Nationals

New tragedy rocks NFL's regularly scheduled world

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New tragedy rocks NFL's regularly scheduled world

The games go on.

For the second straight weekend, tragedy rocked the regularly scheduled world of the NFL. It left families, friends, teammates and coaching staffs grieving over yet another senseless loss of life. It also left the league facing questions not only about efforts to safeguard players on the field but whether it's doing enough to help them stay out of harm's way once they step outside the white lines.

In the early-morning hours Saturday in Irving, Texas, 24-year-old Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent got behind the wheel of his Mercedes alongside teammate Jerry Brown and sped off, the prelude to a one-car accident that would leave Brown dead at 25 and Brent sitting in jail facing a felony charge of intoxicated manslaughter.

All this happened little more than three years after Brent was sentenced to probation and 60 days in jail in a plea agreement following his drunken driving arrest while playing football at the University of Illinois, where he and Brown were teammates as well.

That it happened just a week after Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend to death, then drove to the Chiefs' training facility and took his own life with the same gun, raised questions about the league's responsibility to the young men it empowers and enriches - in some cases, almost overnight.

``I don't know that anybody has the answer, to be honest. They're human beings, kids in most of the cases like this, and they're going to make mistakes,'' said Dan Reeves, who played seven years for the Cowboys before launching an NFL coaching career that included four stops over four decades.

``As a coach, you've got more than 50 players, if you count practice squad guys, that you're trying to keep an eye on. And both the league and the team invest an awful lot of time and money trying to educate them about the opportunities and pitfalls that are set out in front of them. ...

``But no matter what you do, some are going to believe the bad stuff will never happen to them. And teams spend so much time together, they become like families. It's easy to get lulled into thinking you know which ones need a pat on the back and which ones a kick in the behind. Yet this shows we don't always learn the real strengths and weaknesses of some until it's too late. Everybody deals with that knowledge in their own way.

``But if you're going to play,'' Reeves said finally. ``I don't know any other way to honor that person than to play as hard as you can.''

The emotional scene that roiled Kansas City in the wake of Belcher's murder-suicide a week earlier shifted to Cincinnati, where the Cowboys arrived Saturday night to complete preparations before Sunday's kickoff against the Bengals.

The team cut short its regular two-hour meeting and made sure counselors were on hand to speak to players afterward. But when owner Jerry Jones spoke with a Fox interviewer outside the locker room shortly before the game, his eyes were rimmed red and he spoke haltingly about Brown.

``Our team loved him. They certainly are conscious of him and want his family to know and have as much of them as they can give. At the same time,'' he added, ``they know that one of the best things they can do for him and his memory is to come to the game today, is go out and play well.''

How the NFL responds to this latest tragedy remains to be seen. Earlier this summer, cognizant of both the rising number of domestic violence and DUI incidents involving players, Commissioner Roger Goodell pledged to address both problems.

``We are going to do some things to combat this problem because some of the numbers on DUIs and domestic violence are going up and that disturbs me,'' he told CBS Sports. ``When there's a pattern of mistakes, something has got to change.''

In several important ways, player conduct has already improved significantly since Goodell took over from Paul Tagliabue.

In 2006, Goodell's first season, 68 players were arrested for crimes more severe than a traffic violation. Since then, arrests for crimes including domestic violence, drunken driving and gun possession are down 40 percent.

Yet, as Goodell noted, the number of incidents in the last year have climbed at an alarming rate - according to one study, 21 of the league's 32 teams had at least one player charged with domestic violence or sexual assault - and the tragedies involving players on successive weekends has already prompted accusations that the league isn't doing nearly enough.

On Saturday in Kansas City, a dozen members of the Chiefs' organization attended a memorial service for Kasandra Perkins. Among them was general manager Scott Pioli, whom Belcher spoke with in the parking lot of the Chiefs facility to thank before turning the gun on himself. A day later, just as the Chiefs did against the Panthers last Sunday, the Cowboys rallied to win their game against the Bengals.

The team has already canceled its annual Christmas party, scheduled for Monday at Cowboys Stadium, and instead began planning a memorial service for Brown.

``From here on, they're in uncharted waters,'' Reeves said. ``No one can point the best way forward. I was lucky in that sense: We never had to deal with the nightmare of losing a friend and teammate. One thing I'm certain of, though - it's going to haunt some of them for a long time to come.''

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3 things to watch when the .500 Nationals head to Colorado

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3 things to watch when the .500 Nationals head to Colorado

The Nationals face the Rockies at Coors Field for the first half of this work week. Here are three things to watch for:

  1. Can the Nationals stay above .500? Stephen Strasburg’s impressive start along with Ryan Zimmerman’s two homers and two RBI kept Washington from being swept by the lowly Marlins.

  2. Who will produce with Anthony Rendon out? While the Nats 3B was sidelined with an elbow injury after being hit by a pitch in Saturday’s outing against the Marlins, Howie Kendrick started in his place. Kendrick went 1-for-3 vs Miami with one RBI and one strikeout. In terms of replacing Rendon’s hitting prowess, Victor Robles has started a streak of his own. The youngster is hot on a seven game hit streak, including a bunt over the infield Sunday.

  3. Will the Nationals ever sure up their end game? Yesterday’s ninth inning was on the brink of disaster. Kyle Barraclough allowed back-to-back walks, then Sean Doolittle loaded the bases. Luckily for the Nats, crisis averted.

Download the MyTeams app (https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/myteams-nbc-sports ) for even more Nationals content, and check out the latest episode of the Racing Presidents podcast below.

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Blues eliminate Jets, Stars and Capitals pull ahead 3-2

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Blues eliminate Jets, Stars and Capitals pull ahead 3-2

Friday saw the Toronto Maple Leafs pull ahead 3-2 and the Colorado Avalanche eliminate the favored Calgary Flames. Saturday provided another elimination game and two teams pulled ahead 3-2 in their series.

Here are the results from Saturday.

St. Louis Blues eliminate Winnipeg Jets with 3-2 win

The Blues return to the second round of the playoffs after they were eliminated in the first round last season.

The Blues rally started 23 seconds into the game, when Jaden Schwartz put home a Brayden Schenn rebound.

Schwartz followed with two more goals, completing the hat trick. It's the second natural hat trick in a playoff series clinching game since Geoff Courtnall in 1992.

The Blues await the winner of the Nashville-Dallas series.

Dallas Stars pull ahead of Nashville Predators in 5-3 victory

The Stars were able to steal one from the Predators at Bridgestone Arena thanks to Jason Dickinson and Alexander Radulov's two goal performances.

Tyler Seguin added a goal of his own to pull the Stars ahead 4-2 at the end of the second period, and Ben Bishop recorded 30 saves.

The Stars have a chance to close the series at home Monday night.

Washington Capitals take upperhand on Carolina Hurricanes with 6-0 shutout

After dropping Game 4 in Carolina 2-1, the Caps exploded for six goals against the Hurricanes in a 6-0 win.

Nicklas Backstrom scored the opening two goals. He leads the Capitals in playoff goals with five and had a four point night.

The Caps also got production from their bottom six with Brett Connolly's goal and Nic Dowd's converted penalty shot. It's the first penalty shot a Caps player has successfully made in the playoffs.

Braden Holtby's shutout gave him seven in the playoffs, surpassing Olaf Kolzig's six for the franchise lead. The Caps have a chance to win the series in Carolina Monday night.

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