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Leinart hoping to get 1st start for Raiders

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Leinart hoping to get 1st start for Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Matt Leinart is hoping to get one more shot to show what he can do as an NFL starting quarterback.

With Carson Palmer sidelined for Oakland's season finale in San Diego with cracked ribs and a bruised lung, Leinart and third-stringer Terrelle Pryor have been sharing time at practice.

Raiders coach Dennis Allen says he won't pick a starter until after Friday's practice but it seems likely both quarterbacks will get a chance. Leinart has started only two games since 2007 and failed to live up the expectations of winning the Heisman Trophy at Southern California and being a first-round draft pick by Arizona in 2006.

``I still feel I have a lot to prove at this point of my career,'' Leinart said Thursday. ``No matter what the naysayers say, I do feel like I still can play. I do feel like that, and I think I'll play like that until the day I retire. But you're only given so many opportunities in this league. That's why this weekend would be awesome.''

Leinart started 16 games his first two seasons in Arizona before being sidelined by a broken left collarbone in 2007. He was beaten out the next season by Kurt Warner and started one game his final two seasons with the Cardinals.

Leinart then signed with Houston in 2010 and got another chance to start late last season when Matt Schaub went down with a foot injury. But Leinart got hurt in the first half of his first start, missing a chance to take the Texans to the playoffs.

He signed this past offseason with Oakland and had thrown only one pass before replacing Palmer in the first quarter of last week's 17-6 loss at Carolina. Leinart completed 16 of 32 passes for 115 yards, no touchdowns and one interception for a 45.7 passer rating.

``I felt a little rusty,'' Leinart said. ``I think my footwork, for me, wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, and what I work on. But I think again, that was just kind of getting in there, hadn't played in a while. But it is what it is, moved on and watched the film and been practicing well this week and just trying to correct those mistakes.''

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp acknowledged the difficult situation Leinart went into but was disappointed in his play. Knapp was particularly upset by an interception late in the first half that led to a Panthers touchdown and a ball Leinart threw away on fourth down late in the game.

``He didn't play as well as I would have liked,'' Knapp said. ``I wished his footwork would have been better on a consistent basis. It's hard for any backup quarterback to come in on short notice without any reps, but that comes with the job. You got to know that going in. He struggled a little bit with the footwork and his consistency. He had it sometimes but not all the time.''

The Raiders have an interesting decision this week. Coach Dennis Allen said Pryor wasn't ready to be the backup last week but could start this week after getting more practice time than usual.

Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie have talked about wanting to get a better look at Pryor down the stretch, but whether that's as a part-time player or a starter remains to be seen.

``I think I deserve to play, I deserve to start, not sure what's going to happen, but that's all you can do -- just keep preparing, keep working hard, be here, be accountable and whatever happens, whatever decision is made, that's what's made,'' Leinart said. ``If they want to start Terrelle and evaluate him and see what he can do, then I'll support that and I'll help him this week and help him during the game. But if they make me the starter and stuff, I'm just going to go out there and try to capitalize on that opportunity.''

Palmer won't travel to the game because of the bruised lung but Leinart said he is doing better even though he is moving around slowly.

``He's one of the toughest guys I've ever been around,'' Leinart said. ``When he was laying on the ground I knew something was wrong because he's normally up, not matter what. He's the type of guy who will never tell you if something's wrong, and obviously, he took a big shot, but he'll be fine.''

NOTES: The Raiders placed DT Richard Seymour on IR with a hamstring injury. Seymour missed the final eight games of the season with the injury and is eligible for free agency in the offseason. ... G Mike Brisiel has passed the concussion protocol but is still sidelined by an ankle injury which could give rookie Tony Bergstrom a chance to start. ... DBs Tyvon Branch (neck, ankle) and Phillip Adams (groin) and RB Mike Goodson (illness) did not practice.

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The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

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@kerrigan91

The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

The Kerrigan family is about to make a big-time addition to its roster.

Ryan and his wife, Jessica, already have two very, VERY, very, very cute bulldogs in their household. 

But on Tuesday, the two announced in separate Instagram posts that Jessica is 18 weeks pregnant and that a third human Kerrigan will arrive in 2019.

"Can I eat dis sign aftur da picturr iz over?" George the bulldog said when reached for comment on the news.

"How did dey gett such a smawl jerzey for da baby alreddy?" Franklin the other bulldog added.

This is all very wonderful.

Come next March, the world is about to get a little precious-er.

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The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

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USA Today Sports

The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

Tuesday’s practice was a lot like every other for the Caps until the end. After working on the power play, the team gathered at one end of the ice and began working on faceoffs. It was not just the centers, but wingers and defensemen alike got into the action with every win celebrated by loud cheers from teammates.

It should could as no surprise to see faceoffs as a point of emphasis for Washington considering just how much the team has struggled with them in the early season. The Caps rank 30th in the league in faceoff win percentage at only 43.8-percent.

“Yeah, there's little details that can help our game,” Lars Eller told reporters after practice. “The more you have the puck, easier the game is gonna be for you. We have a little more time in between games than usual during the season here, so we have the time to work on something like that, which can be little things that makes the difference.”

The team as a whole watched video on faceoffs prior to practice and then worked as a five-man unit during the drill. The main point of emphasis head coach Todd Reirden wanted to drill into his players was that faceoffs are not simply the responsibility of the centers alone.

“The days of it just being center vs. center and a clean draw being won back are a rarity now so it's important to have all five guys helping, something we watched video on earlier today,” Reirden said.

“You ask any centerman if they have a good group of wingers that can help them out on draws, that makes a huge difference,” Nic Dowd said. “I've been lucky, I have [Devante Smith-Pelly] on my right and I'm a righty so I win all my draws my backhand side so a lot of pucks go his way and he wins a lot of draws for me. That's huge. You have a guy that's sitting over there that's sleeping, you could go easily from five wins to five losses and then that's your night. It makes a big difference.”

Faceoffs were always going to be more of a struggle for the Caps this season with the departure of Jay Beagle who was, by far, the team’s best faceoff man for several years. Whenever the team needed a big draw, Beagle was the player relied upon to win it. With him gone, it is no surprise to see the team struggle.

But the Caps don’t like the idea of keeping possession off a draw just 43.8-percent of the time.

“It's essentially like the ref is creating a 50-50 puck and you snap it back, you get possession, now you're forechecking and it makes a huge difference,” Dowd said. “You play against those top lines, they want to be in the O-zone. Well, if you lose the draw, now you're playing D-zone, you win the draw now you're playing O-zone. So effectively, you've shut down their shift.”

There is a school of thought suggesting that perhaps the importance of winning faceoffs is overrated and a team’s faceoff win percentage is not overly important. Eller himself admitted as much to reporters.

What no one can argue, however, is that while some faceoffs may not matter all that much, there are some that are hugely important in a game. The Caps recognize that. For them, being a strong faceoff team is not necessarily about improving the team’s win percentage, but more about being able to win those critical draws.

“It's something that for the most part the players understand and a neutral zone faceoff with 14 minutes to go in the first period is not nearly as important as one that's 5-on-6 at the end of the game,” Reirden said. “We all know that. It's important to put the right people on those situations and give them the best chance to have success.”

“A center ice draw, I could see where guys could make the argument, well you lose it you still will play hockey and stuff could still happen,” Dowd said. “But I think the game is such a possession game now that any opportunity you can win a 50-50 puck whether that's a faceoff or a board battle, it makes a huge difference.”

 

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