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Lions WR Johnson has chance to break a Rice record

Lions WR Johnson has chance to break a Rice record

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The slumping Detroit Lions are rallying around Calvin Johnson, hoping he breaks Jerry Rice's NFL record for yards receiving in a season.

``It's definitely something that I take joy in that my teammates are right behind me on this thing,'' Johnson said Thursday after catching footballs from a machine in a post-practice drill. ``They want me to get it as much as I want to get it.''

Maybe more.

The Lions (4-9) don't have much else to root for this year, entering Sunday's game at Arizona (4-9) in a matchup of teams tied for the worst record in the NFC. Detroit has dropped five straight and will finish the season with a losing record one year after winning 10 games and breaking the team's 11-year postseason drought.

That leave Johnson's shot to make history a potential source of pride for the Lions.

``We have to hang our hat on something this year,'' Lions center Dominic Raiola said. ``I think it would be awesome for him to do it. I'd love to be able to say I was on the team and helped him do it.''

Despite often facing double- and triple-coverage and losing the other top three players at his position on the team, Johnson has a league-high 1,546 yards receiving. With three games left, he is 303 yards from breaking Rice's single-season mark of 1,848 yards receiving set in 1995 with the San Francisco 49ers.

``If it happens, that would be fantastic,'' Johnson said. ``It's definitely something I'd love to have.''

And, his teammates want him to have it.

Johnson's talents and humble ways helped him get a $132 million, eight-year contract in the offseason, entering the last season of the deal he got when Detroit drafted him out of Georgia Tech with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He is easy to root for.

``He's so down to earth,'' said tight end Tony Scheffler, one of several Lions to describe him in the exact same way this week. ``It doesn't matter if you're the janitor or Jim Schwartz, he says hi and bye when you enter and leave the room.

``I've seen him before and after he got paid, and nothing has changed. He's just a great human being and I think he's the best player in the NFL, which is a pretty remarkable combination.''

Johnson combines size, strength, speed, hands and relentless work ethic in a way few can. The 6-foot-5, 236-pound receiver dubbed Megatron has run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds, has done a 45-inch vertical leap and works out constantly, as if his job is in jeopardy.

Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald has arguably been the best at his position over the last several years, but he wouldn't make that argument. Fitzgerald called Johnson ``the best in the business,'' and explained why he heaped that kind of praise on an opponent.

``He's very consistent, does it week in and week out against the most exotic defensive coverages the league has seen,'' Fitzgerald said. ``He's the most dynamic player, receiver, since Randy Moss. He really has no physical weaknesses. He does it all.''

This season, he's had to.

Receivers Nate Burleson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles have all been put on injured reserve. Kris Durham got his first NFL start in last Sunday's game at Green Bay and the other lackluster options were Mike Thomas, Brian Robiskie, Lance Long and Kassim Osgood.

``Calvin has picked up a lot of slack,'' Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. ``We've played him at a lot of different positions and I don't think he gets credit for how versatile he is. He plays probably three or four positions. It's even real common for him to do that even within a drive.''

Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson doesn't sound worried. Peterson said he hopes to cover Johnson one on one as much as possible in a challenge he's been looking forward to since the NFL schedule was released.

``It's definitely going to be a fun matchup and a matchup I've been waiting for pretty much all year,'' Peterson said. ``I want to see how I match up against one of the top guys in the league.''

Peterson ranked Johnson as the second-best receiver in the NFL, behind Fitzgerald, and boasted that he's the best cornerback in the NFL.

``Me and Calvin, we're the same caliber players, just he's a receiver and I'm a DB,'' he said. ``He likes the physical aspect of the game and, you know, that's something I like to do as well. I'm going to challenge him at the line.''

NOTES: Lions DT Nick Fairley (shoulder) and TE Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) didn't practice Thursday after both were injured against the Packers. ... CB Louis Delmas (knee), CB Chris Houston (hamstring) and CB Jacob Lacey (foot) were limited in practice after being held out of Wednesday's workout because of injuries.

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AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Tempe, Ariz., contributed to this report.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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New York Rangers land No. 1 pick in 2020 NHL Draft Lottery

New York Rangers land No. 1 pick in 2020 NHL Draft Lottery

Just a few days ago, the New York Rangers were competing for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now, they are the owners of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

New York landed the first pick during Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery on Monday, as they were the lucky team to have their ping pong ball sitting at the top of the order. 

