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Lewis to start at QB for Browns vs. Steelers

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Lewis to start at QB for Browns vs. Steelers

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Once practice ended on Friday, quarterback Thad Lewis was approached by Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who had great news for the third-stringer.

``He said, `You're the man,''' Lewis said.

And just like that, Lewis became Cleveland's starter Sunday in the season finale at Pittsburgh, where he will take his first regular-season NFL snaps against the Steelers and their No. 1-ranked defense.

``It's exciting,'' Lewis said. ``It's a blessing for a childhood dream come true.''

Shoulder injuries to starter Brandon Weeden and No. 2 QB Colt McCoy will give Lewis a chance to show what he can do after almost three seasons spent on practice squads, running the scout team and finishing off exhibition games with other backups. He's been waiting for his opportunity, and he'll get it against James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and Co. - amid a sea of Terrible Towels.

Lewis never considered his first start would come against one of the league's most feared defenses.

``Part of my childhood dream was to be a starter one day in the NFL. Who it was against, I didn't have a visual of that,'' Lewis said, smiling. ``But it's a challenge and if you don't like challenges then you're in the wrong sport.''

With Weeden and McCoy unable to practice, Lewis spent all week working with Cleveland's first-team offense. Although signs pointed toward him making the start, Lewis didn't get the official word until after Friday's workout from Shurmur, who is confident the 25-year-old will perform well.

``He's been preparing himself to play all year even though he wasn't on the active roster,'' Shurmur said. ``What we expect is that he goes out and plays winning football.''

Weeden finished with 3,385 yards passing, a team rookie record. He was inconsistent, but Shurmur believes the 29-year-old's best seasons are ahead.

``Now that he's had a season under his belt, he'll come back here in the offseason, much like a lot of quarterbacks in this league that went on to have really good careers, just pick one,'' he said. ``They all had rookie years where they were much better in their second year. I think he's shown quite a bit this year that's good.''

For their last game, the Browns will also be without starting rookie running back Trent Richardson.

He sprained his left ankle in the closing seconds last week in a lopsided loss at Denver. He broke almost every Browns rookie rushing record but wound up 50 yards shy of 1,000. It's a disappointing ending for Richardson, who missed all of the exhibition season following knee surgery and played most of the season with a rib cartilage injury.

Browns running backs coach Gary Brown said Richardson was never at full speed.

``Although he was running hard and playing well, he just didn't feel like Trent,'' Brown said. ``God willing he's going to come back strong from the rib and the knee is strong and the city of Cleveland will see exactly what Trent Richardson is, and I believe that's going to be a top-flight running back in this league.''

Montario Hardesty will start for Richardson.

Cornerback Sheldon Brown will also sit out with a concussion, ending his streak of 175 consecutive starts, the second-longest run among active cornerbacks. .

``It's killing him,'' linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. ``I know he wants to play.''

Shurmur said he didn't have to radically alter his game plan for Lewis, whom he has known since they were both in St. Louis. Lewis is aware of the Steelers and their propensity to blitz.

``I think there's enough evidence of how they play,'' Shurmur said. ``We have the first game against them, plus their style of defense hasn't changed in years. What's important for Thad is to execute the progressions and get the ball off on time and not rush things, just be urgent and go play his game.''

Pittsburgh has never been a forgiving place for any quarterbacks, and especially ones from Cleveland.

In the 2008 season finale at Pittsburgh, injuries forced the Browns to start fourth-stringer Bruce Gradkowski, who passed for 18 yards, was sacked three times and posted a 1.0 rating in a 31-0 loss.

Last year, McCoy's season ended after he sustained a concussion in the fourth quarter when Harrison leveled him on a jarring tackle late in a loss at Heinz Field.

Lewis knows he has to be wary of Harrison and Polamalu, who both seem to be all over the field.

However, he's not worried about Harrison.

``You've got on a helmet and shoulder pads and if a guy is going to hit you or if you get hit, that's what the pads is for, to protect you,'' he said. ``You've got to be tough at the quarterback position. You've got to get up, shake it off and move on to the next play.''

As for Polamalu, Lewis said it's imperative to know where he's lined up.

``He's going to be the rule breaker,'' Lewis said. ``You have to keep an eye on 43.''

The Browns have lost eight straight games in Pittsburgh, and are just 5-23 against their biggest rival since 1999. But after beating the Steelers in November, the Browns can sweep them for the first time since 1988 and perhaps send Shurmur out on a high note in what is likely his final game for Cleveland.

``We can walk away from this season with something to brag about,'' Jackson said.

Notes: Weeden, McCoy and Richardson did not speak to the media this week. ... Cleveland's 82 combined starts by rookies are a league high. Indianapolis is second with 52. ... TE Jordan Cameron will also miss Sunday's game with a concussion.

