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Falcons' White focused on postseason, not Pro Bowl

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Falcons' White focused on postseason, not Pro Bowl

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White has gotten over his initial disappointment of missing out on the Pro Bowl for the first time in five years.

White is focused on winning a playoff game.

Under fifth-year coach Mike Smith, the Falcons have gone 0-3 in the postseason, but at 13-3 they're in the same spot they held two years ago as the NFC's No. 1 seed.

White insists that ``it's going to be a lot different outcome'' this time.

In suffering playoff losses to the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals, White thinks the Falcons still had too much youth on their roster to know what it takes to win on the big stage.

``We're not doing a lot of the young things we used to do to lose games and stuff like that,'' White said on Friday. ``This was a pivotal point for us as a football team this year. In previous (regular seasons), I felt like we didn't win those games against teams we needed to beat and this year we did.''

Now in his eighth year with Atlanta, White says he's pleased that receiver Julio Jones was named to the Pro Bowl in just his second year.

``That was the best part,'' White said. ``I probably would've been upset if neither of us had made it. It made a little more at ease. I really would've been ticked off if neither one of us had made it.''

White has more catches and yards receiving than Jones, but Jones caught 10 touchdown passes to White's seven. They have combined for 171 catches, 2,549 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns.

``Roddy has been so good to me in helping me learn what it takes to be a professional,'' Jones said. ``We compete just like players at any position, but we're close and we're always pushing to make each other better. Same thing with Harry (Douglas) and everyone else.''

White sees no sense in belaboring the Pro Bowl talk even though he became just the fifth NFL player to post three consecutive seasons with 90-plus catches and 1,200-plus yards.

``I've been to a couple of them,'' he said. ``I know what it feels like to be out there and stuff like that, so it wasn't a big thing that I had on the list.''

Another reason that White is encouraged about the Falcons' next game on Jan. 13 is that quarterback Matt Ryan has become the team's most indisputable leader.

When the Falcons lost at Arizona in the 2008 wild-card round, Ryan was a rookie. In getting blown out the last two years by Green Bay and New York, White thinks Ryan might have been handcuffed by predictable play-calling of former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.

Now that Dirk Koetter has taken over the job, the Falcons have said all season that they're more aggressive in the passing game and able to move downfield and control the clock even though their running game has been emphasized less.

Ryan has ``been mentally prepared throughout the whole season for this stretch run,'' White said. ``He knows we have to win a playoff game. Everybody knows that, and not to put any pressure on him, but I just think that at this point in the season, everybody knows they have to play their best football right now. That's all that matters, and that's what counts.''

White overcame a right knee injury late in the season that caused him to miss practice time, but the pain and swelling subsided enough for him to keep an important streak alive.

He has never missed a game since the Falcons drafted him 27th overall in 2005.

``I'm kind of that guy that brings a lot of energy to the team,'' he said. ``As I know that I'm out there, I know that everybody is going play like they usually do. That's the best part about it and the fact that I just love playing football. I love being out there with those guys and going out and competing.''

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Follow George Henry athttp://www.twitter.com/georgehenryAP

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

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Emma Meesseman posts an incredibly efficient game in the Euroleague, scoring 20 points in 21 minutes

Emma Meesseman posts an incredibly efficient game in the Euroleague, scoring 20 points in 21 minutes

Emma Meesseman is a walking bucket. She proved it in the WNBA Finals and is continuing to score in bunches in the EuroLeague. 

Playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg, Meesseman went off again. Shooting an incredible 9-for-11 from the field (82%), she posted 20 points in 21 minutes during their win over ZVVZ USK Praha.

Just take a glimpse of Meesseman's highlights from that game. She got her shot to go from every corner of the court. 

The win moved UMMC Ekaterinburg (10-1) to the top of Pool A of the EuroLeague and Meesseman has been a huge part of it. Throughout the season, she's averaged 15 points, shooting 67% from the field and 64% from 3-point range. 

Meesseman just recently won the WNBA Finals MVP award for the Washington Mystics last season. In the WNBA Finals, she posted nearly 18 points a game coming off the bench to lead the team. 

Other WNBA stars Courtney Vandersloot, Brittney Griner and Jonquel Jones also play with Meesseman on the same team. 

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Davey Martinez on electronic sign stealing: 'This just didn't happen overnight'

Davey Martinez on electronic sign stealing: 'This just didn't happen overnight'

When the Nationals faced the Houston Astros last World Series, they took extra precautions to ensure their opponents couldn’t steal their signs even if they were using illegal means to do it.

Less than two weeks later, news broke that the Astros were being investigated by MLB for using electronic devices to steal signs during the 2017 season—a season in which they went on to win their first World Series in franchise history.

The investigation, which concluded last week and resulted in severe penalties for the Astros and the firings of both manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow, didn’t find any evidence that Houston used such means against Washington.

But that didn’t stop Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart from taking precautions, instructing each of his pitchers to have their own sets of signs and laminating cards for them to keep in their caps. Washington also reportedly used some nontraditional signs that were harder to decipher even with the help of technology.

Speaking with MLB Network Radio’s Chuck Todd, Nationals manager Davey Martinez admitted that he’s fine with sign stealing being a part of the game. It’s once outside devices get involved where he thinks teams begin to cross a line.

The league has “been doing this for years,” Martinez said. “A guy on second base steals signs. They try to relay it to the hitters. They’re looking for an edge. You’re at first base and you’re taking a lead and then you’re picking up the signs of the catcher ’cause you want to steal the base and you’re hoping that you could see a breaking ball—whatever. I get it.

“For me, I blame—if that’s happening—I blame us for not controlling that…the things that are controllable, we should be able to control. The other things that we can’t see—I think that’s the issue.”

The game of stealing signs is as old as the sport itself. While some critics have said it hurts the integrity of the game, the implementation of cameras and electronic devices gives one side a much more significant advantage than the level playing ground that teams have operated on for decades.

“This goes back a while,” Martinez said. “I remember in 2017 [when I was with the Chicago Cubs], we were in the playoffs and got a memo about Fitbit watches and all that stuff and not being able to wear them—”

“So people were worried about this for a while?” Todd asked.

“Yeah. I mean, this just didn’t happen overnight. There are rules and the game has changed. There’s so many different wats now that you can do things. But you’ve gotta understand there are rules and that’s the bottom line.”

The Nationals and Astros will continue to be intertwined, not only as reigning pennant winners but as co-hosts of their Spring Training Facility in West Palm Beach as well. While Martinez wasn’t willing to comment on the findings of the investigation into the Astros, he left a frank assessment for whether Houston should’ve expected such significant penalties.

“MLB has made it known that they were going to intervene if they thought there was any foul play, and they did,” Martinez said.

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