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Cowboys WR Bryant heeding advice, rolling along

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Cowboys WR Bryant heeding advice, rolling along

IRVING, Texas (AP) Dallas coach Jason Garrett implores Dez Bryant to run ``north and south'' with the ball. The Cowboys receiver is listening and his career sure seems headed a lot more north than south these days.

Bryant's first catch Sunday at Cincinnati (7-5) could get the Dallas receiver to 1,000 yards for the first time as a pro. The past four games, he scored in each one and had the same career high in yards twice.

On the go-ahead touchdown last weekend against Philadelphia, Garrett called for Bryant to get the ball on a screen pass 6 yards from the end zone. The only way in was ``north and south,'' and Bryant ran through a defender at the goal line, just inside the pylon.

``Dez is growing before our eyes,'' Garrett said after the 38-33 victory.

That score was actually the second time Bryant heeded his coach's words against the Eagles. The first wasn't planned, though. Tony Romo scrambled to his right and turned back to see Bryant wide open across the field. Bryant did a little weaving on that 23-yard score, but mostly headed in the direction Garrett prefers and beat two defenders to the goal line.

``Tony, he believes in me and I want that to increase more,'' said Bryant, who has 978 yards and eight touchdowns and a career-high 145 yards in consecutive games against Cleveland and Washington. ``It's all about focus and not losing composure. If he calls a play and I do what I'm supposed to do, it makes a difference.''

One other play might have been more important than Bryant's two touchdowns.

Dallas trailed Philadelphia 27-24 midway through the fourth quarter and was facing third-and-2, which usually dictates Romo throwing a short pass to trusty tight end Jason Witten. Instead, Romo went deep down the sideline to Bryant, who outran Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the 35-yard catch. The screen pass for the score came four plays later.

``It's dictated off of me looking at the corner seeing where the leverage is,'' Romo said. ``It's also dictated off of whether or not you feel comfortable with the guy who's over there ...''

Hold it right there, even though Romo did some more explaining.

Trust has been perceived as an issue for Romo with Bryant since character issues dropped the former Oklahoma State star low in the first round in the 2010 draft. There's been evidence, too - as recently as the fourth game this year against Chicago, when Bryant ran the wrong route and the Bears kick-started a blowout with an easy touchdown on the resulting interception.

Things appear to have changed quite a bit in two months.

``He's making less and less mistakes really every month that goes by,'' Romo said. ``He's done a good job of locking in and focusing in practice. He's always worked hard.''

There's other evidence that Bryant might be growing up.

For all the trouble of his first year in Dallas with lawsuits for unpaid bills and sagging pants at the mall, the most serious problem was a misdemeanor family violence arrest after a dispute with his mother over the summer. Last month, Bryant reached an agreement with prosecutors that could lead to dismissal of the charge.

A few days after the deal was announced, Bryant opened up to reporters, saying he needed to ``change my act up'' and that his relationship with his mother was strong ``even after the fact.''

``I think in so many ways Dez has matured,'' Garrett said. ``I think he's just been more consistent throughout the game whether he gets the ball or whether he doesn't get the ball, running his routes, doing his job.''

And running north and south. One of the lowest points for what Garrett might call the ``dancing Dez'' was an aborted punt return against the New York Giants that ended in a fumble and cost Bryant those return duties. Bryant made a mistake even trying to field the ball, then was moving sideways when the ball was stripped. The play came while Dallas was falling behind 23-0 in a 29-24 loss in late October.

``Sometimes when Dez gets in trouble, he starts kind of dancing too much and that plays a little bit into the defense's hand,'' Garrett said. ``A lot more guys can get around him. I thought he did a good job (against the Eagles) of putting his foot in the ground and going north and south, splitting defenders and just getting into the end zone.''

Bryant's third season is already the best of his career. He has a chance to make it a breakout year.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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

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Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

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It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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