Nationals

Irish LB Spond thriving after being hospitalized

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Irish LB Spond thriving after being hospitalized

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) When Notre Dame linebacker Danny Spond was lying in a hospital bed with a debilitating headache in August, he wasn't worried about whether he'd play football again. He wanted to know whether he'd ever walk again.

``I didn't know whether that was going to be a possibility,'' Spond said. ``That was the scariest moment for me.''

The pain struck the junior from Littleton, Colo., about an hour into a summer football practice. He started getting a headache, but didn't think much about it. Then it started getting worse. His vision blurred, his face started tingling and became numb.

``It hit so hard and it was so intense. It was a complete numbness,'' Spond said. ``It was a terrifying feeling.''

An ambulance took him to the hospital and there was some fear originally he might have suffered a stroke. That was quickly ruled out, but it took doctors a while to figure out what was wrong while he was in bed, the left side of his body numb.

He was finally diagnosed with having a semi-hemiplegic migraine, which involves pain so bad that part of the body just shuts down. He remembers having a long talk with his father, Don, about whether he would play football again. He spent four days in the hospital and then had to undergo rehabilitation to learn to walk again. His left leg was limp, so he had to focus on picking up his leg, landing on his heel and pushing off with his toes.

``If I tried to speed it up, it went limp again. So it was just a slow process of training those muscles again to do what they normally do,'' Spond said.

When doctors told him they didn't believe the migraine was football-related, he decided to try to return. He sat out the first two games as he worked to regain his strength, but returned against Michigan State. He has been a solid contributor on a defense for the third-ranked Fighting Irish (10-0) that ranks eighth in the nation in total defense and first in scoring defense heading into Saturday's game against Wake Forest (5-5).

Spond has 33 tackles, an interception against Brigham Young and three pass breakups. As an outside linebacker, Spond might be setting the edge on one play, covering a wide receiver on another or taking on a 300-pound lineman on another. Against Boston College last week, he ran stride for stride with receiver Alex Amidon before diving to break up a pass.

``If they were giving out helmet stickers, he's have a lot of helmet stickers,'' coach Brian Kelly said. ``He's a guy that gets a lot of production points.''

Spond played quarterback at Columbine High School and was recruited to play quarterback at Colorado, where he originally committed to play, but chose Notre Dame instead even though he wasn't sure what position he would be playing for the Irish. Spond believes being a former quarterback helps him be a better defender.

``I've seen what he sees during a game. That's definitely helped me,'' he said.

Spond said doctors still don't know what triggered the migraine and don't know whether it will ever occur again. He said the first few times he began getting headaches after that he was concerned, but doesn't worry about it anymore. He said his Catholic faith helped him get through the most terrifying moments of dealing with the migraine and gives him confidence he will be all right.

``I'm just at a point where I'm fully relying on God to take care of me out there,'' he said.

With all he's been through, Spond is grateful to be playing for a team that could finish the season undefeated. He said he's not spending time worrying about whether the Irish will make it to the BCS title game.

``All we can do is win every game we have the opportunity to play. Numbers and computers, I don't mess around with all that. All we have control over is who we play and how we can play against them each Saturday,'' he said.

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Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

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USA Today

Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

Stephen Strasburg had the best hitting performance of his career against the Braves Thursday night, going 3-3 at the plate with two singles and a 420-foot three-run bomb. 

He didn't just set personal records but reached rare air in baseball history. He's the second pitcher ever with at least three hits, a HR, and five RBI since the DH debuted in 1973 and the fifth pitcher in the last 50 seasons to get two hits in an inning including a home run. 

Strasburg set franchise firsts with his performance, dating all the way back to the Expos. 

An extraordinary milestone for the Nationals' ace, hopefully Strasburg's performance will inspire the team during a crucial four-game series with Atlanta. 

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‘The Redskins love Alabama guys’: Washington could run old draft playbook in 2020 to fill huge need

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‘The Redskins love Alabama guys’: Washington could run old draft playbook in 2020 to fill huge need

Perhaps no position group on the Redskins has more questions or uncertainty than the wide receivers.

