting him into a reliever in 2016.

Oakland granted Finnegan an invite to Spring Training ahead of last season, but he never made his way onto the team’s 40-man roster. His breakout season was in 2019, when the organization asked him to lower his arm slot to generate more movement on his pitches.

Finnegan posted a 2.66 ERA with 14 saves over 42 appearances for AA-Midland and AAA-Las Vegas last year. His fastball has touched triple digits in the past but sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. His newfound success has also seen him rack up more strikeouts, as evidenced by his K/9 that jumped from 9.7 in 2018 to 12.8 in 2019.

Prior to signing with Washington, Finnegan joined the Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League. He has a 2.31 ERA in 14 appearances so far this winter.

The Nationals’ 40-man roster now sits at 30 with the addition of Finnegan following non-tenders of Javy Guerra and Koda Glover. It will move up to 32 once the signings of Yan Gomes and Howie Kendrick are made official. The move comes less than 12 hours before the MLB Winter Meetings are scheduled to begin in San Diego.

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