Capitals

Packers-Titans family affair for Matthews' brood

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Packers-Titans family affair for Matthews' brood

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Bruce Matthews watches Green Bay film first as an uncle. Then he hits replay and studies the defense in his role as Tennessee's offensive line coach.

Each time, he's watching the same Packers linebacker.

``He's a great player,'' Bruce said of his nephew, Clay Matthews. ``It isn't like he's just some guy out there. He definitely is the guy who makes things happen on their defense, and he's a guy we really have to make a pointed effort to account for him, which we're doing.''

The Packers linebacker is just the best-known member of the third generation carrying on the Matthews' NFL tradition, and this is the latest family football showdown. Bruce, a Hall of Fame lineman, spent 19 years with the Houston-Tennessee franchise and played against brother Clay, a 19-year linebacker with Cleveland and Atlanta, 23 times.

Clay Matthews Sr. got it all started with his four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950s.

For Clay III, he said Thursday that his family's NFL success added to his motivation. He went from a walk-on at Southern California to being drafted in the first round - just like his father and uncle - by Green Bay 2009.

``Obviously, growing up in a football family where - you're right, not only my father played but my uncle and grandfather, played, that's what I wanted to do,'' the Packers linebacker said. ``Fortunately I was healthy enough and blessed to fall into the situation I'm in right now, but they were absolutely instrumental role models in getting me where I'm at today.''

Titans coach Mike Munchak had a close view of the Matthews' brothers' rivalry in the old AFC Central as a teammate of Bruce's for years. Munchak said it's exciting for his offensive line coach to watch film knowing his job is to stop his nephew from having a good day.

So no pressure there.

``Hopefully, he'll reach out to him during the week and tell him we have all types of plans for him to kind of discourage him a little bit, maybe slow him down,'' Munchak said. ``It's a great challenge.''

Clay Matthews has 11 sacks so far this season for the Packers, so watching him play is a bit different from what Bruce Matthews saw when he studied his brother during the 1980s and 1990s. Even so, he says his nephew reminds him very much of his brother, a four-time Pro Bowler.

``He can cover. He can play against the run, and obviously he can rush the passer,'' the Titans' assistant said. ``It's just a matter of what they're asking him to do as to some point in the game he does all three, and obviously, he isn't a one-dimensional guy. He plays with passion, so it's fun to watch guys like that, especially when you count him as a family member.''

This game was set to be even more of a family affair until Bruce's son, Kevin, sprained his right ankle Monday night against the Jets. He had started two straight games at center, but now may wind up on injured reserve if the Titans need an extra healthy player.

Kevin said he had been waiting for this game for both the chance to play at Lambeau Field and against his cousin. They text often, and Kevin said Clay had asked him to give up some plays to help him against the Titans.

``I told him he doesn't need any help from us,'' Kevin said. ``He's doing a good job this year.''

This could be a preview of coming attractions. Clay's brother, Casey, is a linebacker with the Eagles, while Bruce's son, Jake, is a junior offensive lineman at Texas A&M and considered a top draft candidate.

For now, the focus is on Sunday and family bragging rights with the Titans (5-9) already are eliminated from playoff contention and the Packers (10-4) honing their game for the postseason. With the Titans in the AFC and the Packers in the NFC, these teams hadn't played in the regular season since 2008.

``It's one of those things you think about, but you never think it's going to come to fruition ...'' Clay said. ``It'll be something to look back on and talk about. But it'll be more interesting when Sunday rolls around to see what he's going to do.''

He will line up opposite Titans left tackle Michael Roos, the lone starter left on a patched-up offensive line. How much help Roos gets from his position coach against Clay remains to be seen. Uncle Bruce is giving nothing away before kickoff.

``I don't know that we all anticipated the kind of success and kind of rock star quality he has right now, but it's really fun to watch and I'm very proud of him. But like I've always said, I love to see him do well, just not this week.''

NOTES: The Titans practiced indoors Thursday due to a soggy field. Winds gusting to 40 mph kept the bubble over the field swaying, and Munchak said his key was just not looking up. ... Rookie WR Kendall Wright (ribs) did not practice, though WR Damian Williams (hamstring) practiced fully. LB Colin McCarthy (concussion) also practiced fully.

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AP National Writer Nancy Armour contributed to this report from Green Bay, Wis.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.teresamwalker

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Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Brooks Orpik's time in Washington may not be over after all

Friday's trade with the Colorado Avalanche seemed to mark the end of Brooks Orpik's time with the Washington Capitals. But that may not actually be the case.

Trading away Orpik also meant trading away his $5.5 million cap hit. That is not an insignificant amount of money especially for a team trying to re-sign defenseman John Carlson to a big-money contract.

But Orpik will not be playing out the final year of his contract in Colorado. The Avalanche placed Orpik on unconditional waivers Saturday for the purpose of a buyout, according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston.

