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Packers face challenge in stopping Peterson

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Packers face challenge in stopping Peterson

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams respects and admires Adrian Peterson.

However, he doesn't want to see the Minnesota Vikings running back break the NFL's single-season rushing record against his team on Sunday.

``If anybody deserves to get the record, it's definitely (Peterson), no doubt about it. But unfortunately, they're playing us,'' Williams said. ``We want to put our best foot forward. It's going to be a tough task; we know that already. But if history is on our side, A.P. had his good game against us already. Hopefully, we can come back and get our good game against him.

``If it happens, we've shown already that he can run for 200 and still win. But we want to play our best ball, we want to control all we can control, and the way the guys are playing, we think that we can put a better performance than we did the first game.''

Peterson rushed for 210 yards on 21 carries in the Packers' first game against the Vikings, on Dec. 2 at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won the game 23-14.

Now, Peterson enters the regular-season finale with 1,898 yards, needing 208 yards to break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, set in 1984.

The Vikings (9-6) have a simple playoff scenario against the Packers: Win, and they're in.

If the Vikings lose, they'll need a loss by the Chicago Bears to the Detroit Lions, a loss by the New York Giants to the Philadelphia Eagles and a loss by the Dallas Cowboys to the Washington Redskins to get into the playoffs at 9-7.

Meanwhile, the Packers (11-4) can clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC and earn a first-round playoff bye with a victory over the Vikings.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier made it clear Wednesday that getting Peterson the record is not as important as winning the game - and thereby clinching the sixth and final NFC playoff berth.

``We're going to have to call a regular game and if the record comes in the midst of us getting a win, that would be great,'' Frazier said. ``Adrian will be the first to tell you that the most important thing for our team is to win. If we don't get the record and we win, he's going to be a happy dude, no matter what. He wants to win the game, and that's how we're approaching it. We've got to find a way to win the game.''

Peterson rushed for just 86 yards against the Houston Texans last Sunday in the Vikings' 23-6 victory, as the Texans put eight defenders in the box on most plays in an effort to keep Peterson in check.

Peterson's final carry came with 6:46 left in the game, and a strained abdominal muscle kept him from practicing Wednesday.

``I don't think anyone really shuts him down. He's amazing,'' Packers inside linebacker A.J. Hawk said. ``But it's going to be awesome. What a great challenge coming down to the last game. They have to win to get in (to the playoffs); we're looking to get better position in the playoffs. That's a lot riding on the 16th game of the season, so that's exciting. That'll be fun to be a part of that one.''

Meanwhile, Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings created a bit of a stir last week when he said that he wanted to see Peterson get the record.

Asked if he wanted to revise his remarks about Peterson and the record, Jennings said no.

``It's one of those situations where he's playing against us in the last game of the season, so if he were to get it, it would have to be against us,'' Jennings said.

``That's the thing. You have to learn to appreciate what you have out there. I mean, who knows if that will ever happen? Just like with (Lions wide receiver) Calvin (Johnson) breaking Jerry

Rice's record. I (wanted) him to do it. That's just the way it is. Records are meant to be broken, whether it's against you or someone else.''

But Jennings apparently is alone in his position.

``I hope he doesn't break it against us,'' wide receiver James Jones said. ``Great season he's had. To be even close to the 2,000-yard mark is unbelievable. But hopefully he doesn't break it against us because we've got to stop him and win the ballgame.''

Added outside linebacker Dezman Moses: ``We've got a lot of pride. We're men, too. We don't want anybody to (set) a record. We understand what's at stake, and we definitely want to be the team to stop him. That's a big task, but something we're up for.''

NOTES: Three Packers were chosen for the NFC Pro Bowl roster: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who could start for the NFC; outside linebacker Clay Matthews; and veteran center Jeff Saturday. Saturday was benched last week in favor of backup Evan Dietrich-Smith. ... Kick returner Randall Cobb and right guard Josh Sitton were selected first alternates. ... Wide receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring) returned to practice and expects to play Sunday. ... Kicker Mason Crosby was sent home with the flu. . Sitton did not practice because of a concussion, but coach Mike McCarthy was hopeful he'd be cleared on Thursday.

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft charged with soliciting prostitution

JUPITER, Fla. -- Police in Florida have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, saying they have videotape of him paying for a sex act inside an illicit massage parlor.

Jupiter police told reporters Friday that the 77-year-old Kraft hasn't been arrested. A warrant will be issued and his attorneys will be notified.

The charge comes amid a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking in the area surrounding Palm Beach County. About 200 arrest warrants have been issued in recent days and more are expected.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl earlier this month in Atlanta. The team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Update: A spokesperson for Robert Kraft issued a statement, denying Craft's involvement. "We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity," a spokesperson said, via Michael Del Moro. "Because this is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further. 

This is a developing story. Visit NBC Sports Boston for the latest Robert Kraft news and updates. 