The league switched it up this season, as teams that fell in the qualifying round of the NHL restart were all eligible for the first pick. This was decided during Phase 1 of the NHL Draft Lottery when "Team E" ended up in the top spot. Here's how the draft shakes out now, before other teams are added after playoff results:

  1. New York Rangers
  2. Los Angeles Kings
  3. Ottawa Senators (from San Jose)
  4. Detroit Red Wings
  5. Ottawa Senators
  6. Anaheim Ducks
  7. New Jersey Devils
  8. Buffalo Sabres
  9. Minnesota Wild
  10. Winnipeg Jets
  11. Nashville Predators
  12. Florida Panthers
  13. Carolina Hurricanes (from Toronto)
  14. Edmonton Oilers
  15. Pittsburgh Penguins (optional to Minnesota)

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There was an interesting moment leading up to the selection, as the ball with the Rangers logo was dropped prematurely before commissioner Gary Bettman was able to confirm that it was the correct ping pong ball. Twitter immediately went into conspiracy mode, given that the Rangers had the second pick last year, but the fact of the matter is New York is now on the clock.

For the Rangers, that most likely means the addition of Alexis Lafrenière, an 18-year-old Canadien winger who is considered to be the bell of this year's ball. While Lafrenière is certainly talented, he's not yet viewed as a franchise-altering selection such as Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby.

Still, there is reason for excitement in New York. A team that contended for a playoff spot in 2020 will now add another important piece for next season. 2019 first-round pick Kaapo Kakko, who struggled at times during his rookie season, is another talented scorer that carries lofty expectations. On paper, the future is bright for the Rangers.

However, dominating the lottery doesn't guarantee instant success. Dating back to 2015 when phenom Connor McDavid was selected by the Edmonton Oilers, the owner of the No. 1 pick has only made it past the first round of the playoffs once. That includes the New Jersey Devils, who have picked first overall in two of the last three years.

In terms of how this impacts the Capitals, it does potentially make Washington's matchups with the Rangers more challenging in the future. It's never ideal to see a division foe pick up another talented individual. Yet, the Rangers winning the lottery means the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were eligible, did not. That's always good news for the Capitals.

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Dwayne Haskins believes he gives Washington best chance to win, even if Alex Smith can play

Dwayne Haskins believes he gives Washington best chance to win, even if Alex Smith can play

While many expect Dwayne Haskins to be Washington's quarterback in Week 1, head coach Ron Rivera has yet to formally name a starting quarterback and has preached "pure competition" between Haskins and Kyle Allen.

The battle for the job has the potential to take an interesting twist in the coming weeks if veteran Alex Smith is able to return from the active/PUP list. In a media session with local reporters on Monday, Rivera said Smith is "going to be in the throes of this competition" if he's able to return.

However, even if Smith is healthy enough to compete for the starting job, Haskins believes he's the best man for the job. 

"All respect for everyone in that room, but I feel like I give us the best opportunity," Haskins told Julie Donaldson, Washington's Senior VP of Media and Content. "I look forward to showing it."

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Haskins had his growing pains as a rookie but really started to show flashes of his potential towards the end of the season before an ankle injury prematurely ended his first season as a pro. Over his final six quarters, Haskins finished with 394 passing yards on a 72 percent completion rate with four touchdowns and zero turnovers. 

Since Rivera took over as head coach in January, he's challenged Haskins to take command of the job, and the quarterback has responded. Haskins has dropped close to 20 pounds this offseason and said he is in the best shape of his life. He's spent the bulk of his offseason training and learning from numerous NFL stars, most notably Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton and Odell Beckham Jr.

Although Rivera has yet to name Haskins the starter, he's taken notice of the 23-year-old's progress and has publicly praised him for it. In a media session last week, several comments the head coach made sounded as if he was ready to move in the direction with Haskins as QB1.

While Haskins and Smith may be directly competing with one another, the two have a strong relationship.

Haskins has said multiple times how much of a help Smith was to him as a rookie. On Monday, Haskins said he looks at Smith as a "mentor" to him.

"He's a great teammate," Haskins said. "Somebody in the meeting room that we look for answers and questions and everything he's been through in his long tenure as a professional quarterback in the NFL. He's someone I kind of look to as a mentor in that sense."

RELATED: MORGAN MOSES IS IMPRESSED WITH DWAYNE HASKINS 'KNOWING HE'S GOING TO BE NO. 1 QB'

Smith's journey is remarkable, and the fact that he's even close to playing after suffering the gruesome leg injury he had in November 2018 is already impressive enough within itself. And of the three quarterbacks, Smith is by far the most proven and experienced.

But Washington is currently in a rebuild, and Rivera has said multiple times that the 2020 season will be crucial in determining who he sees as core players on his roster. So, starting a 35-year-old Smith over Haskins, a second-year player who the team invested a first-round pick in just one year ago, wouldn't make much sense.

Yet, if Smith does end up being healthy enough to compete for the job, Haskins is ready to embrace the challenge.

"I'm extremely happy and excited for Alex. Having watched him train last year and him just getting into the position to try and play this year...I can tell how much work he's put in," Haskins said. "I'm excited for him. Hopefully he gets back to where he needs to be, and I look forward to competing with him and everything of that nature."

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