CapFriendly has the details of the buyout. The Avalanche will pay Orpik $3 million and take a cap hit of $2.5 million in the 2018-19 season and $1.5 million in the 2019-20 season.

So why would Colorado agree to take Orpik just to buy him out and take on dead cap space? Because by acquiring him, it lowered the cost of the Grubauer trade.

What this means for Brooks Orpik is that he will become a free agent, free to sign with anyone for the upcoming season. Including Washington.

For a 37-year-old defenseman who does not boast great mobility or speed, a $5.5 million cap hit was a bit too steep for the Caps who were very close to the cap ceiling last season and who need that extra money to re-sign their free agents. But the team did value Orpik's leadership and that could be especially important as young defensemen Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos continue developing plus prospects Jonas Siegenthaler, Lucas Johansen and Connor Hobbs all try to work themselves into contention for a spot on the NHL roster.

If Orpik does return, it will be a masterstroke for general manager Brian MacLellan. MacLellan freed up a lot of cap space to re-sign Carlson without having to buy out Orpik's contract, but could still possibly keep him on the roster at a much-reduced cost.

After a strong playoff performance, there may be other teams vying for Orpik's services next season. Getting traded to get bought out likely isn't a good feeling, but considering he just won a Stanley Cup in Washington, the defensive guru Todd Reirden is expected to be promoted to head coach and that re-signing with the Caps would mean not moving his family for what could very possibly and will very likely be the last contract of his NHL career, there are a lot of reasons why it would make sense for both the team and the player if Orpik stayed with the Caps.

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 24, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The heat is on Jay Gruden

Jay Gruden knows that his Redskins need to win in 2018.

“This isn’t a two- or three-year process,” he said last week. “This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.” 

Jay Gruden gave this answer to a question about Alex Smith, but his words should resonate with the whole team. He’s right. This is no longer a rebuilding team. It’s time for this team to get it together and make a playoff run. 

That puts the pressure on Gruden. 

This is his fifth year as coach of the Redskins. He is well beyond the point where he can credibly point a finger of blame at his predecessor for any problems that are lingering. Only five players who were around in 2013, Mike Shanahan’s last year in Washington. It’s Gruden’s show now. 

His tenure is now the longest for a Redskins head coach since Norv Turner made it nearly seven years, from 1994 through 13 games into the 2000 season. His 49-59-1 run with the Redskins spanned three owners in Jack Kent Cooke, John Kent Cooke, and Dan Snyder. 

It should be noted that Turner’s third and fourth years at the helm closely resembled Gruden’s past two years. Turner’s team went 9-7 in 1996 and 8-7-1 the next year, narrowly missing the playoffs both years. That looks a lot like Gruden’s 8-7-1 and 7-9 records over the past two years. 

Gruden does not want this year’s team to resemble the 1998 Redskins. Turner’s fifth team started out 0-7 before winning four of their last five to finish 6-10. 

Turner kept his job in part because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation after the elder Cooke passed away in 1997. Gruden will not have a similar set of circumstances to help him out if he needs a lifeline in January. 

Gruden wants his fifth year to turn out more like Turner’s sixth season. That team went 10-6, topped the NFC East standings and won a playoff game. 

To get there, he needs a lot of his decisions to go right. While the trade for Smith was not his call, every indication is that he was on board with it. 

Last year, it was his decision to say no, thanks to Wade Phillips, who wanted to be his defensive coordinator and promote Greg Manusky into the job. The results were mixed as the Redskins were sixth in pass defense DVOA but 29thagainst the run. It was viewed as a marginal improvement on defense but the unit still seeme to be more of a liability than an asset. 

This year, the Redskins re-signed inside linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster and added defensive lineman Daron Payne with their first-round pick after spending their first-round pick on DE Jonathan Allen in 2017. There will be no excuses for Manusky and, by extension, Gruden if the defense does not improve. 

Joe Barry, Manusky’s predecessor who also was hired by Gruden when Phillips was an option, was out after two years of failing to significantly improve the defense. Any reasonable analysis would have to conclude that Barry did not get an infusion of talent anywhere approaching what Manusky has received in his two seasons. Manusky is getting a second year but he probably won’t get a third if the defense is still considered to be an impediment to the team’s progress. 

And if Manusky has to go, you have to wonder if Gruden will get a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator. 

I’m not sure if there is a certain number of games that the Redskins have to win for Gruden to return in 2019. It feels like he would not survive a 6-10 season or maybe not even another 7-9 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, making the playoffs and winning a game when they get there would certainly punch his ticket for a sixth season. 

Anything in between would leave Gruden in some jeopardy and the call would come down to the vague “moving in the right direction” criteria. 

There are some holes on this team, to be sure. But every team has some and the ones that are well coached figure out how to overcome them. The pressure will be on Gruden to best utilize their strengths and minimize any damage brought about by the weaker points. 

From his statement, it’s apparent that he is well aware of that. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 32
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 60

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 77 days. 

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