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7 stats that define John Wall's history-making career (so far)

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7 stats that define John Wall's history-making career (so far)

This week is Wall Week at NBC Sports Washington. We are rolling out content each day centering around the Wizards' five-time All-Star point guard. Today, we take a deep dive into the numbers to illustrate Wall's career in Washington so far...

**Wall's career averages of 19.0 points and 9.2 assists put him in elite company. Only three other players in league history have averaged at least 19 and nine with at least 500 games played; Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas. Only Johnson and Robertson have also averaged at least four rebounds in addition, like Wall has.

**Wall is already well-represented on the Wizards/Bullets franchise's all-time leaderboards. He is first in career assists (5,282) and steals (976), second in free throws (2,456), third in points (10,879) and minutes played (20,545) and fourth in threes made (539). He is already third all-time in VORP (value over replacement player), a cumulative stat similar to WAR (wins above replacement) in baseball. Only Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes accrued more while in Washington.

**Wall has also put up some of the best individual seasons in franchise history. He has the No. 1, 3, 4 and 7 highest assist totals with his best year the 2016-17 season when he dished out 831. 

**Wall's 2016-17 campaign was also the only season in franchise history where a player averaged 20-plus points and 10-plus assists. He has 111 20-point, 10-assist games in his career which is by far the most in franchise history. Second on the list is Rod Strickland with 43. Gilbert Arenas is third with 24.

**Wall has 396 career blocks. Only six guards in NBA history have recorded more. Those six are Dwayne Wade (885), Clyde Drexler (719), Dennis Johnson (675), Jason Kidd (450), Kendall Gill (432) and Latrell Sprewell (399). Only Johnson and Kidd played most of their time at point guard, so Wall is third all-time at his position.

**Wall's 5,282 career assists are fifth among active players. Only Chris Paul (9,181), LeBron James (8,662), Rajon Rondo (6,975) and Russell Westbrook (5,701) have more.

**Unfortunately, injuries have significantly affected Wall's last two seasons. He has played a combined 73 regular season games the past two years. For context, he has played the same amount of games as Gordon Hayward, who appeared in just one game in 2017-18. And DeMarcus Cousins, despite going through a full rehab from a torn Achilles during that time, played in more games (78) than Wall.

NBA.com and Basketball Reference were used in this research

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Washington Nationals Roundup: Joe Ross exits game with leg injury

Washington Nationals Roundup: Joe Ross exits game with leg injury

A massive hot streak has the Nationals trending in the right direction with a month left in the regular season. They scored another 13 runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday in an all-around impressive offensive showing for the Nats. 

Player Notes:

SP Joe Ross exited Monday's game early in the fourth after being struck by a grounder on his right leg. Before the injury, he continued his incredible stretch of starts as he was through 3.1 innings with three hits and no runs. His last four starts have resulted in four wins for the Nationals and in the process, he's only yielded one run. His performance was so strong that he was making the case to be the team's fifth starter when Max Scherzer comes back later this week.

OF Juan Soto had a perfect night at the plate against the Pirates. Finishing 4-for-4 with two doubles, a walk and four runs scored he's continued his incredible sophomore campaign. In this outing, his OBP went up a whole six points to .404.

3B Asdrubal Cabrera had himself a career day with the Nationals in their 13-0 win over Pittsburgh. A two-run home run, a double and a sac fly supplied five of the Nats 13 runs. Those five RBIs were a new personal best for Cabrera, according to MASN. He's been a great add for the Nationals with an 11-for-29 plate performance in his nine games. 

INF Adrian Sanchez was recalled from Double-A Harrisburg to give some infield depth with the temporary absence of Brian Dozier. In 24 MLB games this year he is 6-for-27.

2B Brian Dozier placed on the paternity list and is expected to miss part of the Nats' series in Pittsburgh. He and his wife are expecting their first child.

Injuries:

2B Brian Dozier: Healthy, Paternity leave, day-to-day

SP Max Scherzer: Back, 10-Day IL, maybe back August 22

RP Roenis Elias: Hamstring, 10-Day IL, maybe back in mid-August

1B Ryan Zimmerman: Foot, 10-Day IL, maybe back in late-August

SP Austin Voth: Shoulder, 10-Day IL, maybe back in late-August

RP Sean Doolittle: Knee, 10-Day-IL, out indefinitely 

RP Jonny Venters: Shoulder, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, 10-Day IL, out indefinitely

Coming Up:

Tuesday 8/20: Nationals @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park
Wednesday 8/21: Nationals @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park 
Thursday 8/22: Nationals @ Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park

via Rotoworld

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