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Packers WR faces uncertain future in offseason

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Packers WR faces uncertain future in offseason

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Greg Jennings is not naive and he's not ignoring reality, either.

The veteran wide receiver is in the final year of his contract, and has yet to hear from the Green Bay Packers about an extension. Common sense - and Green Bay history - would suggest that means he'll be playing somewhere else next season, a notion Jennings doesn't dispute.

But even with the Packers playing their final home game of the regular season Sunday, Jennings isn't ready to say goodbye just yet.

``It's a sensitive subject, a sensitive topic to talk about,'' he said Wednesday. ``The reality is, we're going to have to cross that bridge at some point. But right now, we don't have to. We're playing Tennessee and I'm part of that game.''

Drafted by the Packers out of Western Michigan in 2006, Jennings wasted little time establishing himself as one of the NFL's top receivers. He caught a career-high 12 touchdown passes his second year, and his average of 17.4 yards per catch ranked fourth in the NFL. He went over the 1,000-yard mark in 2008, 2009 and 2010, when he led the NFC with 12 TD catches.

Even with missing the last three regular-season games last year, he ranked a close second to Jordy Nelson in all receiving categories, finishing with 949 yards and nine touchdowns on 67 catches.

But with James Jones under contract through 2013, Nelson signed through 2014 and Randall Cobb emerging as a big-play threat pretty much anywhere the Packers want to put him, Jennings has become somewhat expendable. This season has been a stark reminder of that, with Jones, Cobb and Nelson keeping the offense afloat while Jennings was out for eight games with a torn muscle in his lower abdomen.

Jones leads the NFL with 12 touchdowns, while Cobb has a chance to become the first player in NFL history with 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards in kick returns. Nelson has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but he has six TDs and his 14.3 yards per catch average is the best of Green Bay's receivers.

``If these guys were jerks it would be different. But we're all so close,'' Jennings said. ``I love that they're having success. They were applauding me when I was having my success, so it's a two-way street.''

Jennings would like nothing more than to stay in Green Bay, and he can count Aaron Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy as two of his biggest fans. He's also a fan favorite, his No. 85 jersey among the must-haves in any Cheesehead's wardrobe.

But Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson has never been one for sentimentality, doing whatever is necessary to keep the Packers among the NFL's elite. Just look at the team's bitter divorce with Brett Favre.

``It's tough. Because you put everything into it. And at the end of the day, the only thing an organization really owes you is a paycheck. That's it. That is absolutely it,'' Jennings said. ``When you get raw and uncut about it, the only thing they really owe you is a paycheck. And they can stop that if they want to.''

The Packers could always use the franchise tag on Jennings, an option that doesn't have much appeal for the receiver. As much as he'd like to stay with his original team, he and his wife have four young children and their stability is his priority.

``You want your job to have some sense of sustainability, some foundation where you can just sit your family and know you'll be somewhere for a certain amount of time,'' Jennings said. ``Franchise tags give you one year. So it's like, `OK, we've got one year.' Who knows? I'll be in the same position talking about the contract situation all over again. It's just not clear. It's not in the best interest of the player to be in that position.''

The timing of Jennings' injury makes matters even more complicated. If he'd had a typical year, there would be no shortage of teams interested in him. But he has only 201 yards receiving and one touchdown on 21 catches.

Since his return, however, Jennings has averaged double digits per catch, his best numbers of the year.

``I've made plays in the past. My resume isn't the thinnest,'' Jennings said. ``It's pretty filled up with plays that I've made over my career. But is there room for improvement? Absolutely. Do I feel like I can get better and continue to grow? Absolutely.''

Notes: OL T.J. Lang and RB Alex Green have concussions and did not practice, but McCarthy was optimistic they will be ready for Sunday's game against Tennessee. ... DB Charles Woodson practiced Wednesday, but still has not been cleared to return from his broken collarbone. ... McCarthy said Nelson is ``getting better'' and his work Tuesday was ``pretty extensive.'' But McCarthy said they'll have to see how he recovers this week before deciding on his availability. ... DE C.J. Wilson, who has missed the last three games with a knee injury, has extra incentive to return this week. He played at East Carolina with Titans running back Chris Johnson. ``It's been my dream to go and hit the guy,'' Wilson said, grinning. ``We couldn't hit him in practice because he wore the red jersey and you didn't want to hurt your star player, but now that he's on the opposing team, I'd like to get my shot at him.''

