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DE Hardy says 3-9 Panthers better than Falcons

DE Hardy says 3-9 Panthers better than Falcons

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Panthers' 3-9 record isn't keeping them from talking some trash leading up to their rematch with the division rival Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy said Wednesday the struggling Panthers are a ``better team'' than Atlanta.

Yes, better than the Falcons, who have clinched the NFC South division title and have the NFC's best record at 11-1. The Panthers, meanwhile, are coming off a loss to Kansas City, which had won only one game this season before Sunday.

When asked if he meant the Panthers were the better team on Sept. 30 when they lost 30-28 at Atlanta or better overall, Hardy replied, ``Both.''

Hardy said this Sunday's rematch is about ``payback'' and ``punishment.''

``We owe them something and it is coming,'' Hardy said. ``I'm trying to mess with their whole playoff experience. I want them to go home sick in the stomach and mad about life, a couple of depression issues, all types of things. It's going to be a long day from my point of view. I'm coming.''

Hardy, now a full-time starter in his third season with the Panthers, said he's not a big fan of the team's Interstate-85 rivals, calling the Falcons ``a little cocky.''

``I feel like they're not respectful,'' Hardy said.

Hardy is among several Carolina defensive players who felt disrespected by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan after television cameras caught him cursing as he shouted get off our field toward the Panthers sidelines in the final seconds of Atlanta's Week 4 win at the Georgia Dome.

Ryan's emotions were running high after the Falcons completed an improbable comeback against the Panthers. The Falcons were backed up on their own 1-yard with less than a minute to play and no timeouts in the last meeting.

But Ryan heaved a pass downfield for Roddy White to get the Falcons to midfield and a few plays later Matt Bryant booted a 40-yard field goal to give Atlanta the win.

An emotional Ryan left the field slapping high-fives and shouting as he made his way to the locker room.

``He said some harsh words man, so it's going to be a fight out there,'' cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. ``He totally disrespected us. They won the game. They came all of the way back to beat us. But to say what he said, I don't think there was cause for it.''

Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, who had 3 1/2 of Carolina's seven sacks against the Falcons in Week 4 said the Panthers saw the video tape of Ryan on the team bus after the game.

He said it's bothered him ever since.

Johnson said the Panthers have had this game marked on their calendar.

``Now he has to come into our house,'' Johnson said.

The Panthers, though, haven't been very good in their own house; they've lost five straight at home.

The Falcons had closed their media availability for the day prior to Hardy's comments and were unavailable for respond.

At one point Wednesday Hardy admitted the Falcons were a good team, but then returned to his rant.

``They have receivers that can catch, but they can be stopped. They have linemen that can block, but they can be beaten. They have a quarterback who is going to be on the ground because that's where he belongs,'' Hardy said. ``That's going to happen.''

Hardy also advised Ryan to get rid of the ball early and often on Sunday.

``He likes to hold the ball and that's something he should do when you're coming to play the Carolina Panthers because it's going to have repercussions,'' said Hardy, who has a career-high eight sacks on one forced fumble this season.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera coach said he hasn't seen the tape of Ryan's outburst from after the game and isn't sure if he'll be showing it to his players this week as motivation.

``Truthfully, if you want to do something about it (then) do it on the field,'' Rivera said. ``That's the way I look at it. Let's not talk about it, let's let our actions speak for us on the field.''

Quarterback Cam Newton is also anxious to gain a measure of respect on the Falcons as well, but for a completely different reason.

His late-game third-down run against his hometown team would have sealed Carolina's win had he not fumbled and the ball bounced back backward behind the first down marker.

Although Carolina recovered, the Panthers had to punt and the Falcons went on to score the go-ahead field goal.

``To back (Hardy) and defend him, there are a lot of things that haven't been true about our season so far,'' Newton said. ``We are a way better team than what our record is.''

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This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

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Twitter/@PeachOmania

This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

Since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time over one month ago, Caps fans, (and players), have rushed to their local tattoo parlor to get some ink commemorating the win.

We've seen the classic Capitals logo with the Stanley Cup, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Shane Peacher's tattoo.

Peacher tweeted to Joe B and Courtney Laughlin the finished tat: a work of art featuring Alex Ovechkin kissing the Stanley Cup for the first time as it's hoisted over his head.

Joe B replied making sure Shane had enough room on his other tricep for next year.

Shane replied that he's thinking of Evgeny Kuznetsov's iconic celebration that has since been dubbed the "birdman."

Shane got his Caps tattoo at the Helix Tattoo Lodge in Rising Sun, Maryland, by tattoo artist, Justin Holcombe.

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Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

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USA Today Sports Images

Celtics and Sixers may go relatively unchanged this offseason, as stars have gone elsewhere

The 2018 NBA offseason in just three weeks has become one of the wildest summers in the league's history between LeBron James signing with the Lakers, and all the characters that followed him, to DeMarcus Cousins surprising everyone to sign with the Golden State Warriors, to Kawhi Leonard getting traded to the Raptors.

As crazy as it all has been, two teams in the Eastern Conference stand out for so far doing very little, either by choice or circumstance. The Celtics and Sixers, the two teams most see as the favorites in the East, appear at least so far to be running it back with the same group of players.

This appears to be the Celtics' intention. After overhauling their roster last summer, they clearly see an opportunity to take a step forward as-is. Boston was one win away from the NBA Finals and will return Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving from injury. With James gone to the West, they can improve significanly just by keeping it all together.

Boston re-signed Marcus Smart and Aron Baynes. Their biggest addition this summer so far has been their first round pick, Robert Williams.

The Sixers, unlike the Celtics, didn't appear to plan on doing it this way. They wanted James and missed out. They reportedly had interest in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, but both went elsewhere. There are no stars left to sign in free agency and the trade market may be drying up.

Philly made some minor moves like trades for Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala. They may also have a deal for Kyle Korver in the works. They also had two first round picks in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet.

There's a chance the Sixers got better than people think, as many of the moves they made seem smart. But they didn't reel in a big fish and will probably come back for the 2018-19 season with a team very similar to the one that made the second round of the playoffs this spring.

The fact the Celtics and Sixers may stand pat is probably a good thing for the rest of the East. Both teams may improve naturally if they are healthier and if their young players continue to ascend. But neither made a game-changing addition, one that would solidify either as an unstoppable superteam in the conference. 

The West is overloaded with title contenders and All-NBA players. The East, meanwhile, is much more open and it may end up staying that way mainly because Boston and Philly have been quiet so far this summer.

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