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Nebraska's Eric Martin emerges as disruptive force

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Nebraska's Eric Martin emerges as disruptive force

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Eric Martin's high school teammates used to call him ``Caveman.''

The nickname didn't stick for long at Nebraska, even though his teammates say it suits the senior defensive end.

Linebacker Alonzo Whaley thought a moment when asked if Martin has a moniker nowadays.

``Crazy Man Eric Martin?'' Whaley said. He paused. ``I usually call him by his name.''

After the performance Martin gave last week against Iowa, Wisconsin offensive coaches, linemen and quarterback Curt Phillips should know his name as they prepare for Saturday night's Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. If not his name, they surely know his number: 46.

Martin has gone from backup the first two games of the season to All-Big Ten first-team pick by the media.

He's been a terror coming off the edge, racking up 8 1/2 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. With defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler out because of injury, Martin will be counted on even more to help contain a strong running game headed by Montee Ball.

``He brings a lot of energy,'' Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. ``He's a very powerful guy that's got a lot of quickness and suddenness. He's going to be a guy that we need to take care of.''

Iowa had no answer for Martin, who alternated as a down lineman in the Huskers' base 4-3 defense and as an outside linebacker when they went to a 3-4. He was in the Hawkeyes' backfield all afternoon and finished with seven tackles, three for loss, a sack, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.

``If guys are going to try to block him one-on-one, it's going to be pretty difficult,'' linebacker Will Compton said.

Martin said he played with extra energy because the Hawkeyes' offensive linemen kept shoving him after the whistle. Martin figures they were frustrated. He let out a hearty laugh at the thought.

``Somebody has to be the big brother in the game, and we have to be the big brother, so we had to take over,'' Martin said. ``We can't let the little brother win. You let them get in a few pushes and shoves here, but you've got to take over after a while.''

Martin, no doubt, does his part to get under his opponent's skin. He is known for having one-sided conversations with players lined up across from him. Teammates say he mostly talks nonsense.

``He's in left field half the time,'' Whaley said.

Defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said, ``He can make a long day for a left tackle, that's for sure.''

Martin build his reputation on special teams. In 2010 he made a team-leading 13 special-teams tackles and was suspended for a game after a blind-side hit on Oklahoma State's Andrew Hudson during teammate Niles Paul's 100-yard kickoff return. Hudson suffered a concussion.

For a while, Martin was worried that the hit on Hudson would be all he would be remembered for.

Martin's breakthrough came when he moved from linebacker to defensive end last year. He started twice, knocked Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa out of a game and played his best at the end of the season.

He was projected to be a pass-rushing specialist this season. By the third game, he showed he could be effective against the run, and coaches couldn't justify keeping him off the field.

``Nobody wants to be a one-dimensional player,'' he said.

Martin, at 6 feet 2 and 250 pounds, is on the small side compared with most major-college defensive ends. That's why coaches feared he wouldn't be durable enough to play 60-70 snaps a game.

But Martin is quick, strong and motivated - a combination that negates what he lacks in size.

``I think a lot of it comes from him being undersized and him feeling like he has a lot to prove,'' Whaley said. ``I've heard him make the comment that he feels like a lot of (offensive) tackles kind of look at him like, `Oh, look at this small guy, what is he going to do?' Then next thing you know he's in the lap of the quarterback.''

Martin said he's developed another tool now that he's into his second year as a defensive end.

``Smarts,'' he said.

Martin simply tried to beat the man in front of him last year, Kaczenski said. The coaching staff kept things simple for him, essentially telling him to just go after the quarterback.

``He understands leverage, technique, the tools - how to use the tools to be successful,'' Kaczenski said.

Martin's rapid development might make him a late-round NFL draft pick in the spring. Coach Bo Pelini, who coached nine years in the NFL, said Martin could thrive on special teams and as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

That talk can wait, though. Martin said he and the other 28 seniors are driven to bring home Nebraska's first conference championship since 1999, go to the Rose Bowl and ``leave a mark.''

``Something to look back on when we go, helping the young guys, setting the standard for them that they have to continue next year and the year after that and the year after that,'' Martin said. ``That's basically what we're trying to do here. You always have to set a culture. Our culture is, you've got to win.''

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Week 6's Redskins game marked another successful celebration of the THINK-PINK! campaign

Week 6's Redskins game marked another successful celebration of the THINK-PINK! campaign

During the Redskins-Panthers Week 6 matchup, the FedEx Field end zones ditched their usual gold trim for some pink instead. As it turns out, burgundy and pink go quite well together.

The reason for the change was to celebrate the Redskins Breast Cancer Awareness game as well as the 20th anniversary of Tanya Snyder's THINK-PINK! campaign.

Mrs. Snyder started the movement two decades ago by passing out 8,000 handmade pink ribbons at the team's stadium meant to remind people that early detection of breast cancer can make a major difference.

Now, her campaign has gone league-wide and is the reason you see so many players wearing pink in October, fans waving pink towels in the stands and other awareness-raising initiatives throughout the NFL.

"Very, very, very proud," Snyder said while handing out ribbons before the Washington-Carolina game. "We're not finished, but we are making a difference with early detection. So I'm beaming." 

For more information on Snyder and the NFL's breast cancer efforts, head to redskins.com/thinkpink. And for more details about the events held at FedEx Field during Week 6, check out the video above.

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Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

On Monday, for the first time since 2018-19 training camp began, the Wizards were complete.

Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, participated in his first full practice with his new team. The 32-year-old signed a free agent deal with the Wizards in July, but had yet to take the court due to the injury, which began bothering him shortly before camp began on Sept. 25.

Howard had a setback on Oct. 6 and saw a specialist in New York. He received a pain injection on Tuesday and on Saturday began shooting again.

After clearing that hurdle, he was ready to be a full-go with his new teammates.

"It felt pretty good. I really gotta catch my wind and learn some of the offense. But other than that, it felt pretty good," Howard said of Day 1.

Howard practicing on Monday gives him two more days to work with before the Wizards open their season on Thursday at home against the Miami Heat. Both he and head coach Scott Brooks say it's too early to tell if he will be available.

"We'll see how it feels. I will do everything I can to make myself available for all 82 games," Howard said.

Howard not only has to play himself into game shape, he has to develop chemistry and timing with his new teammates. He missed all five of their preseason games.

If Howard can play, that would certainly be a positive turn of events for the Wizards. As of the end of last week, it seemed highly unlikely he would be ready when the regular season began.

But Howard turned a corner and now appears to be coming along quicker than once expected. 

"It was probably our best practice of training camp," Brooks said Monday after finally getting Howard into the mix.

"He has a natural feel. His IQ was pretty high, I was impressed with that. He picked things up."

Howard signed a two-year contract worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

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