Nationals

Julio Jones prefers low profile for Falcons

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Julio Jones prefers low profile for Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Julio Jones isn't interested in discussing his accomplishments.

Bravado isn't his style.

``I've been like this my whole life,'' Jones said Friday. ``This is the way I am.''

Jones' transformation into a professional receiver with the Atlanta Falcons started at Alabama, where Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban enforced a businesslike approach to practice and film study.

But Jones said he was soft-spoken long before he signed a scholarship at Alabama.

Growing up in the small town of Foley, Ala. - about 25 miles southeast of Mobile and 10 miles from the Gulf of Mexico - Jones learned at an early age that performance meant far more to him than words.

``You let your play do the talking out there on the field, man,'' Jones said. ``I'm not going to say anything negative about the next man I'm going against, you know? I'm just going to go out there and give it my all for 60 minutes.''

When the Atlanta Falcons (11-2) host the New York Giants (8-5) on Sunday, Jones could move into a bigger role and become quarterback Matt Ryan's top target.

Roddy White, the team's leading receiver, has a sore right knee and did not practice this week.

If Jones becomes Ryan's primary option, the second-year wideout says he is prepared for the challenge. But don't expect Jones to pound his chest or do some fancy dance in the end zone.

``I just go out there and try to perform and be consistent for this organization,'' Jones said. ``Especially being in the NFL, it's all about consistency and working hard. Everybody is athletic here in the NFL. It's all about continuing to try to get better.''

As the NFL's sixth overall draft pick last year, Jones was scrutinized as a golden child of sorts.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff sent Atlanta's No. 27 spot in the first round to Cleveland and gave the Browns a second- and fourth-round pick in 2011 and a first- and fourth-round spot this year to acquire the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jones.

Despite missing three games last season with hamstring injuries, Jones averaged 17.8 yards and scored eight touchdowns on 54 catches.

Through as many games this year - 13 - Jones already has 63 catches for a 15.8 average and seven touchdowns - but the statistics mean very little to him in the context of his team's success.

``It's never affected me,'' Jones said. ``I just go out there and play. I told you before. I can't go out there and be Superman, you know? They traded up to get me and everything because they see the potential.''

The 23-year-old Jones even decided during the offseason to give himself a new look, too, cutting off his beloved dreadlocks and donating the effort to ``Locks of Love,'' a national cancer charity.

The haircut, he soon believed, better fit his straight-man persona. Plus, Jones said he wanted no part of trying to match the outspoken White, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who rarely lets his swagger down in conversation.

``What I appreciate about Julio is that he listens and tries to get better every day,'' Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. ``He listens to what (receivers coach) Terry (Robiskie) tells him, and I think Julio is influenced by Roddy and Matt, two really good role models that are teammates, and what those guys say to him. I think Julio has become a much more consistent player throughout this year. When he's healthy, he's a guy that you think can break the game open at any time.''

Jones appreciates, though, how the fun-loving White showed him how to succeed on the field without letting the job become tedious.

It has helped, too, having 16th-year tight end Tony Gonzalez, the NFL's No. 2 career-leaving receiver, as a teammate.

``Maybe on a lot of teams, if you're the No. 1 guy, you could be bored with it, you know?'' Jones said. ``But here you've got all these guys to keep you up, and they tell you to keep pushing. Especially coming from a Hall of Fame tight end like Tony - he's been in the game so long and he keeps doing it.''

Jones still marvels at how hard the 36-year-old Gonzalez works in practice.

``It shows you the way not to be bored out there and keep getting better,'' he said. ``Catch balls, catch balls. Muscle memory.''

Notes: White and SS William Moore (hamstring) were limited in participation at practice. Both are listed as questionable along with DT Jonathan Babineaux (ribs) and WR Harry Douglas (ribs). ... CB Asante Samuel (shoulder), LT Sam Baker (hand) and RG Justin Blalock (hand) fully participated and are listed as probable.

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Nats GM Mike Rizzo displays Commissioner's Trophy in neighborhood during quarantine

Nats GM Mike Rizzo displays Commissioner's Trophy in neighborhood during quarantine

Now this is the type of content we love to see. 

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo found a pretty cool yet responsible way to bring some cheer to his neighborhood in the midst of social distancing on Thursday. 

On the day that should have been the Nats’ 2020 home opener Washington’s GM Mike Rizzo displayed the World Series trophy in the window of his home in Navy Yard.

According to The Washington Post’s reporter Barry Svrluga, Rizzo’s gesture was “in honor of Opening Day!” 

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Of course, fans loved this idea. I mean who wouldn’t? 

Fans passing by even stopped to take a picture with the trophy. 

Although we were all thrilled to return to Nationals Park to celebrate the defending World Champions, Rizzo’s trophy display was a way to spread some joy until we can reunite again. 

On a recent conference call Rizzo told reporters, “This is going to be a very, very special Opening Day for us when it happens, so we still have that to look forward to... On the brighter side, the glass half full view is that we’re the reigning world champions and we still are clutching hard to that trophy. We’ve got ourselves a banner-raising ceremony coming, we’ve got ourselves some beautiful rings that we’re going to be able to wear around D.C. in the very near future, so although we’re thinking daily and hourly about the humanity of what’s going on right now, we also have that to look forward to when we get through this thing and we come out the other side and baseball begins again.”

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Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

With no live sports to watch, people have to find ways to pass the time. A fun way to do it is with NBC Sports Washington's NHL 20 simulations of the Capitals' scheduled games. Some of the players have even gotten involved joining the broadcast or reacting to the game results. So now, we have Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin providing commentary plus actual players reacting to a video game simulation. What a time to be alive.

Nicklas Backstrom was the star of the first game that was broadcast on NBC Sports Washington -- a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on March 24 -- with a hat trick performance. The real Backstrom gave a FaceTime interview afterward and said, "I don't do hat tricks that often, so it was nice to seal it off with a hat trick. You see what happens when you can't hear Ovi scream all the time for the puck."

On Wednesday, Backstrom joined the media for a Zoom video conference and was asked about that very answer. He quickly clarified that it was meant as a joke.

"You know what?" he said. "I felt so awkward doing that interview to be honest. I'm like, I've got to try to make this funny as possible. I don't know how to answer questions about simulation games. That was obviously a joke."

When you think about a real person having to do an interview about their digital player's performance, you can see how things could get awkward pretty quickly. Then again, if Ovechkin were always calling for the puck it would not be that surprising. He is, after all, one of the greatest goal scorers of all time. He could be forgiven for wanting the puck on his stick as often as possible.

Backstrom, however, said of Ovechkin that he doesn't need to call for the puck. Part of what makes him great is his ability to find the best place to be to score at all times.

"I think looking at it, [Ovechkin's] never yelling for the puck," Bacsktrom said. "He's just that good of a goal-scorer and I'm happy to give him the puck every time too. I was just trying to make that funny interview."

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