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NFL hopes to deter players from faking injuries

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NFL hopes to deter players from faking injuries

When Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders suddenly dropped to the turf late in the fourth quarter, was helped to the sideline, returned after missing one play, then managed to be the first player down the field on punt coverage, announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth let NBC's audience know their feelings.

``Man,'' Michaels said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, ``I'm sure glad Sanders is OK.''

In a similar tone, Collinsworth chimed in: ``It's a miracle.''

Both chuckled. More guffaws and hearty mocking of Sanders came from ESPN's talking heads on a ``C'mon Man!'' segment a couple of days later.

Safe to say the NFL doesn't consider this a laughing matter: The league told Sanders it wants to chat about what happened in that Sunday night game against the Cincinnati Bengals. When a reporter asked Sanders this week whether he really had a cramp against the Bengals, he didn't answer directly, saying: ``We're going to speak on it when we get to New York.''

At least one of the Bengals, safety Chris Crocker, was hardly bothered by the tactic.

```If you're not cheating, you're not trying,' I guess, is the old saying,'' Crocker said. ``So if you can slow the game down, why not?''

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn't really want to touch the topic, other than to say he thinks ``it's generally a rare occasion.''

All 32 teams' general managers and head coaches were sent a memo back in September by Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, reminding them, ``The Competition Committee deprecates feigning injuries, with subsequent withdrawal, to obtain a timeout without penalty. Coaches are urged to cooperate in discouraging this practice.''

The league could fine coaches, players or clubs - or it could decide to take away draft picks. No one has been punished yet for faking an injury.

According to the memo, the ``Competition Committee has reviewed this issue several times, but has been reluctant to propose a specific rule, since assessing a charged timeout for every injury timeout would deprive a team of timeouts for strategic purposes. It also could encourage injured players to remain in the game at risk to themselves to avoid incurring a charged team timeout.''

It's a football strategy that's been around for years, in college and the pros: A player fakes an injury, stopping the clock - maybe it saves a timeout; maybe it slows an opponent's no-huddle offense.

As a receiver with the Bengals in the 1980s, Collinsworth grew accustomed to seeing opposing defenses have players pretend to be hurt.

``It would almost get to where you would laugh about it. It was ridiculous,'' he said in a telephone interview. ``Everybody on the field - including the referees - knew what they were doing.''

There have been other such episodes this fall, including when Washington Redskins defensive lineman Kedric Golston mysteriously went down on a play against a no-huddle offense, then came back in the game. In college, Wyoming coach Dave Christensen chewed out Air Force coach Troy Calhoun - earning a suspension and fine - after the Falcons' backup quarterback came in and ran for the winning score in place of a starter who went down on the field, saving a timeout.

Similar situations arise every so often. Last season, for example, the St. Louis Rams thought a New York Giants player faked an injury to slow down their offense. In college, after California limited high-octane Oregon to 15 points in 2010, Cal defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi was suspended for a game after acknowledging he instructed a player to fake an injury.

There doesn't really appear a way to prevent it.

``Referees certainly don't want that burden of having to determine who's healthy and who's not. They're having a hard enough time with the concussion issue right now. And really, on almost any play, when you get right down to it, you could lie on the ground and say you have a concussion, and who the heck is going to say anything to that? So as long as teams are willing to do it, there's nothing really that I know of that can stop them,'' Collinsworth said.

``The only way you're ever going to get around it is in cases that appear to be fairly obvious,'' he said. ``You fine the teams an escalating amount of money and find out just how valuable those timeouts really are. You get a $100,000 fine for faking an injury, you're probably not going to take any more of those fake timeouts.''

Whether or not Sanders really was dealing with debilitating cramps, he caught the league's attention.

``It was fairly obvious what was going on,'' Collinsworth said. ``Every team has a signal: `Time to fake an injury.' And why not?''

The AP spoke to a handful of players around the league who said their team doesn't have such a signal - but players also indicated they didn't think that sort of formal instruction was necessary.

``Some guys are smart and just know when to do it,'' Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said.

``Everybody does it,'' Alexander added, ``so it's not like, `Aw, they're cheating.'''

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AP Sports Writers Will Graves, Joe Kay and Joseph White, AP National Writer Eddie Pells and AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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The Caps showed flashes of their mentality with shorthanded win in Colorado

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The Caps showed flashes of their mentality with shorthanded win in Colorado

On November 16, 2017, the Washington Capitals were handed a brutal 6-2 loss in Denver at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche. It was the second blowout loss the team had suffered in as many games and dropped the Caps’ record to 10-9-1. That moment would be the low point of the season.

