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Gordon flashing for recharged Browns

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Gordon flashing for recharged Browns

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Josh Gordon arrived at training camp out of shape, unfamiliar with the Browns' playbook and saddled with personal baggage from a troubled college career.

Another lost rookie, Gordon was way behind.

He's caught up.

``He's our top receiver right now,'' linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said.

With a long, elegant stride and deceiving speed, the 21-year-old Gordon has emerged as Cleveland's biggest deep threat, perhaps the club's best playmaker and maybe the end of the Browns' search for a bonafide No. 1 wide receiver, something they haven't had in years.

Gordon, blessed with enormous talent, is the whole package.

``He's big and he's fast and he can catch,'' said Browns coach Pat Shurmur.

Gordon had the best game of his brief career last Sunday, catching six passes for 116 yards and one touchdown as the Browns ended a 12-game road losing streak with a 20-17 victory over the Oakland Raiders. It was a breakout performance for Gordon, who was taken in the second round of the NFL's supplemental draft in July by the Browns, who were criticized for a selection many considered too risky.

Gordon, though, has made general manager Tom Heckert's gamble pay off.

The Browns haven't had a receiver with comparable, game-breaking skills to Gordon since Braylon Edwards, who had 16 TD receptions in 2007 but then tailed off quickly and was eventually traded. Gordon has five TDs this season, the most by a Browns rookie since Andre' Davis in 2002.

And he's hungry for more.

``He's starting to get a feel for what he can do,'' Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden said. ``The sky is the limit for that guy. He's talented, he's tall, he's long, he's fast. He can catch the ball well. He does all the things you would want.

``I'm glad he's on our side.''

While Gordon was the subject of many conversations inside the Browns' facility and locker room this week, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder kept a low profile. That's how it's been since he was drafted by Cleveland, which forfeited a second-round pick in 2013 to get him.

Gordon is quiet, polite and refreshingly unassuming.

``It's just me being me,'' he said.

He came with questions surrounding his character. Gordon was dismissed from Baylor's team after being suspended twice for marijuana use, and then he didn't play after transferring to Utah, where he failed another drug test. He hasn't had any problems as a pro, and that's how Gordon intends to keep it.

Gordon knows there are some who expect him to fail. He uses that as motivation.

``There's a lot more eyes on me compared to other guys,'' he said. ``A lot of people either expect a downfall or expect another type of mess-up or are waiting for a slipup. I came in trying to be mature about it, and that's how I approach it every day. I watch the guys ahead of me, the veteran guys and see how they carry themselves and how I should do the same.''

Gordon has leaned on Jackson, tight end Ben Watson and wide receiver Josh Cribbs for advice and guidance. They've explained to him the importance of working hard, using his free time wisely and striving to be consistent - on and off the field.

Gordon is following their lead. He's growing up.

There have been no missteps, just positive strides forward.

``He's young,'' Cribbs said. ``He has an opportunity to right the ship. Nobody cares about how you fall down, it's about how you get back up. He's done a great job of bouncing back from anything that might have happened in his past and you don't see it in his future and that's a great thing.

``He's still a kid.''

Gordon's ability to get deep is transforming the Browns' offense. With his ability to run past a cornerback, defenses must keep a safety back to protect against a long completion. By drawing two defenders, underneath passing routes open as do running lanes.

Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress has noticed defenses paying more attention to Gordon, who is averaging 19 yards per catch and 46 yards on his TD grabs.

``You kind of want to know where that guy's at,'' Childress said.

Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown saw Gordon's potential immediately. Early in training camp, Brown, an 11-year veteran who knows every trick in the book, was covering Gordon and thought he had the youngster bottled up.

``I had perfect coverage and he stuck one hand out and catches the ball,'' Brown said. ``He'll make a few plays in this league. The sky is the limit for him. He's still learning, but he's a talent. I just want to see him continue to grow and continue to gain confidence because he can be very special.''

Brown isn't alone in his appraisal.

While other teams passed on Gordon, the Browns dared to look deeper and took a chance on him.

He doesn't want to let them down.

``It meant a lot to me,'' he said. ``I never will forget it and I'm always grateful for it. I think about it every day and it's why I have the attitude I have. I don't want to take anything for granted and keep going as hard as I can. I never want to feel complacent or content in any aspect of the game.

``As soon as you do that, that's when something will go wrong.''

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NOTES: T Joe Thomas was named the Browns' Walter Payton Man of the Year, one day after blasting former teammate Peyton Hillis, who will visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Thomas is the team's first two-time winner of the award, which recognizes performance and community service. ... For the second day in a row, all 53 players on the active roster practiced. .. Childress acknowledged testifying earlier this week in the Saints' ongoing bounty probe. Then the former Minnesota coach was one of the first to alert the NFL of a possible problem after Vikings quarterback Brett Favre was roughed up in the 2010 NFC Championship.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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Your guide to this year's Capitals Development Camp

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Your guide to this year's Capitals Development Camp

While this year’s Capitals roster brought home the ultimate prize – the Stanley Cup – it’s no secret that the team won’t be able to stay together as it is.

