Redskins

Lynch's footwork gets him to Orange Bowl stage

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Lynch's footwork gets him to Orange Bowl stage

MIAMI (AP) Seems like every half-century, a quarterback from Northern Illinois does something never seen previously in college football.

In 1963, the buzz hovered around George Bork's passing.

This season, the acclaim was over Jordan Lynch's running.

It's not a stretch to say that without Lynch's footwork, Northern Illinois wouldn't have busted into the Bowl Championship Series and gotten a spot in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. Lynch can throw the ball - 24 touchdowns against only five interceptions this season - but he seems better when he takes off running.

The native of Chicago's south side entered the Orange Bowl with 1,771 yards rushing, the most by any quarterback in any college season.

He also carried a streak of 11 straight 100-yard rushing games into the matchup with the Seminoles, another NCAA record for quarterbacks.

``Probably the toughest player I've ever seen,'' Northern Illinois quarterbacks coach Bob Cole said.

Ask Lynch about his records, and he'll simply shrug.

Ask him about people raving over his toughness, and he'll happily start talking.

``Living in Chicago and growing up, I think you're sort of blue-collar, always got a chip on your shoulder, always do things the right way and respect the game,'' Lynch said. ``Always tough. The neighborhood was a bunch of guys like me, just liked to get after it, blue-collar guys, always playing football in the street, tackling instead of two-hand touch, stuff like that.''

So in other words, a perfect primer for the offense he's operating now.

Northern Illinois thrives on going no-huddle, up-tempo, with Lynch operating the read option. When he throws it, he's typically accurate - of all the quarterbacks in the nation with more than 350 attempts so far this season, only three had fewer interceptions.

When he takes off, the former running back tends to forget he's a quarterback.

``I think the best part is he delivers the blow most of the time,'' offensive lineman Jared Volk, Lynch's roommate. ``He's not a quarterback that's going to slide. He's going to go into you head-first and he's going to make you regret trying to tackle him. So I think that's the best part about Jordan. He gets a lot of respect from the offensive line for the way he runs.''

But wouldn't it be a little easier if Lynch tried to avoid contact every now and then?

``I know Jordan,'' Volk said. ``He's never going to slide.''

Lynch doesn't see reason to change his ways, certainly not now.

He also can't help but wonder if his rugged style might be his ticket to the next level as well. In this era of young, dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL, Lynch said it gives a 6-foot-1, 220-pounder like himself hope of getting there.

``I think the quarterback level is definitely changing in the NFL,'' Lynch said. ``I mean, there's only a select few Peyton Mannings.''

Even after all the accolades that Lynch has received this season, he's hardly the first Northern Illinois quarterback to be widely celebrated.

While it's certainly possible that many college football fans didn't know much about the Huskies until they got invited to the Orange Bowl, the program is steeped in both the game's history - and its innovation. It was somewhere around the early 1960s that Northern Illinois was credited with bringing what was then called the ``shotgun spread'' offense into the game, and in 1963 Bork threw for a then-college-record 3,077 yards.

The 3,000-yard mark was history-making for Bork.

And in the second quarter of the Orange Bowl, it was for Lynch as well.

He entered the Orange Bowl needing only 38 yards passing to become the first player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,500 more in the same season. And it took him 14 attempts against the Seminoles to do it, but his third completion of the Orange Bowl gave him 40 passing yards for the night and 3,002 for the season.

``How does he practice?'' Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher asked. ``I mean, he does so much in the game, I don't know how he's got the energy to practice all week. The guy runs the ball for 130 yards a game and throws it for 250 or whatever. It's amazing what he does and the pounding and the beating ... I mean, he's not an extremely big guy. He's well built, but he's not a huge guy, and to do the things he does he's a great competitor.''

And the Seminoles are quick to point out that Lynch isn't Northern Illinois' only competitor.

``They've won all but one game, and there's other weapons besides Jordan Lynch that we're going to have to be prepared for,'' said D.J. Eliot, Florida State's defensive coordinator for the bowl game before he departs for Kentucky. ``They've got good speed, and their offensive line is very effective. They work well together. So you know, we're conscious of more than just one player.''

Still, for Lynch, it's funny how things can change so quickly.

Lynch wasn't even the starting quarterback at Northern Illinois until this season. Coming out of high school - where he ran the triple-option - he had exactly one scholarship offer for college.

And then came this breakout season, where he was seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting and gets to finish on the BCS stage.

``I thought he would have a good season,'' Volk said. ``But I didn't think he was going to have a season like this.''

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution

JUPITER, Fla. -- Police in Florida have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, saying they have videotape of him paying for a sex act inside an illicit massage parlor.

Jupiter police told reporters Friday that the 77-year-old Kraft hasn't been arrested. A warrant will be issued and his attorneys will be notified.

The charge comes amid a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking in the area surrounding Palm Beach County. About 200 arrest warrants have been issued in recent days and more are expected.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl earlier this month in Atlanta. The team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Update: A spokesperson for Robert Kraft issued a statement, denying Craft's involvement. "We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity," a spokesperson said, via Michael Del Moro. "Because this is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further. 

This is a developing story. Visit NBC Sports Boston for the latest Robert Kraft news and updates. 

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Radio silence from Bryce Harper hasn't quieted Mark Lerner's confidence in Nationals

Radio silence from Bryce Harper hasn't quieted Mark Lerner's confidence in Nationals

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Fans on the sidewalks at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches are held back by wire fence, just a few feet away from players clicking past in spikes on concrete. It emulates two priorities: access and the idea the team’s managing principal owner, Mark Lerner, had when he was a kid at spring training.

“You want to be able to see your favorites,” Lerner said Friday.

When Lerner, 65, comes to West Palm Beach, he still does that. He stops in the clubhouse to distribute handshakes and hugs. Running into Anthony Rendon on a crosswalk near the fields really lit up Lerner, who is still using a cane following an amputation of his lower left leg in 2017 necessitated by the diagnosis of spindle cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

Not in West Palm Beach is a player Lerner had a close relationship with. On the day Manny Machado was introduced in San Diego, Bryce Harper remained, to the astonishment of many, unemployed. 

Lerner last addressed Harper’s free agency when he sat for radio interviews, Dec. 10, the day Patrick Corbin was introduced. He said the Nationals were no longer in the mix for Harper. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract which had an expiration date: when free agency began, it would be retracted. Harper declined, vaulting the baseball world into a months-long saga filled with tension, misinformation and growing exasperation.

“Nothing’s certainly changed on our end; we’ve moved on, as I said back then,” Lerner told NBC Sports Washington. “We had to. There was no way we could wait around. Bryce I’m sure will make his decision, hopefully in the next few days. But, we filled out our roster and like I said, we wish him nothing but the best. There’s always that -- the door’s cracked a little bit. I have no clue at this point what they’re up to. I mean, we really haven’t heard from them in a couple months.”

The prospect of a wait was of prime concern before the season ended. Washington used its personal window to negotiate with Harper, producing a lucrative baseline offer, with the aforementioned end date. Not long after, Corbin received a six-year, $140 million from the organization, which stood throughout the offseason as the benchmark in both length and total value prior to Machado’s decision. If Harper accepted the Nationals original offer, they would not have been able to pay Corbin, according to a source.

The organization moved forward plugging holes at catcher, second base and in the bullpen. It deemed the current outfield foursome as more than satisfactory. Also looming was the possibility of another year over the competitive balance tax, something that prompted the team to start shuffling finances late last season when it was clear the playoffs were not an option.

“It’s a pretty severe penalty if you go over and it’s been our goal all year to stay under that,” Lerner said.

Which complicates the future. Anthony Rendon is entering the final year of his contract. Rendon and the team are open to an extension, which has been discussed here and there for 18 months. Rendon reiterated his position when speaking with reporters earlier this week. Lerner turned his visual affection for Rendon into words Friday. 

“We love Tony to death,” Lerner said. “He’s certainly one of the greatest players in the game today. He’s an even finer person. His activities with the youth baseball academy back in D.C. are phenomenal. He does it under the radar. It’s very important to him. Just a great example of the way a professional athlete should conduct himself. Like I said, he’s one of my favorites for a reason.”

Washington rose perennial losers upon coming to Washington to an organization with annual prominent expectations. It chose not to retain manager Dusty Baker, instead hiring Dave Martinez in an attempt to push the team beyond the first round. Martinez’s arrival came with the edict that something more than division titles and first-round bow outs were now necessary for the team. The Nationals finished 82-80 last year during a season filled with injuries, under-performance and often mediocre fundamental baseball. Lerner suffered through with the irritation of a typical fan.

“I have my routine [following losses]. I go into a closet and scream a little after,” Lerner said with a laugh. “No, no. That’s one thing that’s good about baseball. You’re going to play the next day. But I go home. I’m totally depressed. I won’t turn on the sports news or anything and get up the next morning, it’s a new day, get up and go after it again today. When I’m sitting down there, I’m very passionate as a fan. I’m yelling at the umpires like everybody else. I want to win. I hate losing exhibition games let alone regular-season games.”

Enter 2019. The Nationals are amid the favorites in a taught National League East. Short-term fixes frame the team’s mainstays. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Corbin possess the three long-term commitments in the clubhouse. Rendon may be next. The Nationals want to retain that talent level, avoid the tax and put together a team with a chance to win the division or more. Harper’s talent made that possible when here. His price made it difficult going forward. They decided to try it without him. 

“Our goal every year is certainly to make the playoffs,” Lerner said. “In reality, we look back where we are in the world and where our needs are. It’s not just…certainly, we don’t want to go crazy with free agency. But we said when we first got the team, we’re going to build up the minor leagues, we’re going to get to a point where we can start to dabble in free agency, which we did with Jayson Werth, and when we find a need or a special player, we’re going to go after that player if it makes monetary sense for us. Our philosophy has never changed but, certainly, our goal is to make the playoffs and hopefully deep into the playoffs.”
 

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