Injured Neb RB Burkhead is in limbo for Minnesota

Injured Neb RB Burkhead is in limbo for Minnesota

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Rex Burkhead would love to say he'll play Saturday when Nebraska meets Minnesota on senior day.

He can't, though, because he just doesn't know. It's been this way for weeks.

The 2011 All-Big Ten running back sprained his left knee in the opener of his final season at Nebraska and has aggravated the injury twice. He's missed five games and had to leave early in three others.

One day, the knee will feel good, and he'll think he can play that week.

The next day, the knee hurts and he knows he won't.

``I think it kills him every week,'' coach Bo Pelini said. ``That's just who he is.''

Burkhead was on the practice field Monday and participated on a limited basis. He said he's ``pretty close'' to being able to play in a game, and he's doing all he can to make it happen against the Gophers.

``My last home game here,'' he said. ``Being a senior, it would mean the world to get out on the field.''

The native of Plano, Texas, is the most popular player on the team judging by the overwhelming number of fans dressed in No. 22 jerseys on game days.

Last season, he averaged 104 yards a game and his 284 carries were two shy of the school record. His 1,357 yards were the most by a Nebraska running back since 1997.

A similar season this year would have moved him past Ahman Green as Nebraska's No. 2 all-time rusher behind 1983 Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier. As it is, Burkhead is sixth with 3,059 yards.

Ameer Abdullah has exceeded expectations as Burkhead's replacement, with five 100-yard games. Burkhead said he's been impressed with how the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Abdullah has been able to run effectively inside the tackles.

``He's done a tremendous job all around,'' Burkhead said. ``Not just running the ball but pass blocking, catching passes out of the backfield, just everything.''

Burkhead said he won't require surgery on his left knee and that it will fully heal in time.

``It's just that right now it's tough because we're in the middle of the season,'' he said. ``We don't really have that time.''

Because Burkhead has aggravated the injury twice, against Ohio State and Northwestern, Pelini doesn't want the running back to play again until he's 100 percent.

``When he's right, when he feels like he's ready to go, believe me, I'll be the first one to stand on the table and say, `Let's go, let's go,' `` Pelini said. ``That has to come from him. He knows his body. We have the best medical staff going, so when the time is right, then they'll tell me.''

Even with Burkhead out most of the season, the Huskers are first in the Big Ten and seventh nationally with 269 yards rushing a game. The Huskers have gone over 200 yards in nine of their 10 games and over 300 on three occasions.

Quarterback Taylor Martinez said there hasn't been a drop-off without Burkhead, but the Huskers do miss his leadership on the field.

``When he's on the field, all the fans are excited and our team is excited he's out there,'' Martinez said.

Burkhead said he's gained a new perspective from watching from the sidelines.

``Definitely makes you appreciate the game. No question about it,'' he said. ``You always have love and passion for the game. When you're not out there getting a taste of it, it definitely makes you just have a new outlook on it. When you get back out there you want to hit it full stride.''

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Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

Marcin Gortat's emotional return ends with a loss and personal vindication

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The “Polish Machine” who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers didn’t quite land the Hollywood movie script ending in his return to Washington.

Don’t fret for Marcin Gortat. Sure, the Wizards, his former team, fought back from a 24-point deficit for a 125-118 win. He’s good with his new scene. Gortat also has thoughts on his former situation and the turmoil brewing.

Gortat made his first appearance in the arena he called home for five seasons Tuesday night since a June 26 trade sent him to Los Angeles for Austin Rivers. He wasn’t sure of how the local fans would react. His journey in Washington ended bumpily, but the overall ride coincided with a positive turn for the franchise. The Wizards reached the playoffs in four of his five seasons.

“Well, obviously a very emotional moment,” Gortat said of his return. “Bottom line is that we came here to get a win. Unfortunately, we lost today. …It was great to be here.”

His arrival in 2013 following a trade with Phoenix led to the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2008. Three more postseason trips followed as did Mohawks and fabulous quotes. Gortat provided the power just before the NBA veered away from hulking frontcourts. His fame and fortune increased in Washington. His affable and oversized personality attracted fans.

