Redskins

Injury-plagued Wolves try to hold things together

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Injury-plagued Wolves try to hold things together

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) A different Minnesota Timberwolves player seems to go down with an injury every night these days, and the losses that were once spiritedly competitive are growing more and more decisive.

Leading scorer and rebounder Nikola Pekovic has joined All-Star Kevin Love on the sideline, coach Rick Adelman isn't expected to rejoin the team anytime soon and the Wolves are mired in a five-game losing streak, leaving team president David Kahn and star point guard Ricky Rubio to offer words of encouragement to try to hold things together.

Pekovic will miss the next seven to 10 days with a badly bruised right quadriceps, joining Love (broken hand), Alexey Shved (ankle), Chase Budinger (knee), Brandon Roy (knee), Josh Howard (knee) and Malcolm Lee (hip) on the list of limping Wolves. Pekovic and Shved were both injured Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers and acting head coach Terry Porter only had seven healthy players for practice on Friday.

The team is scrambling to get enough healthy bodies to compete. The Wolves received an injury exception from the league that will allow them to add up to two more players to the roster, moves Kahn said he expected could happen as soon as Saturday. French forward Mickael Gelebale is expected to finalize a 10-day contract by Saturday if the Wolves can gain clearance from FIBA in time, and they could bring in another player on a 10-day deal from the D-League or elsewhere to supplement a banged-up roster that is running out of gas.

``We've had a very difficult run of bad luck,'' Kahn said Friday. ``However, as I said to the players today, there is still in that circle of players that are available, a lot of talent. And I imagine all of them, at some point of their career, have been on teams less talented that have won games. So I don't think this is a time for us to feel sorry for ourselves. Or to panic, or begin to do anything but simply play better, smarter, more together and try to win some games.''

The Timberwolves (16-20) are three games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. But Kahn pointed out that they are only one game back in the loss column because they've played fewer games and tried to resist depictions that the Timberwolves season is swirling down the drain.

``I walk back in the training room some days and it's like watching an early episode of `M-A-S-H,''' Kahn said. ``They're soldiering through it, but it's hard. But we can't let that define what is occurring right now.''

Rubio, who made his first start of the season on Thursday night but still is not the dynamic player he was before injuring his left knee last March, is pressing his team not to give in to the injury excuse. He is frustrated with his own gradual recovery.

``I mean, I'm not going to hide. It's tough when you're playing, and there's no more bodies over there,'' Rubio said. ``You have to remain doing new things every single game, and we can't get the rhythm. But that's no excuse. We are professionals. I think that players that are healthy have to step up and start doing a better job.''

Fans seem to be wearing down as well. Considerable buzz surrounded the long-suffering franchise before the season began, with most expecting the team's first playoff appearance since 2004. Then Love broke his hand for the first time before the season started, Roy's chronic knee issues returned and Rubio has taken longer to shake the rust off from a nine-month hiatus than those fans had hoped.

It was a sullen crowd at Target Center on Thursday night for a nationally televised game against a high-profile opponent, and the Timberwolves followed suit with a lifeless performance born of sheer exhaustion.

``Yeah it's a domino effect,'' forward Derrick Williams said. ``I've never seen anything like it. We've just got to work through it, man.''

Kahn said he is having discussions with other teams about more significant trades to really give the team a jolt. But the Feb. 21 trade deadline is still more than a month away, and few teams throughout the league are motivated to pull the trigger on significant roster moves this early.

That means if the Wolves are going to get things turned around in the short term, the players currently on this roster are likely going to have to be the ones to do it.

``Sometimes when you start seeing injury after injury, there's a point there where you say, okay, how are we going to keep this together?'' Porter said. ``We have to believe that we have enough, that we do have enough to win games.''

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With his rookie contract in rearview mirror, what's next for Redskins WR Jamison Crowder?

With his rookie contract in rearview mirror, what's next for Redskins WR Jamison Crowder?

ASHBURN — By now it's well-documented that the Washington Redskins' season did not go as planned, and you can say the same for fourth-year wide receiver Jamison Crowder.

Crowder, 25, was limited to just nine games due to a lingering ankle injury for most of the season, and then a separate late-December wrist injury. He finished the year with 29 catches for 388 yards, well off his career norms.

The Redskins have received plenty of production from Crowder (221 catches, 2,628 yards, 14 touchdowns) at a discounted price during his first few years in the NFL. That is about to change.