Despite the NHL salary cap rising from $75 million to about $79.5 million, the team will have less than $20 million to re-sign 19 active NHL and AHL affiliate players.

Challenging seems like an understatement when considering that key players like John Carlson, Jay Beagle, and Devante Smith-Pelly are due for some significant raises from their previous contracts. 

Similarly, the organization has to maintain depth, keeping its core roster strong while still offering smaller two-way contracts to their minor-league players in Hershey. 

With this in mind, this summer’s development camp seems especially crucial. For die-hard fans and new arrivals alike, all eyes are on how management will keep the team’s momentum next season.

Here’s what you need to know about attending Capitals Development Camp –shortened as dev camp – including who to watch and what events are most worthwhile.

What should I expect for Capitals development camp?

Development camp is fairly self-explanatory.

For one week every summer, as offseason contract negotiations take place, prospective players, minor-league players, and junior league players gather for a week for assessment, scrimmaging, fitness testing, practice, and publicity events. However, it's important to realize that the roster will not be finalized until the last minute, and depends on who the Capitals select or trade for in the 2018 NHL draft this Friday and Saturday.

Practices are free and open to the public at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, with coaching and managerial staff assessing players. Fan Fest will take place on Saturday, June 30 featuring the final camp scrimmage.

The Alumni Summer Classic game is scheduled for Tuesday, June 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Kettler. The event is also free and open to the public.

Who should I be looking out for?

Former Hershey Bears on entry-level contracts like Jakub Vrana and Madison Bowey provided essential depth to the Capitals through this historic season. Several of their colleagues may be next in line.

Defensemen 
Following last years’ development camp, Connor Hobbs, Lucas Johansen, and Jonas Siegenthaler joined the Hershey Bears, showing promise on the team’s blue line. 

Hobbs, 21, spent two seasons with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League before coming to the Bears this past season. In November 2017, Hobbs suffered a wrist fracture, missing 32 games of the Bears’ 76-game season. Despite the injury, Hobbs put up a total of 16 points in 44 games.

Assuming he stays healthy, he only stands to get better. Like Siegenthaler, we’ll likely see him in the preseason lineup.

Johansen, 20, also came to the Bears from the WHL – Kelowna, to be exact. The 2016 first-round pick put up a respectable 27 points over 74 games this season. Though this may seem like a significant drop from his previous season’s 41 points in the WHL, the decrease is fairly typical when transitioning from junior to professional hockey.

Siegenthaler, 21, has the most impressive resume of any Capitals defensive prospect. Siegenthaler struggled to produce with the Bears this season, but did finish the full season in Hershey after spending 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons with Switzerland’s ZSC Lions and joining the Bears for their spring playoff push. He’s also made appearances on the international stage at the U20 World Junior tournament, adding his name to Switzerland’s national team roster this season.

It will be interesting to see if he could push for a spot with the NHL club.

Forwards
On the offensive side, Brian Pinho, 23, seems to be poised for a change. Coming off a four-year career with the Providence College Friars, Pinho captained the team to the NCAA quarterfinals this season.

It’s uncommon, yet not unsmart, to finish out a college degree before joining the NHL. Pinho will likely join the Bears next season.

Garrett Pilon, 20, was traded from the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers to the Everett Silvertips. The star child of Everett’s historic playoff run, he proved his indispensability as a scorer who works well under pressure, racking up a whopping 80 points in his final junior league season.

With contracts up in the air for several of the Capitals’ bottom-six forwards and favorable testimonies from management, Pilon might be the strongest chance to crack the lineup.

Goaltending
The Caps’ depth and future in goal looks a bit wonky, with general manager Brian MacLellan strongly hinting at shopping backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer to teams who may be able to use him as a starter. Braden Holtby isn’t going anywhere, but you need more than one goalie for an entire NHL season, plus playoffs.

What to do? We’ll have to see how this year’s draft shakes out on June 22 and 23. But for now, keep an eye on Ilya Samsonov. The 21-year-old posted a 0.926 save percentage across 26 games with the KHL’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk this season. Even if he moves up to Hershey next season, it’ll be interesting to watch his development.

What else should I know?

If this dev camp is your first time at Kettler, get excited!

Note that for all practices except scrimmages, forwards will be dressed in red or white practice jerseys and defensemen in blue.

Since most players are new and/or under watch by management and coaching, all players will have names and numbers on the backs of their jerseys to make them easier to identify.

Keep in mind that whoever the Caps chose – or trade for – with their six picks in Friday and Saturday’s draft will also affect the dev camp roster. It often isn’t finalized until the last minute. Dev camp provides the first and best chance to get up close and personal with the Caps' newly drafted players. The uncertainty of who you'll get to see can be a drawback, but regardless, attending can give a great glimpse into where the Caps may be headed next season.

Between the Alumni Game, practices, and final weekend scrimmages, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to get your offseason hockey fix or take a step back from the Capitals’ salary cap woes. The final schedule for the week is likely to be released Sunday.

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