Nationals

No surprise here: Fox says Manning is his MVP

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No surprise here: Fox says Manning is his MVP

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Rarely one to talk publicly about the big picture or much beyond winning the next game, Denver coach John Fox weighed in on the interesting race for Most Valuable Player.

That race could come down to Peyton Manning of the Broncos vs. old rival Tom Brady of the Patriots and Adrian Peterson of the Vikings.

``Obviously, I'm going to be a little biased,'' Fox said Monday.

His vote, of course, would go to Manning, not so much for the numbers he's put up as for the obstacles he's overcome - namely, a season off, four neck surgeries and the task of becoming the Broncos quarterback after spending his entire career with the Colts.

``With all due respect for everyone involved, what's unique about Peyton ... he's done it in a new city with a new team at that position,'' Fox said. ``In my own personal opinion, that's what separates him from the field.''

Of course, getting the nod from the Broncos coach is one thing. The decision from the real voters won't be handed down until Super Bowl week.

The way things are going for the Broncos, Manning might be on hand to collect it personally if he wins.

Denver (12-3) is on a 10-game winning streak and positioned for a first-round bye in the playoffs and possibly even the top seed. Manning has 4,355 yards, 203 away from the second most in his 14 seasons. His 34 touchdowns are ranked second over a career in which he has already won a record four MVP awards.

In his postgame news conference after Denver's 34-12 win over Cleveland on Sunday, Manning said he hasn't thought about his chances of winning No. 5.

``It has been such a unique season for me personally, I really feel fortunate to be playing,'' he said. ``I really have had an interesting year and a half and so I'm proud our team is in the mix. Anything that comes along the way individually, in my past, I have accepted those on behalf of the teams I have been on. They're individual awards, but in my opinion they have always been team awards. That's kind of how I continue to approach things.''

Fox, who has been coaching for nearly 35 years and needs one more victory to reach 100 as an NFL head coach, said he still learns from Manning.

Manning has come to Denver and changed the culture in the locker room, essentially by demanding his teammates become students of the game off the field in addition to working as hard as he does on it.

``I see how hard he works,'' Fox said. ``He has it down to a science as far as time management in an NFL season. I saw him in the cool tub watching his iPad. Someone asked me if I was worried about the iPad. I said, no, I don't care about the iPad, I care about him. Don't want him to get electrocuted. But it's remarkable how hard he works.''

He said Manning also sets the tone by never taking his foot off the gas. During their winning streak, the Broncos have won by an average score of 31-17. They have taken double-digit leads in every game but one, and nobody has played them closer than seven points.

``We talk about that a lot, not coasting, pedal downhill,'' Fox said. ``I appreciate him. I think that's a big reason why he's accomplished what he's accomplished, whether it's here or in Indianapolis. He's a tremendous competitor, doesn't let up. I think that's how you need to be to be successful.''

Peterson is also coming off a major injury, a torn-up knee that knocked him out in December of last season, meaning he and Manning are also prime contenders for Comeback Player of the Year.

Brady, meanwhile, would be considered the third major candidate in the MVP voting.

In that case, voters would be choosing between:

-Peterson, a running back who made a remarkably fast comeback and, at present, has rushed for 1,898 yards and led a 3-13 team in 2011 to the verge of the playoffs in 2012.

-Brady, a quarterback who has more yards (4,543) but fewer touchdowns (32) than Manning and who also has a victory over Manning: New England's 31-21 win in October that marks the last time Denver lost.

-And, of course, Manning, who has engineered the league's longest winning streak and is turning a good team into a potentially great one.

Fox knows how he'd vote. But he said he's not in the business of lobbying.

``I was asked what I thought,'' he said, ``and I told you.''

Notes: Fox reported two injuries: KR Trindon Holliday (ankle) and CB Tracy Porter (concussion). ... Fox gave the Broncos a rare ``Victory Monday'' - the day off after a win. The team reports back to work Wednesday. ... With 65 yards receiving, WR Eric Decker joined Demaryius Thomas in the 1,000-yard club. The Broncos have their first 1,000-yard receiving duo since 2004. ... Denver moved up to fourth in overall offense and third in overall defense and, with a week left, remains the only team ranked in the top five in both categories.

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

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Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

Astros players plan to make a team statement on sign-stealing scandal during Spring Training

The Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal has rocked MLB and left a dark shadow over the league during offseason. Up until this point, despite a fired general manager and on-field manager, the players at the root of the scandal have remained silent on the subject and avoided questions from the media.

That will all change in Spring Training as the Astros players plan to make "a strong statement as a team," according to Astros' owner Jim Crane. 

"When we get down to Spring Training, we'll all get them together and they'll come out with a strong statement as a team and apologize for what happened and we'll move forward," Crane said in a media scrum.

Over the weekend the team held their annual winter FanFest where several players had to face the music as many players met with the media for the first time. Jose Altuve, who is one of the players who allegedly benefited from the sign-stealing, dodged the question as best he could. The Astros shortstop's comments coincide with Crane's, saying “I think the time to comment about that will come. It’s a little early for me to say something about it.” 

Outside of their FanFest event, there is little that has come out of the clubhouse. Their owner acknowledged the lack of communication from the players and said the players were advised to stay out of the conversation. 

"The players have been beaten up a little bit and they've been all spread out. They've just kinda getting [sic] advice to take it easy."

Already Spring Training in West Palm Beach is going to be awkward between the two teams that made the World Series last season. The Nationals, who won the World Series whether or not the Astros used their system to gain an advantage, have their facilities next door to Houston's.

And if the Astros sign former Nationals' manager Dusty Baker to the same position in wake of A.J. Hinch's firing, there will be even more tense situations at Spring Training this year. 

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Jay Gruden reportedly to join Jaguars as their offensive coordinator

Jay Gruden reportedly to join Jaguars as their offensive coordinator

Just four months shy of his last appearance on the NFL gridiron sidelines, Jay Gruden may already have his 2020 gig lined up, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.

Gruden was head coach of the Washington Redskins for six seasons, beginning in 2014 and going 35-49-1 in his burgundy and gold tenure. Gruden pushed the Redskins to their first postseason appearance since 2012 in his second year with the team, as well as back-to-back winning seasons in 2015 and 2016, not seen in Washington since 1996 and 1997. 

In March 2017, Gruden signed a two-year extension with the Redskins. He was fired after beginning the 2019 season 0-5. 

Recently, Gruden confirmed to Rapoport that he was "itching for something to do" and seeking employment before Jacksonville brought him in to interview for the OC role. 

After playing four years at the University of Louisville and and eight more in various football leagues, Gruden held many offensive roles, offensive coordinator for the Florida Tuskers and Cincinnati Bengals. 

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