“I’m comfortable here,” Crowder said. “Obviously, I have a really high interest level in coming back. It’s going to be in discussion with my agent. There hasn’t really been much discussion as far as right now.”

Washington's 2015 fourth-round pick raced out of the gate in his NFL career setting a Redskins rookie record for receptions (59). Barring a contract extension in the next two months, Crowder will be free to sign with any team in March and there is no guarantee that he will return.

That would leave the Redskins even more desperate for proven options at wide receiver, arguably the most disappointing position on the team during a second straight 7-9 season.

Josh Doctson led Washington receivers with 44 receptions, the lowest total since 1998 when Michael Westbrook had a team-high 44 among the pack. Given that uncertainty at receiver, where Paul Richardson also missed most of the season with a shoulder injury, Crowder’s teammates want him back.

“Got to pay him,” running back Chris Thompson said. “I mean – that’s the business side of it. I really, really, really do hope that we can get him back. He’s been a key part of this offense since he’s been here. I’m excited for him. He’s really gonna help himself be in a better situation for him and his family and his kids and his future. He’s made a good resume for himself that he can make himself some really good money. I hope that it’s here.”

Crowder missed those seven games with a right ankle injury sustained in a Week 5 loss to the New Orleans Saints. He spent time in a walking boot. After three consecutive years of 59 catches or more, Crowder dropped to 29 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns.

“You want to keep the nucleus of the team together at all costs,” Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams said. “But it’s the NFL and it’s always easier said than done. I try not to get into the whole free agency deal because those guys got to make business decisions for them and their families.”

The Redskins could decide that slot receiver Trey Quinn, a seventh-round draft pick in 2018, could fill Crowder’s production at a much cheaper price and allow them to upgrade the position through the draft or free agency. But that will come at a risk.

Crowder has proven to be one of the league’s better slot receivers when healthy. Quinn was on IR twice with a high-ankle sprain as a rookie. Acknowledging that injuries to quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colt McCoy hurt the overall production of the group, can the Redskins really afford to let more talent leave the building at wide receiver?

Having completed the final year of his rookie contract, Crowder admitted the uncertainty of his future feels a little different.

"Yeah, I guess you could say it's a little weird. I just don't know, you know, what's going to happen right now. I just have to kind of wait and see what's going on."

Despite the unpredictable nature of Crowder's situation, he didn't mince his words on where his hopes lie going forward.

"I have a really high-interest level in coming back."

Brian McNally contributed to this story.

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Greg Manusky is back, but what about the rest of the Redskins coaching staff?

Greg Manusky is back, but what about the rest of the Redskins coaching staff?

The Redskins made some very public overtures to other defensive coordinator candidates, but on Wednesday news emerged that incumbent Greg Manusky would retain the job

That settles the biggest potential change in the Redskins coaching staff, as head coach Jay Gruden got word he would stay in his role a few weeks back

Washington's defensive performance didn't mandate that Manusky must go. In fact, this year's group played some of the best defense of any Redskins group for a while, at least early on. Things fell apart for the defense in the second half of the year, though. 

What is known is that Gruden and Manusky are back for 2019. What isn't will be what other changes happen. 

The Redskins already need a new special teams coordinator after Ben Kotwica took the same job with the Atlanta Falcons. That's one big hole. It could be filled by assistant special teams coach Bret Munsey, and some buzz has grown about Seahawks assistant special teams coach Larry Izzo as well. 

Elsewhere on the staff, there was speculation defensive backs coach Torrian Gray would be let go, but that hasn't happened. Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti got permission to speak with the Packers about the same job, Grant Paulsen reported

Two of the most experienced coaches on the staff might bring the biggest questions, as reports have shown that Bill Callahan and Jim Tomsula might be on their way out from Redskins Park. 

Losing either coach would be a major blow. Callahan is an intense presence around the facility and is disciplined in his approach to offensive line play. The Redskins run game could use some work though, and Callahan has deep connections with Zac Taylor, who's expected to be the Bengals next head coach. 

Tomsula might be the most beloved coach on the staff.

The Redskins' young defensive linemen speak glowingly of 'Jim Tom' and would hate to lose their leader. At the same time, the group recognizes Tomsula has been away from his family and might want to get closer to them in Florida. Manusky and Tomsula are good friends, and the decision to keep the defensive coordinator could help keep the defensive line coach. 

Stay tuned.

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