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Nationals cancel 2021 Winterfest due to COVID-19

Nationals cancel 2021 Winterfest due to COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic will prevent fans from attending Nationals games during the 2020 season and it appears will also cost them an annual offseason tradition.

The Nationals announced Wednesday their plans to cancel Winterfest 2021. The convention was originally scheduled for January 2021.

"Due to the continued uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel Winterfest 2021, which was scheduled to be held in January," the team said in a statement. "We know how important this event is to our fans. That said, we look forward to offering a variety of alternative opportunities for our community to come together to celebrate our team."

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Details regarding the alternative opportunities are unknown as of this writing. 

In the meantime, Washington will continue to play its 2020 season without fans. They are 4-5 entering a series with the Orioles Friday and had to take four days off after the Marlins experienced a COVID-19 outbreak within their clubhouse and the Nats' series with Miami was postponed. 

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Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

Making a case for Warriors as Washington Football Team's new name

It's been several weeks since the Washington Football Team announced it was retiring its former name and logo after more than 80 years. Ever since FedEx became the first known sponsor to formally ask Washington to change its name, fans have taken to social media to voice some of their favorites among potential replacements. I spoke with several marketing experts about a few of the fan-generated names, and will use their responses to make a case for some of the most popular suggestions. This is the case for Red Hogs.

Case for: Washington Warriors

When it comes to the Washington Football Team, developing a new brand has as much to do with separating itself from the previous identity as it does creating a new one.

While the team’s previous moniker provided a sense of pride and joy to some people, it was considered derogatory by others. Those offended by the name had expressed resentment for decades before the team finally decided to take action this summer. But the team only did so after its bottomline was at risk of taking a hit by corporate sponsors threatening to end their relationships with the team.

If Washington wants people to take its rebrand seriously and view it as more than a money-saving play, the team will need to completely distance itself from Native American imagery. That being considered, is Warriors a good choice as the replacement name? It depends, says Tim Derdenger, associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business.

“It depends on which direction you go with it,” Derdenger said. “I’ve read things that they want to keep the feather and go in that direction as opposed to a military warrior, more of the Indian warrior. And if they do it the latter, they’re completely missing the mark on why they’re changing their name.”

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This conundrum highlights the different things that have to be considered when undergoing a name change. It isn’t just the name; it’s also the logo, the branding on team gear and uniforms, the stadium atmosphere, the fan experience, and so much more. If the team was able to rebrand itself as the Warriors without singling out a specific race or group of people, the name could work. The Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association have a great brand and don’t use human imagery at all, going with the Bay Bridge as their primary logo.

Matt White, president of WHITE64, pointed to Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder's background in advertising and branding as a reason he thinks the team could pull it off.

“I think what you have to do is, do it in a thoughtful, logical manner, where you’re hiring a firm, which he has relationships with that can really do a great job,” White said.

The option for thoughtful branding exists in a way for "Warriors" that it doesn’t for a name like "Braves." Some fans had tossed around the latter as an option because of its history as the Washington franchise’s original name for one season in 1932, when the team was still located in Boston. But that’s a piece of history most fans likely forgot, if they ever knew it. And a Brave, by definition, is specifically a Native American warrior. The name doesn’t allow for a change in branding the same way Warriors does.

“The Cleveland Indians are already being asked to change their name. The Atlanta Braves apparently are even being looked at with that,” White said. “And again, there’s gotta be a solution that doesn’t offend somebody but that can still capture the spirit.”

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That's where Warriors could be used, like Braves, to appease the base of fans who never wanted to part with the old moniker. However, Brad Nierenberg, the CEO of RedPeg Marketing, thinks choosing that name is also a choice to please those particular fans over the people who want to see a clean break. 

“If you’re gonna stay close with the Redskins, I think you’re gonna be staying with a fan base that ... you’re gonna placate the challenge to changing the name, then the Warriors and Braves are gonna be that next step,” Nierenberg said.

“I think there’s gonna be people saying they didn’t go far enough. That’s my gut.”

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This is where everything else that accompanies the name change becomes so vital. Because while it’s likely true everyone won’t be happy with Warriors, it’s possible to win over a few more people with the proper branding and imagery.

"The logo is then going to be the key part,” Derdenger said. “And what that logo will look like and how it connects back to the military warrior.

“I can’t right now see in my head what a Warriors logo looks like. ... But they have to go away from the connection to the Native Americans.”

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