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Radio silence from Bryce Harper hasn't quieted Mark Lerner's confidence in Nationals

Radio silence from Bryce Harper hasn't quieted Mark Lerner's confidence in Nationals

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Fans on the sidewalks at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches are held back by wire fence, just a few feet away from players clicking past in spikes on concrete. It emulates two priorities: access and the idea the team’s managing principal owner, Mark Lerner, had when he was a kid at spring training.

“You want to be able to see your favorites,” Lerner said Friday.

When Lerner, 65, comes to West Palm Beach, he still does that. He stops in the clubhouse to distribute handshakes and hugs. Running into Anthony Rendon on a crosswalk near the fields really lit up Lerner, who is still using a cane following an amputation of his lower left leg in 2017 necessitated by the diagnosis of spindle cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

Not in West Palm Beach is a player Lerner had a close relationship with. On the day Manny Machado was introduced in San Diego, Bryce Harper remained, to the astonishment of many, unemployed. 

Lerner last addressed Harper’s free agency when he sat for radio interviews, Dec. 10, the day Patrick Corbin was introduced. He said the Nationals were no longer in the mix for Harper. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract which had an expiration date: when free agency began, it would be retracted. Harper declined, vaulting the baseball world into a months-long saga filled with tension, misinformation and growing exasperation.

“Nothing’s certainly changed on our end; we’ve moved on, as I said back then,” Lerner told NBC Sports Washington. “We had to. There was no way we could wait around. Bryce I’m sure will make his decision, hopefully in the next few days. But, we filled out our roster and like I said, we wish him nothing but the best. There’s always that -- the door’s cracked a little bit. I have no clue at this point what they’re up to. I mean, we really haven’t heard from them in a couple months.”

The prospect of a wait was of prime concern before the season ended. Washington used its personal window to negotiate with Harper, producing a lucrative baseline offer, with the aforementioned end date. Not long after, Corbin received a six-year, $140 million from the organization, which stood throughout the offseason as the benchmark in both length and total value prior to Machado’s decision. If Harper accepted the Nationals original offer, they would not have been able to pay Corbin, according to a source.

The organization moved forward plugging holes at catcher, second base and in the bullpen. It deemed the current outfield foursome as more than satisfactory. Also looming was the possibility of another year over the competitive balance tax, something that prompted the team to start shuffling finances late last season when it was clear the playoffs were not an option.

“It’s a pretty severe penalty if you go over and it’s been our goal all year to stay under that,” Lerner said.

Which complicates the future. Anthony Rendon is entering the final year of his contract. Rendon and the team are open to an extension, which has been discussed here and there for 18 months. Rendon reiterated his position when speaking with reporters earlier this week. Lerner turned his visual affection for Rendon into words Friday. 

“We love Tony to death,” Lerner said. “He’s certainly one of the greatest players in the game today. He’s an even finer person. His activities with the youth baseball academy back in D.C. are phenomenal. He does it under the radar. It’s very important to him. Just a great example of the way a professional athlete should conduct himself. Like I said, he’s one of my favorites for a reason.”

Washington rose perennial losers upon coming to Washington to an organization with annual prominent expectations. It chose not to retain manager Dusty Baker, instead hiring Dave Martinez in an attempt to push the team beyond the first round. Martinez’s arrival came with the edict that something more than division titles and first-round bow outs were now necessary for the team. The Nationals finished 82-80 last year during a season filled with injuries, under-performance and often mediocre fundamental baseball. Lerner suffered through with the irritation of a typical fan.

“I have my routine [following losses]. I go into a closet and scream a little after,” Lerner said with a laugh. “No, no. That’s one thing that’s good about baseball. You’re going to play the next day. But I go home. I’m totally depressed. I won’t turn on the sports news or anything and get up the next morning, it’s a new day, get up and go after it again today. When I’m sitting down there, I’m very passionate as a fan. I’m yelling at the umpires like everybody else. I want to win. I hate losing exhibition games let alone regular-season games.”

Enter 2019. The Nationals are amid the favorites in a taught National League East. Short-term fixes frame the team’s mainstays. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Corbin possess the three long-term commitments in the clubhouse. Rendon may be next. The Nationals want to retain that talent level, avoid the tax and put together a team with a chance to win the division or more. Harper’s talent made that possible when here. His price made it difficult going forward. They decided to try it without him. 

“Our goal every year is certainly to make the playoffs,” Lerner said. “In reality, we look back where we are in the world and where our needs are. It’s not just…certainly, we don’t want to go crazy with free agency. But we said when we first got the team, we’re going to build up the minor leagues, we’re going to get to a point where we can start to dabble in free agency, which we did with Jayson Werth, and when we find a need or a special player, we’re going to go after that player if it makes monetary sense for us. Our philosophy has never changed but, certainly, our goal is to make the playoffs and hopefully deep into the playoffs.”
 

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