Redskins

Patriots hoping for return of two key players

201212051145423377951-p2.jpeg

Patriots hoping for return of two key players

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) With six straight victories and their fourth consecutive AFC East title already wrapped up, the New England Patriots are playing perhaps their best football of the season.

And a large chunk of their recent run has come without two of their top players.

So, imagine the big boost the Patriots will receive from having one of their best players on each side of the ball return for what is being billed as the game of the year.

After practicing in a limited capacity all week, starting left guard Logan Mankins and standout rookie right defensive end Chandler Jones are both listed as questionable for Monday night's much-hyped matchup against the first-place Houston Texans (11-1), a game with major playoff ramifications for both teams.

``Just got out there a little bit this week and tried to move around. We'll see where it goes from today,'' said Mankins, who injured his ankle in the second half of New England's victory over Buffalo on Nov. 11 and has missed the last three games. ``We were just trying to do as much as we can. I can't do everything yet, so I guess we might find out Monday.''

Jones, the 21st overall selection in the draft and considered by many to still be a top candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors with six sacks, skipped the last two games with an ankle injury suffered during the first quarter of the Patriots (9-3) win over Indianapolis on Nov. 18.

His status, he said, rests in the hands of coach Bill Belichick.

``Ready to play against the Texans,'' Jones said. ``We went out there and we won a championship and I wasn't out there. But I'm still thankful to be a part of this team.''

Mankins, a four-time Pro Bowl player, has missed five games this season with various ailments, the second-most of his eight-year career.

``It's been a couple games here and then miss a couple and then a couple here, miss a few. It's just one of those years I can't get on track yet,'' he said. ``Every game you want to be out there, you just got to wait until you're ready to get out there.''

The pair couldn't have picked a more perfect time to return, either.

Despite playing a pivotal part in the Patriots' top-ranked offense and valiantly protecting quarterback Tom Brady amid constant change due to injuries, the Patriots offensive line certainly will be bolstered with Mankins out there as they prepare to face their stiffest test of the season.

Houston defensive end J.J. Watt is wreaking havoc on just about every opposing offense he's faced thus far. The second-year standout ranks second in the league with 16 1/2 sacks and has knocked down 15 passes this year.

Watt's sensational season also has overshadowed the strong play of defensive end Antonio Smith, who has five sacks of his own, along with Watt forming one of the most feared pass rushes in the league.

``He's a guy that's getting overlooked down there,'' Mankins said. ``J.J. Watt's getting a lot of attention deservedly, but Antonio Smith's a very good player. He's a slippery guy inside that has good quickness, good power and he really understands how to work blockers, so he does a good job.

``They get ahead and teams have to start throwing it to catch back up, so that plays right into their strength. They're a great pass-rushing team.''

Houston boasts a strong offense, too. In fact, quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson have combined to lead the league's second-highest scoring attack - behind only New England - making Jones' return all the more important.

``They have a great offensive line, they have great wide receivers and they're quarterback's good,'' Jones said. ``Our job is just to bottle those guys up and eliminate the big play.''

Mankins' extended absence has been somewhat of a surprise, though.

Last season he played through a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, something he admitted during training camp this offseason, moments before acknowledging his extremely high pain threshold. So, playing in just more than half of New England's games this year may point more to the severity of the injury.

``There's some injuries you can play through, some restrict your ability to play,'' Mankins explained. ``When it restricts your ability, you can't play. You're just going to hurt the team if you just get beat all the time.

``It's been tough,'' he added. ``But it is what it is. You learn to deal with it. I've been pretty fortunate most of my career. I guess it happens to everyone sooner or later.''?

Of course, Mankins wants to suit up. However, he won't jeopardize the rest of the season to play in a game on Monday night, against one of the best teams in the league, with possible postseason seeding on the line.

``When I'm healthy, I'll come back,'' he said. ``Whether it's this week, next week, the following week, it's up to my body when I'm going to play again.''

Jones, on the other hand, seems ready to roll for his first career Monday night game, and the Patriots lone one this season.

``It's a primetime game. You know, Monday Night Football, you grew up watching Monday Night Football,'' he said. ``And for the Patriots to have the opportunity to go out there and showcase our talent on a Monday Night Football game, that's a great opportunity.''

Quick Links

Fans, Redskins pay tribute to longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler

rt_rip.jpg
NBC Sports Washington

Fans, Redskins pay tribute to longtime NBC Sports Washington reporter Rich Tandler

NBC Sports Washington lost an important piece of its family this week when longtime Redskins reporter Rich Tandler died on Tuesday. He was 63.

Tandler joined NBC Sports Washington in 2011. He began his writing career in his 40s after working in restaurants and created his blog, Real Redskins, in 2004, which became the longest-running blog on the team. He also wrote three books on the Redskins and posted an estimated 2,300 consecutive “Need To Know” posts, becoming a must-read for Redskins fans as part of their morning routine.

“We’re devastated to learn of the loss of one of our most loved and valued media members, Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington,” Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder said in a statement. “His dedication to covering the Redskins over the past 14 years has made him an irreplaceable presence among our media corps, and he will be in our hearts. Our thoughts are with his family, our family at NBC Sports Washington, and the entire Redskins community. He will be truly missed.”

The team will hold a moment of silence for Tandler before its game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and will keep his regular seat on press row empty. On Wednesday, Redskins quarterback Alex Smith offered his “thoughts and prayers to his family.”

“Rich’s kind and warm nature made him a good friend and an especially close colleague to many of us at NBC Sports Washington,” NBC Sports Washington General Manager Damon Phillips said in a statement. “His passion for his work and the Redskins was inspiring and made him a critical part of many of our successes over the past seven years. This is a very big loss for the sports community. Our thoughts are with his family and his many friends.”

Fans, Redskins players, fellow reporters, and friends of Tandler paid tribute to him on social media.

“Incredibly saddened by the sudden passing of NBCSW’s Rich Tandler. He was a great talent and an important voice in the DC sports community. Our thoughts are with his wife @MissSkeetersmom, his family and his family at @NBCSWashington,” Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis wrote on Twitter.

 

Quick Links

Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

dwight_injury.jpg
NBCSW

Dwight Howard improving, but status still unknown entering Wizards' season opener

Dwight Howard may play in the Wizards' regular-season opener on Thursday night against the Miami Heat, but the team will not know until the day of the game and likely won't announce the decision either way until head coach Scott Brooks addresses the media about two hours before tipoff.

Howard only has three practices under his belt but has made significant progress throughout this week after missing all five of the team's preseason games due to a strain in his piriformis muscle.

Head coach Scott Brooks said Howard has looked good in those three practices but has a lot of missed time to make up for.

"I think he's definitely winded at times, but that's part of it," Brooks said.

Brooks added that Howard is not getting the same lift when jumping that he's used to. Howard, 32, is used to playing above the rim and his vertical leap is an important part of his game.

The Wizards play their first two games at home, the second on Saturday against the Raptors. They then embark on a Western Conference road trip beginning with the Blazers on Monday.

Brooks said Howard will "definitely" make that trip with the team, which gives a good indication of how close he is to returning to game action. When Howard is ready to play will be left up to the team's medical staff.

If Howard does miss time, the Wizards are expected to rely on his backup Ian Mahinmi as the starting center. Jason Smith would then become the No. 2 center on the depth chart, though they could use forwards like Markieff Morris or Jeff Green at the five-spot.

Howard signed a two-year free-agent deal worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: