Nationals

NFL-bound Oday Aboushi helps Staten Islanders

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NFL-bound Oday Aboushi helps Staten Islanders

NEW YORK (AP) Miles from home, Oday Aboushi watched all the news reports and felt helpless as Superstorm Sandy tore through the neighborhoods in which he grew up.

The offensive lineman from the University of Virginia, a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft, knew what was happening: homes of friends destroyed, parts of Staten Island where he once hung out under water.

And Aboushi, all 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds of him, couldn't do a thing about it.

``Yeah, it was a little tough hearing about all the damage being done and having your family on the island, as well, close to the water,'' he said Saturday. ``We were blessed to have nothing happen to us, my family. But just to hear about what was happening and seeing pictures of what was going on here was so nervewracking.''

Done with his studies - officially a UVA graduate as of this week - and looking toward an NFL career, Aboushi needed to take care of things back home.

He trained for a week at Athletes Performance, a pre-draft camp, in Pensacola, Fla. Aboushi then returned to Staten Island and the Midland Beach neighborhood, one of the harder-hit areas along the east coast of the New York borough, to lend a hand to nearly 1,000 residents in need of food, clothing and supplies.

``On the way here, I drove past New Dorp Lane and Midland Beach and to see how the houses look now, which I know wouldn't even compare to how they looked the day after the storm, it's definitely an eye-opener,'' he said. ``It makes you feel blessed and privileged to be in a position where you can actually give back and help people.''

Aboushi was joined by his family in giving out donated items at the Olympia Activity Center, a modest building usually used for parties, banquets, meetings and sports events. On Saturday, it was a makeshift safe haven for families still without heat, homes or food. Across the street, the ruined innards of some homes sat in large metal dumpsters. Other houses still had their windows ominously taped - just as they were before the storm hit on Oct. 29.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the center, which had a banner draped across the entrance: ``Occupy Sandy Relief.'' Inside was a room filled with canned goods, dry food and mounds of warm clothes, including 100 Reebok winter coats donated by Jets linebacker David Harris. Mark Rosen of Sabrett Hot Dogs had nearly a half-dozen vending carts set up outside to cook thousands of free frankfurters for anyone who came by.

Aboushi, wearing an orange Virginia Cavaliers hoodie, also spent time signing autographs for fans proud of the local kid who came back to help.

``It brings you back to earth where you think to yourself, `I could be that person or that could be my family,''' Aboushi said. ``So I know if I was in that position, I know people would be trying to help me, too.''

Aboushi grew up in Tottenville at the southern tip of Staten Island and went to Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, right over the Verrazano Bridge. In the days following the storm, Aboushi read on Facebook and Twitter about how some former high school classmates had been hit hard, guys with whom he spent time in class and on the football field.

``I knew there was something I needed to do about it to try to help,'' he said. ``People are cleaning up and getting better every day, so I didn't want to wait until it was too late to help. And I wanted to do it before I even got to the NFL.''

That time is coming soon. Aboushi is expected to be picked in the first round or early in the second, at left or right tackle. He is athletic and agile. He was a first-team all-ACC selection this season and was an early roster selection to the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala.

Aboushi will remain in Staten Island through the holidays and then return to Florida to train for the Senior Bowl.

``I'm going to enjoy my family and enjoy my city over the next week,'' he said with a big smile. ``I'm not going to see a lot of people for a long time with all the training, so it'll be nice to hang out with everyone.''

After the Senior Bowl, Aboushi will prepare for the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February and try to impress scouts. Then he'll find out what his future holds with the April draft.

``It's encouraging to see those projections and have people noticing you, knowing that your hard work is paying off,'' Aboushi said. ``Growing up, when I picked Virginia, I had this in my head from Day 1. This has always been part of the plan. So to see it come together, there's nothing better.''

Moments after saying that, some of the first groups waiting outside were let into the center. Aboushi was there to greet them.

``This was the next big thing on my calendar,'' he said. ``I was prepping myself for it and busy getting everybody on board with it. I was anxious about it, but the day for me to help is finally here.''

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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