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Josh Brown makes strong NFL return with Bengals

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Josh Brown makes strong NFL return with Bengals

CINCINNATI (AP) Light rain had just ended when Josh Brown lined up for a 52-yard field goal try in the third quarter, the game on the line. For the last three months, he'd hoped for this test.

Made it with room to spare.

Brown connected on all four of his field goal tries for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, including that 52-yarder in the third quarter of a 20-19 loss to Dallas. The Cowboys won it with a field goal of their own as time ran out.

For Brown, it was a solid first step in trying to show the rest of the NFL that he's not finished.

``It's a positive note,'' Brown said. ``It just reassures you that you're not done playing yet. To be able to bang out a 52-yarder and to do it with confidence - it's all reassuring that I'm moving on the right path to getting back in the NFL.''

The 4-for-4 performance just might jump-start his career, even if it turns out to be his only game with Cincinnati.

The Bengals needed a kicker on short notice when Mike Nugent hurt his right calf during practice last week. They brought in several kickers for a tryout, and Brown won them over with his consistency.

He'd been trying to get another chance since the Jets released him at the end of training camp, keeping his leg in shape by kicking three times a week on the West Coast. There was a lot of pressure on him Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium - the Bengals (7-6) are in the thick of the AFC wild card chase.

Brown was good from 25, 33, 25 and 52 yards, bailing out an offense that stalled near the goal line. If Cincinnati would have held on at the end, Brown would have been their MVP for the day.

One very good day helped his career outlook.

``In a ton of ways,'' Brown said. ``You get released from one job, you don't make the team with the Jets for certain reasons, then you're just reassuring people that OK, he can still play, he can still kick off. Thirty-three is not old for a kicker. I feel I've still got seven or eight years left in me.''

Brown was Seattle's seventh-round draft pick out of Nebraska in 2003. He played five years with Seattle and four with St. Louis, making 220 field goals in 272 attempts (80.9 percent). When the Jets let him go, he learned what it's like to be a kicker trying to get back into the league.

His wife runs a business in Seattle, so he took care of their three children while kicking as much as he could.

``I went home and just stuck to the plan of kicking three days a week - Friday, Sunday, Tuesday - wherever I could find room,'' Brown said. ``High school fields, parks.''

He'd fly to San Diego and work out with other kickers, trying to stay sharp for when the call finally came. It was a big adjustment.

``I played nine straight years, so I never had to deal with it,'' Brown said. ``Now I do. The more games I get in this year, the more it's going to help me to try to get on a roster in February and keep moving forward.''

It's unclear how long he'll be in Cincinnati. Coach Marvin Lewis was noncommittal about whether Nugent would be healthy enough to kick during a game on Thursday night in Philadelphia. Brown knows that in any case, he won't be around for very long.

By making the most of his chance, he's hoping to get another one next season with some team.

``It's important to me, especially going into next year,'' he said. ``This really helps.''

NOTES: Nugent didn't participate in practice for the second straight day Tuesday. ... DE Michael Johnson (toe) and RB Cedric Peerman (ankle) also sat out for the second day in a row. .. CB Dre Kirkpatrick was held out of practice after going through a full workout on Monday. He missed Sunday's game against the Cowboys while recovering from a concussion. ... LB Rey Maualuga (shoulder, knee) and LB Vontaze Burfict (shoulder) were limited in practice.

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Who is Mike Elias?

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Who is Mike Elias?

Where to begin after a team loses 115 games? That’s the main question settling into Mike Elias’ future when he takes over the Baltimore Orioles' beached ship.

Multiple reports have pegged Elias as the Orioles new general manager. He’s yet another front office member of the Houston Astros to be plucked by an outside organization for a larger role. He’s young, comes from an analytics-fueled front office and walks into a job where there only seems to be one direction to go following last season. 

Elias also has local ties. The 36-year-old is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. He went to Yale where he worked four seasons as a left-handed pitcher. Elias jumped into scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals directly after graduation.

Similar to Nationals manager Mike Rizzo, Elias moved up from a scouting baseline to a prominent decision-maker in the front office. Elias was ported from St. Louis to Houston when the Astros hired Jeff Luhnow to become general manager in 2011. The duo, and rest of the front office took over a team that was about to embark on three consecutive seasons with 100 losses or more. The organization became notable around the league for its fervent reworking of approach and willingness to absorb losses to vault to the top of the annual draft.

In 2012, the Astros selected Carlos Correa No. 1 overall. Elias, then a special assistant to the general manager, has received a large amount of the credit for taking a shortstop who became Rookie of the Year and an All-Star. Nine of the Astros’ 14 selections that year made it to the major leagues. Not all with the Astros. Not all with a large degree of success. But, they made it.

