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Patriots' playoff newcomers eager to face Texans

Patriots' playoff newcomers eager to face Texans

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Across nine years and five teams, Brandon Lloyd never played in the postseason.

Now, in his 10th season, his wait is finally over.

Lloyd is excited for his playoff debut Sunday in New England's divisional round game against the Houston Texans. Cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive end Trevor Scott also are looking forward to theirs after four non-playoff years each.

Since he was ``a kid, the ultimate goal is to play in the Super Bowl and the only way to get to the Super Bowl is to make it to the playoffs,'' Lloyd said. ``This is a step along the way to the ultimate goal for all of us. For all the teams that have entered the playoffs, this is just the beginning.''

The Patriots wide receiver was with the Washington Redskins when they got there in 2007 but missed the last eight regular-season games and a wild-card loss with a shoulder injury.

But he made a smart decision this offseason. The likelihood of making the playoffs with the Patriots contributed to his choice of signing as a free agent. There was a good chance that a team that had reached the postseason in nine of the past 11 years would get there again.

The San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams never got that far while Lloyd was there. So he had little interest in watching the playoffs while on vacation all those years.

``If it was on the television in the hotel lobby or something'' he might take a peek, he said.

Lloyd, Scott and Talib all are eager for their first playoff action, hoping it will end with a trip to the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Feb. 3.

``Their sense of urgency is there,'' said defensive back Devin McCourty, in the playoffs for the third time in his three NFL seasons. ``They understand that they've played `X' amount of years in this league. I know a guy like B-Lloyd can't wait to step on that field and play in the postseason. Usually there isn't much you have to say to those guys. They're gamers and they'll be ready to go.''

Scott spent his first four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and never even had a winning record. He's contributed this season as a backup with three sacks in the past five games.

``It's pretty different. I'm definitely excited,'' he said. ``I'm just happy to be where I am now.''

Scott chose to sign with the Patriots as a free agent last March.

Talib had no choice. They acquired him on Nov. 1 in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he played his first game for the Patriots on Nov. 11 after completing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.

``I never got a chance to participate in the postseason,'' he said. ``First chance, I'm definitely looking forward to it.''

He expects the intensity to be heightened but his nervousness to be minimal.

``I've never been in the postseason but I'm not a rookie,'' Talib said. ``So once we get out there and the game starts, it's still football.''

Daniel Fells has some sense of what the playoff newcomers are feeling. He was one of them until last season, his sixth as a pro, when the Broncos made it.

``Being in a situation where you hadn't made the playoffs, you kind of felt empty at the end of the year,'' the backup tight end said. ``You get a little bit of fulfillment finally making the playoffs, (but) ultimately there's a bigger goal in mind. You have the excitement going into it but you've still got to keep your eyes on the prize.''

His Super Bowl hopes ended last season on the field where he now plays his home games. The Patriots beat the Broncos 45-10 in the divisional round.

``Pretty ironic, right?'' Fells said. ``I did think about that a little bit when the phone call came. `Oh, yeah, this is the team that knocked us off,''' he said.

``But I'm happy to be here.''

Fells was inactive for all 16 games as an undrafted rookie with the Atlanta Falcons in 2006 then was on the practice squads of the Raiders in 2007 and Buccaneers in 2008. He finally played in 2009 when he caught seven passes with St. Louis then totaled 62 over the next two years with the Rams.

But he had started only 11 games in his three seasons with St. Louis.

``It was an all-around situation for me going to Denver and being the starter out there as well as making the playoffs,'' Fells said. ``So I was able to check a couple of things off my list, but there's one big box that still needs to be filled.''

Belichick has filled that box three times, leading the Patriots to Super Bowl victories in the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons.

``He's a great teacher,'' Lloyd said. ``The way that he teaches the game, it's almost like I'm not being coached, I'm actually being taught. That's been the part of this experience that has stuck out the most to me.''

Lloyd caught 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games. On Sunday, he'll play a 17th for the first time after all those years of finding something else to do.

``I'd be at the Sundance Film Festival, on my way to the Bahamas, all kind of different stuff,'' Lloyd said with a laugh.

But a win on Sunday would keep him - and the Patriots - on the road to New Orleans.

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Bradley Beal still feels 'disrespected' by referees

Bradley Beal still feels 'disrespected' by referees

Back in December following a tough loss to the Clippers, Bradley Beal's frustration with the referees boiled over. 

"Honestly, [my frustration] is out the roof," Beal said that night. "It really is. It's really unfair and unacceptable that they allow a lot of stuff to go on with me out there and I do not calls. Period. It's just unacceptable."

Everything for the Wizards' offense this season starts and ends with Beal, and while he's averaging career-best scoring numbers, he remains frustrated at how he doesn't get to the foul line enough. 

In a 134-129 loss to the Heat Wednesday night, Beal went off for 38 points on 16-24 shooting to go with nine rebounds and four assists. He only had four free throw attempts, resulting in another postgame riff about how he and his team aren't officiated the same as others. 

“It’s kind of sad the way we get disrespected," he said. "Especially myself getting disrespected like I do because I attack the basket.”

Among 32 players who average at least 20 points, Beal ranks ninth in free throw attempts per game. The Wizards themselves are 14th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game. 

What had Beal particularly upset was not getting the whistle when he aggressively attacked the basket in the game's final moments.

"You can look at my last three drives and I got fouled on all three of them," he said. 

The NBA doesn't typically tolerate players and coaches openly criticizing referees after games. Beal knows he could be fined for his comments, so it shows just how frustrated the two-time All-Star is with how he's being called this season. 

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Former Washington Mystics All-Star Alana Beard retires after 14 seasons

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Former Washington Mystics All-Star Alana Beard retires after 14 seasons

One of the Washington Mystics' first stars is hanging up her shoes.

Alana Beard, who spent the first seven seasons of her professional career with the Mystics after Washington drafted her No. 2 overall in 2004, announced her retirement from the sport on Wednesday.

During her time in Washington, Beard made the All-Star team four times. Her best season with the Mystics was in 2006, where she averaged a career-high 19.1 points per game and won the Defensive Player of the Year award.

After missing nearly two years with multiple injuries, Beard signed with the Los Angeles Sparks during free agency in 2012, and spent the rest of her career out west. She won her first WNBA championship in 2016 with the Sparks, highlighted by her game-winning three-pointer in Game 1 of the Finals.

Congratulations on a great career, Alana!

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