A year to the day, the Caps returned to Denver. They were given every reason to quit Friday and repeat last year’s disastrous result and yet, the Caps rallied for a 3-2 overtime win to improve their record to 9-7-3.

Coming off a loss Wednesday in Winnipeg, Washington found out earlier on Friday that the team would be without both T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov who had both suffered injuries against the Jets. In net, Braden Holtby was out as well meaning the Caps would have to turn to backup goalie Pheonix Copley for his third start in as many games. Backing him up would be Ilya Samsonov, a highly touted prospect but a player without a single minute of NHL experience.

And, just in case that all did not seem daunting enough, the Caps also spotted the Avalanche a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds into the game.

One year ago, the Caps gave up the first goal of that game just 17 seconds in. When Colorado scored early again, it felt like Friday’s game was going to end up being just like that blowout loss from a year ago.

But it didn’t.

“We were shorthanded, everyone stepped up,” Tom Wilson said. “We talked about guys stepping up before the game and we got it done.”

The Capitals battled back and took control of the game in the first and second periods, tallying two goals to take a 2-1 lead. A late goal by Colorado would tie the game, but Todd Reirden reminded his players of what happened in Montreal – a game in which the Caps gave up three goals in the final four minutes of the game to lose 6-4 – and challenged them not to let that happen again. The team responded.

With all the momentum on the side of the Avalanche, Devante Smith-Pelly drew a holding penalty with less than two minutes remaining and Nicklas Backstrom would score on the resulting power play in overtime.

“When you have a lot of guys hurt, it was nice to see that we really got together, played a good defensive game, everyone was on the same page and blocking shots and doing all the little things right,” Backstrom said.

The game was reminiscent of the Game 6 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last season. With one win separating them from advancing to the conference final, Washington had to somehow find a way to beat their biggest rival in Pittsburgh and they had to do it with no Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky or Tom Wilson. When their backs were against the wall, the Caps responded and managed to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champions 2-1 in overtime.

“It was important for guys to step up in different situations with obviously very key guys out, but we did it in the playoffs,” Smith-Pelly said. “We had key guys out at times. I guess this group is used to guys coming in and out and stepping up.”

The Caps returned most of their Stanley Cup winning roster for the 2018-19 season and fans have been waiting for this year’s team to start playing like last year’s again. A record of 8-7-3 heading into Friday’s game was hardly what people expected from this team early on.

But the win in Colorado was one of the team’s most impressive wins of the season, and perhaps the closest Washington has come since the 7-0 win in the opener to looking like that championship squad. Not because they looked dominant – they didn’t – but because when their backs were against the wall, you saw what this team was really made of mentally. Every time they were challenged in the playoffs – whether it was going down 2-0 to Columbus, playing the unbeatable Penguins, facing elimination against Tampa Bay or facing the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights – the Caps responded.

On Friday, Washington was challenged and again, and the Caps responded.

Last year’s game in Colorado proved to be a turning point. The team was at a cross-roads. They could check out and watch the inevitable coaching and roster shakeup happen, or they could rally to save the season. The Caps made a choice and the rest is history.

Maybe Friday’s game will mean nothing in the greater context of the 82-game season, or maybe this game will again prove to be a turning point. Maybe in the spring we will again circle Nov. 16 and remember it as the game in which the defending champs put the rest of the league on notice that they’re still here, they’re still the champs and they’re not going down without a fight.

“Every time we have injuries, it’s going to happen and it’s going to get other guys to get that opportunity,” Backstrom said. "I thought we played pretty good today, we didn’t give them a whole lot. That was a nice win, we needed that.”

UVA vs. Georgia Tech How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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UVA vs. Georgia Tech How to Watch: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Virginia Cavaliers football team is coming off a 21-pt victory last week and has won four of their last five games, yet is an underdog on the road against Georgia Tech.

UVA, at 4-2 (7-3 overall), is trying to stay alive in the ACC Coastal, led by the Pitt Panthers entering Saturday's action. Georgia Tech is also coming into the game on a hot streak, having won five of its last six matchups.

The Yellow Jackets are two games behind Pitt in the loss column, sitting at 4-3 in ACC play, and will finish up their regular season next week at 5th-ranked Georgia. UVA will wrap up on the road as well, facing in-state rival Virginia Tech.

Georgia Tech is favored over UVA by 4.5 points. Here's how to watch.

UVA CAVALIERS vs. GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS: HOW TO WATCH

What: University of Virginia Cavaliers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium at Grant Field, located in Atlanta, GA.

When: Saturday, November 17 at 3:30 p.m. EST

TV Channel: The Virginia Cavaliers vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)