Houston selected burgeoning All-Star Alex Bregman with the No. 2 overall pick in 2015. 

However, the Astros’ high-end draft history wasn’t perfect with Luhnow and Elias in place. They selected Stanford starter Mark Appel with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. Just 27, he is out of baseball after never making it past Triple A. The Astros took Brady Aiken with the top overall pick in 2014. He never signed. 

Yet, the organization continued to turn. Bregman developed into a star. Jose Altuve won the MVP award, Lance McCullers, also part of the 2012 class, became an All-Star. Four years after Luhnow arrived to reverse the organization’s course, the Astros had a winning season and reached the postseason. Two years later they won the World Series.

Hiring Elias signals the Orioles, long viewed as one of the stodgier organizations in baseball, are shifting to the modern era. Baltimore was known more for its reticence to embrace analytics as opposed to its use of the information. The move may also calm the ongoing rotation of the front office bosses. Elias will be the organization’s fourth general manager since the Nationals started playing baseball again in the District in 2005. 

Among Elias’ initial tasks is finding a new manager. The Orioles fired Buck Showalter after 8 ½ seasons. Three of them led to the postseason. But, the mess of last season forced a change.

They also need to hit in the draft. The Orioles hold the 2019 top overall pick.

Elias will try to conjure a way to resuscitate the Orioles while fighting the expansive cash flow of the New York Yankees and World Series champion Boston Red Sox within the division. 

He’s been part of turnarounds before. This one would fully be in his hands.

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Morrissey avoids suspension for Oshie body slam in a decision that makes little sense

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Morrissey avoids suspension for Oshie body slam in a decision that makes little sense

The Department of Player Safety announced Thursday that Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey was fined $8,467.74 for his body slam of T.J. Oshie in Wednesday’s game. It is a punishment that falls well short of the standard the DPS itself set earlier this season.

Late in Wednesday’s game between the Caps and Jets, Oshie skated to the corner of the offensive zone after the puck while locked in a physical battle with Morrissey. Morrissey checked Oshie into the boards, then, as he was falling back, Morrissey slammed Oshie down to the ice. Oshie appeared to be dazed after the play which is troubling given his history of concussions.

There is nothing wrong with the initial hit. Both players were battling for the puck making Oshie eligible to be hit. The problem is after the hit when Morrissey slams him to the ice afterward, which is unnecessary and dangerous.

Oh, c’mon, you may be saying, Morrissey was just finishing his check! That’s not an argument anymore considering the DPS already suspended a player for doing the exact same thing earlier this season when Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson slammed Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson to the ice. Matheson was suspended two games for the play.

Matheson’s suspension was a matter of some debate within the hockey community not just because some argued Matheson was finishing his check on a hockey play, but because it was made to look worse by the fact that Pettersson is only 176 pounds, nearly 20 pounds lighter than Matheson. The DPS didn’t buy it and Matheson was suspended.

If you compare the Morrissey and the Matheson hits, they are very similar. Matheson hits Pettersson with a legal check, just as Morrissey did with Oshie. Matheson then slammed Pettersson to the ice after the initial check, just as Morrissey did with Oshie. One can quibble somewhat with the fact that Petterrsson’s skates came off the ice making the throw down more violent, but the two plays are similar enough that, in my opinion, it is fair to compare them and the corresponding punishment. In fact, one could easily argue that the Morrissey hit is worse considering he and Oshie are both listed as 195 pounds. Oshie didn’t go down to the ice because of a size disparity, Morrissey had to physically slam him down.

In addition, Morrissey is considered a repeat offender after getting suspended in the 2018 playoffs for a crosscheck to Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal. To be fair, being a repeat offender is not supposed to affect the DPS’s decision on whether a play is worthy of a suspension or not, it is only meant to be taken into consideration when determining the length of a suspension.

But the remains that the DPS was presented with two very similar plays within one month of each other and came up with two completely different punishments. That is more than a little head scratching.

The DPS has one of the toughest jobs in hockey. No matter what they do, most people are going to be unhappy with the decisions they make. It’s the nature of the job when it comes to determining supplemental discipline. Having said that, the one thing people should be able to expect from the DPS is consistency. The Morrissey hit on Oshie seemed like a slam-dunk considering a very similar play happened a month before and resulted in a two-game suspension.

But hey, Caps fans can at least take comfort in the fact that Morrissey was issued the maximum fine allowed by the CBA. So there’s that.

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