Fans that watched the 6-foot-11 screen-setting center consistently provide double-doubles graciously applauded for the ex-Wizard during pre-game introductions. Gortat, who started 400 of 402 games played in Washington, appreciated the gesture.

“It was weird to sit on that side of the court and play against your guys,” Gortat said. “It was tough, very emotional and weird, but it’s business.”

Gortat wasn’t immune to criticism from fans and teammates during his time in Washington. Part of the reason he now plays for the Clippers is that the relationship with former pick-and-roll partner John Wall soured. When disapproval only went so far up the Wizards’ player hierarchy, it often stopped with the man in the middle.

The Wizards entered Tuesday’s game flailing. Many of the same players from prior seasons remained. Not Gortat, meaning any blame must land elsewhere. With drama engulfing the Wizards, Gortat proudly felt vindicated. He waited for the pack of reporters to clear before expressing such thoughts.

“Listen, the way I was traded out of that team, it looked like I was the cancer of the locker room,” Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “I think that thing was verified and it was complete [expletive]. It is what it is now.”

Pregame Gortat wondered if the Wizards would join the ranks of teams creating tribute videos for returning players. He would be left wanting.

Rivers, the son of the Clippers head coach, received one in October upon his first arrival back with the team he played for over four seasons. Gortat remembered.

As the formal postgame scrum ended, the ex-Wizard made it clear he had thoughts to share and asked to be asked about the lack of a video tribute.

“Well, what do I think about that? A lot of guys around the league are getting tributes. It ’s obviously up to the organization, but I guess Austin Rivers did enough to get his tribute, but I didn’t do enough to get a tribute here,” Gortat said to NBC Sports Washington. “A few guys around the team understand. It was kind of weird.”

Taking the court with his former teammates was more different than weird, but ultimately cordial and competitive.

“Brad (Beal) fouled me a few times. He admitted he fouled me, but I didn’t get a call,” a chuckling Gortat told NBC Sports Washington. “John, yeah, we had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, there’s no bad blood. We spoke at the end of the game, said good luck, stay healthy.”

Ultimately, Gortat made peace with his time in Washington. The fond memories outweighed the knocks. Members of the Wizards organization stopped by the Clippers locker room for a chat and a laugh. Gortat bear hugged Wizards equipment manager Jerry Walter to the ground.

The loss stung. Los Angeles does the stinging most nights. The Clippers entered with a five-game winning streak. Their 11-6 record puts them among the Western Conference elite. Gortat’s minutes are down (18 per game). Such limits would have bothered him in Washington. 

At 34 and knowing his NBA life could be fleeting with his contract expiring this summer, Gortat is cool with his new world.

“I’m great. I’m great where I am,” the 12-year veteran said. “I get to play and help the team as much as I can either on the court, off the court, in the locker room. I’m going to try to help my team and lead us as much as I can. We have great chemistry and a great team.”


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Former Raven Ed Reed takes step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement

Former Raven Ed Reed takes step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement

To the surprise of no one, former Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed is one step closer to Hall of Fame enshrinement.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Tuesday that Reed was named one of the 25 semifinalist for the 2019 class. Reed, cornerback Champ Bailey and tight end Tony Gonzalez are the only first-year eligible players that made the cut.

An obvious first-year ballot Hall of Famer, the next step in the selection process for Reed will take place on Thursday, January 3 when the semifinalist are cut down to 15 Modern-Era Finalist.

Finalist then must receive 80% positive vote from the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee on "Selection Saturday," one day prior to Super Bowl LIII. No more than five Modern-Era Finalist can be elected in a given year. The finalist will be formally enshrined Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Canton, Ohio.

The Ravens selected Reed in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft, and he would go on to play 11 seasons with the organization. During those 11 seasons, he was voted to the Pro Bowl nine times, was a five-time First-Team All-Pro and started 159 of 160 games. 

On the field, Reed had 61 interceptions for 1,541 yards and seven touchdowns. In addition, the safety raked up 11 forced fumbles and 13 fumbles recovered for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Not to forget a Super Bowl XLVII championship.

Reed's enshrinement would make him the third Raven in the history of the organization to be enshrined in his first-year of eligibility alongside linebacker Ray Lewis and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden.