Redskins

Man in court on Hines Ward extortion charges

Man in court on Hines Ward extortion charges

PITTSBURGH (AP) A man who claims his girlfriend had a ``physical relationship'' with retired Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward was in custody Friday, accused of trying to extort $15,000 by threatening to release evidence that Ward had paid for sex.

Joshua Van Auker, 26, of Pittsburgh, awaited arraignment on two felony counts of attempted extortion.

Van Auker was arrested Thursday by detectives from the Allegheny County district attorney's office after he allegedly met with Ward's personal assistant, Raymond Burgess, who paid him the money in exchange for unspecified ``materials'' in an envelope that Van Auker said could prove his claims, according to a criminal complaint. Detectives monitoring that exchange then arrested Van Auker but have not said what was in the envelope.

Online court records don't list an attorney for Van Auker.

A spokesman for Ward, Andrew Ree, called the alleged extortion attempt ``the act of a desperate individual trying to get money from a celebrity.''

Ward, who was traveling Friday and unavailable for comment, did not even know about any extortion attempt until Thursday and ``played no part in anything,'' Ree said.

According to the complaint, Burgess contacted the prosecutor's office on Wednesday to say he had gotten a text message from Van Auker containing the extortion message.

If payment was not made, the message said, Van Auker planned to sell or release materials alleging Ward paid women for sex, thereby exposing him to ``ridicule or contempt,'' according to the complaint.

Burgess told investigators Van Auker decided to make the demands after learning his girlfriend ``had been involved in a prior physical relationship with Ward,'' the complaint said.

The woman is not identified in the complaint. One of two charges against Van Auker says he ``threatened to publicly accuse the victim of soliciting prostitutes.''

After contacting investigators, Burgess again spoke with Van Auker, who allegedly repeated the extortion demand by saying, ``It's called buying silence, brother,'' the complaint said.

Ward, 36, retired in March after 14 seasons with the Steelers. He had 1,000 catches for 12,021 yards, both franchise records, and was MVP of the Super Bowl XL, which the Steelers won in 2006.

Ward has parlayed that success into a second career as a pregame commentator and reporter with NBC Sports, and had also appeared on ABC's ``Dancing With The Stars,'' while still a player.

Ward, whose father is black and mother is Korean, has also worked to raise awareness about discrimination that mixed-race children face in the United States and his mother's native country.

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Redskins sign linebacker Jon Bostic to try and help make up for the loss of Reuben Foster

Redskins sign linebacker Jon Bostic to try and help make up for the loss of Reuben Foster

Two days after losing Reuben Foster for the year, the Redskins made a move to at least provide reinforcements to a weakened linebacker group.

On Wednesday, Washington announced that they have signed Jon Bostic, a six-year veteran. The 'Skins also officially placed Foster on injured reserve.

Bostic was a 2013 second-round pick of the Bears out of Florida. He's since bounced around to New England, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh, where he started 14 times for the Steelers in 2018 and posted 73 tackles. He's been traded twice in his career and missed all of 2016 with a foot injury. 

So, what does the move accomplish for the Redskins?

Well, Bostic — or any other free agent signing at this point — isn't going to have close to the level of talent and potential that Foster had. However, getting another option at linebacker was necessary for the Burgundy and Gold, and the 28-year-old has played in 30 contests over the past two years, so he's relatively established. 

Yes, he's far from a gamechanger, considering he has just one interception and 5.5 sacks as a pro. But he's regarded as a solid run defender and tackler and should at least push Mason Foster and Shaun Dion Hamilton. His presence also could alleviate some of the pressure that would've been on rookie Cole Holcomb. 

Signing a defender who's been with five franchises in six years isn't exactly inspiring, but Bostic has experience as a starter and could give the Redskins useful snaps on first and second down at a minimum. Now it's on him to take advantage of the opportunity he's been given.

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Landon Collins is thrilled to be with the Redskins and can't wait to get revenge on the Giants

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Landon Collins is thrilled to be with the Redskins and can't wait to get revenge on the Giants

You may not know the exact dates of the Redskins' two matchups with the Giants this season, which will take place Sep. 29 and Dec. 22 in 2019. But Landon Collins sure does.

"I'm gonna circle it for the next six years," the 'Skins new safety told ESPN in a recent interview. 

No, Collins isn't circling those dates from now until 2024 because he wants to be very organized and ensure he doesn't have any scheduling conflicts. He's doing it because he's dying to get revenge on his former team, who let him leave as a free agent in part because of their "culture change," according to him.

"All we wanted to do was win, and we spoke up because we had to get them to listen to us," Collins told ESPN, referring to himself and other now ex-Giants like Odell Beckham and Damon Harrison. "I think we were too vocal, and that platform was bigger than the Giants... If it's not good media, they don't want that kind of media."

In addition to the organization wanting to go in a different direction culture-wise, New York didn't want to pay the amount of money the Redskins ended up paying for Collins because he wasn't an ideal fit in their defense. The 25-year-old pushes back against the idea that he's strictly a "box safety," though, as do current and former players.

Interestingly enough, Collins isn't the only member of the Redskins' secondary who's in D.C. thanks to a decision by Dave Gettleman. Gettleman was also the same guy who decided the Panthers needed to move on from Josh Norman in April 2016.

Collins, for one, doesn't sound like he'll miss Gettleman at all. The defender didn't love how the GM consistently failed to make an effort to connect personally with his players. 

"I don't know him, he don't know me, that's kind of how it just kind of was," he explained.

All that, however, doesn't matter anymore. Collins is going to be the foundation of the Redskins' defense for quite some time, and that's a challenge he's ready to accept.

"I'm on a team that loves me and wanted me here," he said.

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