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Former Browns QB Kosar finds help for concussions

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Former Browns QB Kosar finds help for concussions

CLEVELAND (AP) Bernie Kosar spent more than 10 years in persistent pain, the effects of more than one dozen documented concussions he sustained in 13 years as an NFL quarterback.

There are hits he remembers. There were others, so many others with the Browns, he shook off with smelling salts tucked into the front of his pants on game day.

But the ringing and buzzing in his head never subsided. Kosar couldn't sleep. He slurred his words. His life, troubled by financial woes and a failed marriage, was almost unlivable. He was desperate, masking his misery with medication and trying to pretend things weren't as bad as they seemed.

Desperate for help after tapping into numerous medical resources with limited results, Kosar discovered Dr. Rick Sponaugle, a ``pioneer'' in brain therapies who runs a wellness institute in Palm Harbor, Fla. Kosar claims through Sponaugle's ``groundbreaking'' work that his symptoms have improved, his brain is healing and he's feeling better than he has in years.

``It was a gift from God to find this and feel like this,'' Kosar said Thursday, opening up publicly for the first time about his affliction. ``I see all the symptoms going away.''

Kosar's is spreading the word about his improved condition and his goal is to get help for former teammates and other ex-NFL players dealing with onset dementia, depression and other symptoms caused by playing an inherently violent sport only now coming to terms with the physical toll it has taken on thousands.

Kosar contacted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and told him about Sponaugle, whose complex treatments to improve blood flow in the brain include intravenous therapies along with dietary supplements.

``They are very interested,'' said Sponaugle, who has spoken to Dr. Elliot Pellman, a league medical advisor. ``Why wouldn't they be?''

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed the discussions took place.

Kosar said at this press conference in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, that after first meeting Sponaugle, he was ``a little skeptical'' about getting any results. However, after five days of treatment, the 49-year-old was already feeling a difference.

``I feel 20 years younger,'' said Kosar,who has lost 40 pounds and is nearly at his playing weight.

Kosar has undergone 15 treatments with Sponaugle, who had him undergo a PET (positron emission tomography) scan to assess the damage to the quarterback's brain. Sponaugle said the majority of Kosar's damage has occurred to the frontal lobe of his brain, affecting his emotions and speech.

Sponaugle compared the trauma Kosar experienced on the football field to that of someone involved in a head-on, car collision.

``Bernie, in effect, put his head through the windshield every Sunday,'' he said.

While Kosar was receiving treatments last month, he made an appearance on a Cleveland sports talk radio show in which he became emotional and slurred his words. Kosar sounded intoxicated, and some Browns fans surmised he was either drunk or over-medicated.

Kosar said he ``wasn't exactly cognizant'' of how the appearance came across. Sponaugle, however, wasn't surprised by it after reviewing several scans of Kosar's brain, rattled by years of being hit by defenders and having the back of his helmet s bounced off turf fields in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Houston he described as being as hard as ``pavement.''

``Once you get decreased blood flow,'' Sponaugle said, ``you're in trouble. I knew why he was weepy. I've seen this in all kinds of people.''

Sponaugle did not provide many details about his treatments, which he claims can reverse the effects of brain trauma. He has treated over 8,000 patients, including those with Alzheimer's, war veterans and other NFL players, including an offensive lineman who came to him for help because he was unable to remember the play call between hearing it in the huddle and going to the line of scrimmage.

Kosar has no regrets about playing. He isn't upset with the medical treatment he received as a player or with the league, which has been proactive in recent years about player safety while also fighting lawsuits brought by retired pros looking for compensation.

When Kosar played, leading with the helmet was encouraged.

``The head to head contact was coached,'' he said. ``That's the way you were taught to hit the quarterback.''

Kosar made it clear he has no agenda other than to help others get well. His revelation came on the same day researchers from the National Institutes of Health said the late Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease often linked with repeated blows to the head. Seau ended his life last year by shooting himself in the chest.

Kosar was friends with Seau and former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who also committed suicide.

``I see friends of mine and I think a lot of them are losing hope,'' he said. ``There are hundreds, if not thousands of guys who are dealing with issues and pain and stuff. I tried really hard to find it. I don't think a lot of people know there is hope for them. I hope if there are people and players out there suffering, they have an option and something that can genuinely help them get better in a short amount a time.

``You don't have live the rest of your life in pain and agony.''

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Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

With Tom Wilson still serving a 20-game suspension, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has the difficult task of finding a wing to complement his top line of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. For the first four games of the season, that player was Brett Connolly.

