Capitals

Notre Dame players focusing on themselves for now

Notre Dame players focusing on themselves for now

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has bigger things to worry about right now than defending national champion Alabama.

With the national championship game between top-ranked Fighting Irish (12-0) and the Crimson Tide (12-1) more than a month away, Kelly's main concern is making sure his will be ready to play after 44 days without a game.

``We're just trying to be better than Alabama on Monday, Jan. 7,'' Kelly said. ``So our entire focus will be on a one-game season, trying to be better on Monday, Jan. 7. So you can understand, we don't want to be better than Alabama on the 27th of December.''

Alabama has already shown it knows how to be ready after long layoffs, winning the BCS title game in 2009 and again last season. Kelly said he talked to coaches at LSU, Oregon to get advice on how best prepare for a long layoff and they reinforced his plan of starting off slow with fundamentals.

Last week and this week, Irish players have been focusing on conditioning, weightlifting and school work. It's a chance for players who may have lost a few pounds to get back up to weight and gain strength, he said. Notre Dame will hold its first practices on Friday and Saturday, then hold six more practices before players head home on Dec. 21. They'll return to campus for practices Dec. 28-31, and then leave for Miami on Jan. 2. They will practice three times in Florida before the game.

The early practices will have a preseason camp feel stressing fundamentals and giving younger players more work, then begin to fine tune the practices for Alabama as the game draws nearer, Kelly said.

The time away from the field will help some players. Kelly mentioned linebacker Manti Te'o specifically as someone who needs a little time to recover with all the attention he's been under as he begins traveling the nation for all the awards he's up for. He won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker on Monday and was named one of the Heisman Trophy finalists, too.

``He's burned out. There's no question. He's on fumes,'' Kelly said.

Irish players said they're trying to make the most of their time away from the field.

``We're not taking this period off. We're not taking a break. We're going to get after it. We're going to let our bodies heal, give it the proper amount of time, but we're still going to be doing some stuff to make sure we're going to be on our A-game,'' safety Zeke Motta said.

Running back Theo Riddick said the Irish are still working.

``You basically have to watch more film, do all the little things that got you here. You can't really relax,'' he said.

Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said he's not worried about the long break.

``I don't care if we have to prepare for two months. We're playing for all the marbles. I think we're going to do a good job with this preparation,'' he said.

The Irish also have some distractions to worry about as some players weigh whether to come back for fifth-years, others put in paperwork to the NFL to get an idea about where they might be drafted and some coaches could be considered for openings. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has been mentioned as a candidate for several jobs.

``That's a good thing, all three of those things,'' Kelly said. ``That means good things are happening in your program. Those are the kinds of problems I want to have to deal with on a day-to-day basis because that means that you're developing your program in a manner that is putting you in a position to compete for championships.''

Kelly expects everyone to be ready to play against the Crimson Tide. Nose guard Louis Nix is recovering from a wrist injury and tackle Zack Martin is recovering from an ankle injury. Receiver DaVaris Daniels, who sustained a broken left clavicle against Boston College, also is expected to be back.

Kelly said his goal during the six weeks between games - two days longer than the time between the sixth game of the season against Stanford and the final game of the regular season against Southern California - is for the Irish to heal, improve and be ready Jan. 7.

``It's a one-game deal,'' he said.

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Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

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It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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