Josh Doctson enters the final year of his rookie contract, and has yet to record over 550 yards in any of his three professional seasons. Washington signed Paul Richardson to a five-year deal in 2018, but he just played in just seven games for the Burgundy and Gold in 2018 before having season-ending shoulder surgery. Second-year receiver Trey Quinn is expected to fill the role in the slot after Jamison Crowder departed for the New York Jets this offseason but has yet to prove anything on the NFL level. 

The Redskins addressed the position during the 2019 NFL Draft, selecting Terry McLaurin in the third round and Kelvin Harmon in the sixth round. But it's unclear how much either one will contribute to the Washington offense in 2019.

So, it's likely the Redskins will need to address the position during the 2020 NFL Draft, and probably very early on it. Well, this works in Washington's favor, because the 2020 wide receiver class is loaded. 

On a recent episode of the Redskins Talk podcast, J.P. Finlay and Pete Hailey spoke with NFL Draft expert Jordan Reid (no, not the Redskins' tight end) about the top wide receiver prospects heading into next year's draft, and which players the Redskins could potentially target.

Before diving into the top 2020 prospects, Reid gave an initial assessment of the current Redskins' receivers.

"The Redskins just don't have that headliner, top go-to guy," Reid said. "They were expecting Josh Doctson to be that when they did draft him in the first round of 2016. But he's had some injuries, and he's already come out and said he's looking forward to free agency. That just not something you want to hear."

Reid was high on McLaurin, though, the first receiver the Redskins selected in 2019.

"They drafted Terry McLaurin in the third round, I liked him a lot even going back to the Senior Bowl," he said. "I think he's going to have a really good year, not just as a receiver but the special teams phase as well. He's going to flash in a lot of ways."

As far as the 2020 draft wide receiver class, one school stands on top, and it's a school the Redskins are very familiar with: Alabama. The Redskins used their first-round picks in 2017 and 2018 on 'Bama guys and signed another Crimson Tide alumni this offseason in safety Landon Collins.

"We know the Redskins love Alabama guys, and there's a lot of [wide receivers] coming out this year," Reid said. "It's not just Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs is another guy that's getting a lot of steam. They're going to have the chance to get the receiver they want. This is a very special wide receiver class."

Crimson Tide receiver Jerry Jeudy is the consensus top receiver in next year's class, but Reid believes his speedy teammate could challenge him for that spot by season's end.

"With Ruggs, I think he's a bit more as far as polished a route runner [than Jeudy]," he said. "I think his hands are a bit better, and I wouldn't be shocked if he runs below a 4.3 at the combine. He can absolutely fly."

If the pair of Alabama receivers currently hold the top two spots for best wide receiver prospect, there's another guy who's right on their heels: Oklahoma's Ceedee Lamb.

"He reminds me a lot of DeAndre Hopkins coming out," Reid said on Lamb. "He's not a thick guy, but he plays much stronger than what he indicates. Very reliable hands, and his body control is out of this world. He had a one-handed catch against UCLA, it didn't count, but it's truly amazing."

As a true sophomore, Lamb totaled 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018. Sure, it may have helped to have Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray under center, but Lamb has proven he's an elite talent.

Two other prospects Reid is keeping an eye on are Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. and Texas' Collin Johnson.

"He's not as polished as some of these other guys, but he's more of a do-it-all type of receiver," Reid said on Shenault Jr. 

Where Shenault may be a do-it-all receiver, Johnson plays to his 6'6 size.

"He's a really good route runner," Reid said on Johnson. "It's just a matter of how consistently can he separate, and how fast he is. If he goes to the Senior Bowl, I think he can light it up."

While many of these guys seem like sure-fire guys, there's still a full season of football to be played before the draft. Players will rise, but just as many, if not more, will fall off.

"You just have to let this play out, that's what happens with the draft process," Reid said. "Guys fall off, and then you have guys that come out of nowhere. Quinton Williams from last year is a prime example. He was a 270-pound defensive end at this time last year; we had no idea who he was and he ends up being the No. 3 overall selection."

But if everything plays out close to how it's expected to, this wide receiver draft class will be one to remember. 

"This class is special man," Reid said. "I think it's going to rival 2014, with Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and all those guys, Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams too. It's going to be very similar to that. It's very special."

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