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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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Capitals return home still short-handed, but with momentum after strong road trip.

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Capitals return home still short-handed, but with momentum after strong road trip.

The Capitals return home to play the Chicago Blackhawks (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) after a successful road trip (3-1-0), but will still be without forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie (upper-body injuries), who remain day-to-day, according to coach Todd Reirden.   

Here are four things to watch:

Holtby’s back

After missing three games with an upper-body injury of his own, Caps goalie Braden Holtby was thrown into the fire down 4-2 at Montreal on Monday. But he played lights out and matched Habs goalie Carey Price save-for-save, finishing with 22 as Washington rallied for a 5-4 overtime win. Holtby now feels good enough as he will start against the Blackhawks tonight. In his past four appearances, Holtby has stopped 116 of 122 shots on goal.

New-look Blackhawks

Chicago’s slow start cost Joel Quenneville his job on Nov. 6. An NHL coach getting fired is rarely news. But when it’s a guy who’s been in his post for more than a decade and has won three Stanley Cups it is still jarring. The results are mixed since Jeremy Colliton took over. Chicago lost his first two games behind the bench, but is 2-0-2 in its past four games. That’s a small step in the right direction, but the Blackhawks are in sixth place in the Central Division.

Wilsonnnnn!!!!!

This was supposed to be the day Tom Wilson returned to the lineup after his 20-game suspension. An arbitrator cut that short last week so Wilson played on all four games of the road trip and had a goal and four assists. Not a bad start. Wednesday he gets his first home game of the year and what should be a raucous reception from the faithful at Capital One Arena. 

Old mates

On Monday, the crowd at Bell Centre booed former Canadien Lars Eller, who promptly took the puck up ice and scored the game-winning goal in overtime. It was a great moment for a player who felt Montreal gave up on him way too soon when trading him to the Capitals. Michal Kempny knows how he feels. 

Languishing on the bench for most of last season in Chicago as a healthy scratch – he played just 31 games - Kempny sees his old team for the first time since helping Washington win a Stanley Cup. Quenneville is gone, but the defenseman would love to show the rest of the organization trading him was a mistake. 

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5 things to know about new Wizards forward Okaro White

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5 things to know about new Wizards forward Okaro White

The Washington Wizards are set to add power forward, Okaro White to their NBA roster. Here are five things to know about the newest Wizards player.

1. White, 26, is a 6-foot-8, 205-pound power forward who played two seasons for the Miami Heat. In 41 total games, White averaged 2.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and shot 38.8 percent from the field. Though he never appeared in games with them, White also spent time with the Cavs, Hawks and Spurs. He also played Summer League for the Mavs and Grizzlies.

2. He has a decent outside shot for a big man. White has shot 35.6 percent from three in the NBA and made 37.5 percent from long range as a senior at Florida State. The fact he's an excellent free throw shooter is also a good sign. White made 79.9 percent from the line in college and has shot 86 percent in the G-League and 88 percent in the NBA.

3. White played with former Wizards first-round pick Chris Singleton in college. White was a freshman, while Singleton was a junior and the star of the team. White was also a starter on the 2011-12 team that won the Seminoles' first-ever ACC championship.

4. Though he's a bit undersized for a big man, White can block shots. He once had four in a game against the Nets on Jan. 25 of 2017 and three against the Sixers in March of that year. 

5. White's mom, Charmaine, was an Olympic athlete who represented Jamaica in track and field.

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