On Saturday, however, he changed things up and went with Chandler Stephenson instead.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Stephenson made his head coach look very smart as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Kuznetsov to score his first goal of the season.

“Obviously, the start was great,” Reirden said after the game.

Stephenson is an incredibly fast skater and the extra speed seemed to add another dimension to that line that opponents had to contend with, and it led to both of the Caps’ goals on the night.

In addition to Stephenson’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty in the second period, and Washington scored on the resulting power play.

“Those guys are a lot of fun to play with,” Stephenson said. “They just know where to be and can find each other. I've just got to get the puck to them and just go to the net with your stick on the ice, and they'll find you.”

The top line’s success was a matter of finding instant chemistry as Stephenson had very little time to adjust. The Caps were off on Friday following back-to-back games, and Reirden did not make the switch of putting Stephenson on the top until Saturday’s morning skate.

Putting a new top line together with little time to practice does not seem like an ideal scenario, but according to Kuznetsov, the level of familiarity between all the players made the adjustment quick and easy.

“It doesn't matter with who you play,” he said. “In this locker room, we can communicate with anybody. We don't have a first line, we don't have a fourth line. We try and roll all lines.”

Reirden seemed pleased with the new trio after the game saying, “They did a number of good things during the game as well, so they I thought accomplished a lot. I thought [Stephenson] brought the speed on the forecheck and was able to at least go after their defense a little bit and force some turnovers that Kuznetsov and [Ovechkin] were able to at least get some opportunities from. So I think that's important to have him in that situation.”

Reirden was happy enough with the top line’s performance to keep them together. The team is off Monday, but Stephenson remained on the top line during Sunday’s practice.

But so long as Wilson remains out, finding the right match for the top line will remain a work in progress.

Said Reirden, “We’ll continue to try to put together our four lines that give us the best chance.”

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Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

The Baltimore Ravens went into the Tennessee Titans' home and completely robbed them in a 21-0 shutout win.

Here are the players and plays that stood out from the afternoon.

PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME: Ravens Defense

The Ravens defense had a historic afternoon recording a franchise-record 11 sacks. Yup, you read that right. 11 sacks.

Za'Darius Smith led the way with three, followed by Patrick Onwuasor with two and Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr. and Chris Wormley with one apiece. The 11 sacks tied for the second most by a team in league history and the most in a game since 2012.  It was so historic, the Ravens changed their Twitter name to included 11 S's. 

But that wasn't the only impressive part of the Ravens' afternoon. Marcus Mariota was limited to 10 completions and the defense allowed just 51 passing yards  —  the fewest in franchise history  — and 55 rushing yards. The Titans finished the afternoon 1-for-10 on third down as well.

With the shutout, the Ravens defense cemented its place as one of the NFL's most elite units in 2018. A win that must have been extra sweet after a 12-9 overtime loss to the Browns the week prior and with former defensive coordinator Dean Pees staring back from the opposite sideline. The Ravens remain the only NFL team to not allow a second-half touchdown this season. 

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE GAME: Michael Crabtree

After dropping what would have been the game-winning touchdown Week 5 against the Browns, Michael Crabtree said his priority this week was to get back into the lab and correct his mistakes. Out the gate, the veteran receiver stayed true to his word finishing the Ravens' first drive catching three passes for 52 yards and one touchdown. Earlier in the week, Joe Flacco had faith his receiver would get over the hump of six drops in five games and was willing to stand by him until it happened.

"Besides just trying to give him the confidence that, you know, I'm still going his way when he calls for it and I still believe that it's going to be the difference...it's something that he'll definitely get over," Flacco said.

The patience worked as Crabtree finished the day with six receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown leading all Ravens receivers.

But more importantly, the relationship between Crabtree and Flacco continues to grow.

"That’s trust. That’s what you need in football, you know," Crabtree said postgame. "Quarterback, receiver relationship. It’s only going to get better. It’s all about how much time you put in, how much work you put in. I’m new; this is my first year here so I got to do what I got to do."

STAT OF THE GAME: Flacco makes his way into the history books

With 25 completions Sunday against the Titans, Flacco became the third different quarterback in NFL history to complete 25 or more passes in nine consecutive games, per the NFL's communication department. Drew Brees sits atop the list with 11 and 10 consecutive games followed by Peyton Manning with nine. Flacco finished the 21-0 win 25-for-37 with 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

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