Nationals

Harbaugh undergoing follow-up evaluation on heart

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Harbaugh undergoing follow-up evaluation on heart

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh had an appointment Tuesday for a follow-up evaluation with doctors after undergoing a minor procedure last Thursday for an irregular heartbeat.

The 49ers canceled Harbaugh's scheduled media conference call minutes before it was to begin Tuesday afternoon, a day after San Francisco's 32-7 victory over the Chicago Bears, but gave no indication that there is anything of further concern with Harbaugh's health in addition to what he went through last week. The 49ers released a schedule with Harbaugh set for his usual Wednesday news conference.

Harbaugh, the reigning NFL Coach of the Year who turns 49 next month, was candid about the ``cardiovert'' - or an electrical shocking of the heart to treat an irregular heartbeat and restore its rhythm to a normal pattern - he had done at Stanford Hospital after being evaluated last Wednesday night. He has had the condition for most of his life, he said, and was told to improve his diet and cut back on his caffeine intake.

Harbaugh was his typical energetic self on the sideline Monday night with the NFC West-leading Niners (7-2-1), who have a quick turnaround for Sunday's game at New Orleans in a rematch of the NFC divisional playoff game won in a 36-32 thriller by San Francisco at Candlestick Park last January.

What was supposed to be an NFC showdown with the Bears on Monday quickly turned into a rout, with backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick leading the way on a night starter Alex Smith watched from the sideline recovering from a concussion.

Harbaugh - whose team improved to 5-1 in prime time and 3-0 on ``Monday Night Football'' since he took over before the 2011 season - improved his regular-season coaching record to 20-5-1 and became the fastest active NFL coach to reach 20 victories by reaching the mark in 26 games.

He could face a tough decision on who to start under center against the Saints (5-5).

Kaepernick went 16 for 23 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and an impressive passer rating of 133.1 in his first NFL start. The second-year pro, a second-round draft pick out of Nevada in 2011, hardly seemed fazed by football's big stage. He directed scoring drives on the Niners' initial four possessions and completed 12 of his first 14 passes with a 57-yard throw to Kyle Williams that set up Vernon Davis' 3-yard TD on the next play.

``Thought Colin did an outstanding job,'' Harbaugh said after the game. ``Poise in the pocket, pushing the ball and throwing with accuracy. Did a nice job running the game plan. Everything he did was exemplary, again.''

Harbaugh said he would go with the ``hot hand'' at quarterback, but acknowledged he has a pair of hot hands at the moment in Smith and Kaepernick.

Not that any of his players were about to start predicting who might get the nod come Sunday at the raucous Superdome.

``That's up to the coaches,'' Davis said. ``That's their decision. I'll let them decide and they always call the shots.''

Kaepernick earned the respect of his teammates, all right. He credited them for supporting him all week as he prepared to start in place of Smith, who was injured in a 24-24 tie against the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 11.

Kaepernick also threw a 10-yard TD pass to Michael Crabtree in the third quarter.

``I'm not worried about Kaep,'' Crabtree said. ``He's a gamer, he knows one speed and that's go. We know that. It was a great team win.''

With Alex Smith's status still unclear, a pair of Smiths on the other side of the ball are doing their part - Justin Smith and Aldon Smith.

Aldon Smith recorded 5 1/2 sacks of the six San Francisco had against Bears backup Jason Campbell, and he has the NFL lead with 15. Smith also stripped Campbell in the end zone for a safety.

``I really just try to make people respect my power,'' Smith said. ``I didn't sense that I was going to go out there and get a bunch of sacks, but I wanted to go out there and make some plays.''

Running back Frank Gore gets a good look at the imposing linebacker every day in practice.

``One of the best at the position, if not the best,'' Gore said. ``He works hard every day and he'll go get them.''

Notes: The 49ers announced they signed safety Eddie Whitley to the practice squad. ... The 49ers defense held the Bears to 143 total yards - 85 rushing, 58 passing - for the second-lowest total in the NFL this year.

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Nationals the latest team to extend protective netting in stadium

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Nationals the latest team to extend protective netting in stadium

The Nationals return to the nation’s capital Monday night for their first homestand of the season’s second half. When they do, players and fans may notice a slight change at Nationals Park: extended netting.

The issue of extending protective netting down the lines of baseball stadiums has grown more and more prominent in recent years, especially with the rash of avoidable injuries fans are incurring on foul balls.

As hitters have grown stronger and exit velocities have skyrocketed, it’s become harder for fans in certain sections to protect themselves or their children from these dangerous shots into the crowd.

More and more teams have announced plans to extend the netting at their stadiums all the way down the lines, though it’s come with a little (misguided) controversy.

Monday night marks the debut of the Nationals’ extended netting.

“Throughout Major League Baseball there have been some tragic incidents this year,” Nationals VP of Public Safety and Security Scott Fear explained in a statement priovided by the team. “So we at the Washington Nationals decided to extend the netting to make sure our fans are safe.”

“And that’s what this is all about,” Fear continued. “We want to protect our fans, the children, the adults, everyone that comes to the game, to make sure they have a great time without worrying about being hurt.”

Perhaps in anticipation of some pushback from fans concerned about a diminished view, the Nats were quick to describe the new netting as being nearly see-through.

Plus, with the changes, the Nationals installed retractable netting, allowing it to come down prior to gametime. This will afford fans even more opportunities to interact with players and ask for pregame autographs and pictures.

“This is something we feel is going to be very positive, and our fans will feel safe being here watching the game,” Fear concluded.

Ultimately, safety should be the number one priority of any major franchise, the Nationals included. They are one of the first teams to embrace this change in the name of safety, and they certainly won’t be the last.

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Trent Williams will not report to Richmond to open training camp, per report

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Trent Williams will not report to Richmond to open training camp, per report

Trent Williams will not report to training camp this week when the Redskins head to Richmond to officially begin their 2019 season, according to NFL Network.

The news comes as no surprise, as Williams missed all of the Redskins voluntary offseason workouts and skipped the team's mandatory minicamp in June. Reports streamed out that Williams was upset about his contract and looking for a new deal -- not to mention reports that he was angry with the team's medical staff after a missed diagnosis with a growth on his scalp. 

Williams has made no official statements, and the Redskins organization offered very little in terms of a timeline for his return. Washington team president Bruce Allen said he knows "the truth" about Williams' situation, and head coach Jay Gruden said he hoped things would be resolved before Week 1 in Philadelphia. 

A seven-time Pro Bowler, Williams is arguably the best left tackle in the NFL. He's an immensely talented offensive lineman with two years remaining on his deal. Beyond the medical situation, Williams could be upset that in 2020, the final year of his deal, there is hardly any guaranteed cash. The team could release Williams with less than $2 million in salary cap penalty and save nearly $13 million against the cap. 

Without Williams, the Redskins could be in real trouble. Second-year pro Geron Christian did not seem capable of playing at a starting tackle level last fall, and that was before a knee injury landed him on IR. Morgan Moses should be locked in as the right tackle, but opposite him in Williams' spot will be dicey. 

Multiple sources with the Redskins and around the NFL suggested more cash could change Williams' mind before Week 1, and for now, it looks like the 31-year-old will be waiting for that increased payday. If Williams missed actual games, he would begin to lose money from this year's $14 million salary.

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