Capitals

Falcons TE Gonzalez still considering retirement

Falcons TE Gonzalez still considering retirement

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Tony Gonzalez is still 95 percent sure he will retire at the end of the season.

Just don't try to pigeonhole the 13-time Pro Bowl tight end into giving more information about his future - no matter how many light years away.

``I see what you're trying to do,'' Gonzalez said with a smile Thursday. ``Jedi mind trick.''

Gonzalez and the Atlanta Falcons are trying to stay on task this week.

As the NFC's No. 1 seed, the Falcons want to end the regular season with a victory Sunday over Tampa Bay and then use next week's bye to get ready for a divisional round home game the weekend of Jan. 12-13.

Gonzalez said he isn't letting outside distractions take away from his or the team's preparation.

``This is why we do what we do, to be in this kind of position,'' he said. ``It's important we go out and play well, finish the season strong and take it on to the playoffs. That's where we've got to be at our best, and I feel like our team is getting to that point.''

At 36, Gonzalez continues to make enough big plays that he was voted to his third straight Pro Bowl in four seasons with the Falcons. He moved into second place on the career receptions list last season - and now has 1,237 - and is the most decorated tight end in NFL history, ranking first at the position and sixth overall with 103 touchdown catches. At 14,227 yards, he's seventh on the career receiving list.

Gonzalez's physique, work ethic and preparation have factored into helping him thrive for 16 seasons, the first 12 of which he spent with Kansas City.

Though this week's Pro Bowl announcement hardly caught him by surprise, Gonzalez indicated that this bid felt special.

``The older you get, the more people start to doubt you,'' he said. ``Just because it's human nature. You are getting old, (and) there is no way you can move around like you used to. I've been hearing, `Oh, he's lost a step. He's not as fast as he used to be.' It's nice to go out there and play well and tell them, `What do you got to say now?' That's part of the fun - proving people wrong.''

To Falcons coach Mike Smith, Gonzalez still appears strong and healthy enough to play another two or three seasons and add to his Pro Bowl total.

``He's beating Father Time,'' Smith said. ``He's shutting him out. He's playing at a very high level right now.''

As it's been since the Chiefs drafted him 13th overall in 1997, opponents struggle to defend the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Southern California native in man-to-man coverage because linebackers usually lack the speed and defensive backs lack the size to disrupt his routes.

In last week's win at Detroit, Gonzalez caught just one pass, but that's mostly because the Lions decided to put two men on him and use their cornerbacks in single coverage against Roddy White and Julio Jones.

White and Jones combined for 15 catches, 224 yards receiving and three touchdowns, big numbers that Gonzalez credits not only to Atlanta's wideout tandem but also to quarterback Matt Ryan's ability to read coverages accurately and check down to more manageable options before the snap.

Gonzalez believes there's a good reason the Falcons rank fifth in passing, second in third-down efficiency and fifth in scoring average.

``The most important thing you can have with a quarterback is timing and anticipation,'' he said. ``He knows where I'm going to go before I go sometimes. And I kind of know what he's thinking as well and we work off each other, and it's a beautiful thing when it's going in the right direction.''

Smith appreciates Gonzalez's willingness to do whatever coaches ask of him. Such was the case last week when Ryan threw a screen pass to the left side for White, who outran the coverage for a 39-yard touchdown, but not before Gonzalez and left tackle Sam Baker held blocks to create space.

``Tony was the one who got it started, and Sam was cleaning up in the alley,'' Smith said. ``Once we got those two blocks, Roddy did the rest and did a nice job of running down the sideline.''

For all of Gonzalez's impressive career numbers, his ability to avoid fumbles has taken on a legend of its own. He hasn't fumbled since Week 16 of 2006, and the last time he lost a fumble was in Week 5 of 1999 - a span of 217 straight games and 1,126 receptions.

``It probably will get noted for Hall of Fame stuff when they start talking about Tony being inducted,'' Smith said. ``His statistics are unbelievable. Touchdown catches, number of catches, what he does after he catches the ball. He's done a great job, and I think a lot of it is the work he does out on the practice field.''

Gonzalez is just pleased that he's reached Week 17 for what could be the final regular season game of his career.

Winning a Super Bowl is all that matters, particularly for a respected veteran still looking for his first career playoff victory.

Just don't ask him about coming back next season.

``Let's finish this year,'' he said, ``and hopefully get that Super Bowl ring.''

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Evgeny Kuznetsov accepts IIHF suspension for cocaine while Capitals, NHL lay out next steps

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Evgeny Kuznetsov accepts IIHF suspension for cocaine while Capitals, NHL lay out next steps

After news broke of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s four-year suspension by the IIHF for testing positive for cocaine, the Capitals center released a statement Friday accepting the suspension and expressing his regret for the situation 

Said Kuznetsov:

"Recently, the IIHF notified me that, due to a positive test for a banned substance, I would be suspended from international competition for four years. I have made the decision to accept this penalty. Representing my country has always been so close to my heart and something I take so much pride in. Not being able to put that sweater on for four years is very hard to take. I have disappointed so many people that are important to me, including my family, teammates and friends. From the first day I took the ice in D.C., the Washington Capitals organization and our fans have been nothing but great to me and my family. I feel absolutely terrible for letting you down. I realize that the only way I can win you back is to take ownership of my situation and my actions from this point forward."

The question now is what happens next?

Both the Capitals and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly also released statements on Friday saying that Kuznetsov “has voluntarily sought help through the education and counseling program provided for in the NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement and has agreed to a regular testing protocol relating to his involvement with that program.”

In addition, Kuznetsov will meet with commissioner Gary Bettman “to discuss his situation and review his conduct prior to the start of Training Camp preceding the 2019-20 season.”

While the positive test has resulted in a four-year suspension with the IIHF, it is unclear if any such discipline will be levied on Kuznetsov by the NHL.

Said Daly, “Unlike the IIHF, cocaine is not considered a performance-enhancing drug and is therefore not a Prohibited Substance under the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.  Instead, it is considered a drug of abuse that is tested for and for which intervention, evaluation and mandatory treatment can occur in appropriate cases.”

Daly left the door open for NHL discipline as he concluded, “We intend to reserve further comment on any additional actions that may or may not be taken with respect to today’s announcement (disciplinary or otherwise) pending the completion of the Commissioner’s meeting with Mr. Kuznetsov.”

The Capitals, meanwhile, expressed support for Kuznetsov saying “we are committed to ensuring he has the necessary support required to work through this situation.”

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Evgeny Kuznetsov receives IIHF suspension after testing positive for cocaine

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Evgeny Kuznetsov receives IIHF suspension after testing positive for cocaine

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been suspended for four years by the IIHF after testing positive for cocaine, the organization announced Friday. The test was found in a sample taken on May 26, 2019, at the World Championship.

The suspension will last through June 12, 2023.

A video posted on Twitter in May showed Kuznetsov in a hotel room next to lines of an unidentified white powder. The Capitals center released a statement afterward saying that he has “never taken illegal drugs in my life and career.” He also claimed the video was from 2018 in Vegas after Washington won the Stanley Cup.

After a review, both the NHL and the Capitals accepted Kuznetsov’s explanation of the situation and considered the matter closed.

A team official told NBC Sports Washington on Friday that the team does intend to make an official comment on the news of Kuznetsov’s suspension.

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