Capitals

Patriots rookie RB in the New England spotlight

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Patriots rookie RB in the New England spotlight

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Brandon Bolden's first regular-season session with the media on Thursday had to be shifted from the traditional spot in front of his stall to a more spacious area in the corner of the New England Patriots locker room to accommodate the throng of reporters anticipating his arrival.

Standing against the wall, his eyes wide and mind ready, the running back stared out at three to four rows of eager reporters, both waiting patiently for the other to commence the interview.

``First off,'' Bolden said with a wide smile, ``how's everybody doing today?''

The rookie had no trouble breaking the ice Sunday, either, delivering a breakout performance that not only stamped his presence in the Patriots offense, but also helped put New England's running game back on the map.

The undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown in a 52-28 win over the Buffalo Bills, spearheading a rushing attack that had been lacking in recent years.

Bolden, though, is ready to put his starring role behind him.

``Last week happened. Now we're getting ready for Denver. We have them coming here, so just forget about it,'' he said. ``It was a game. Everybody was happy. It happened, it's in the past and now we're moving on.''

Bolden teamed with second-year running back Stevan Ridley, who carried the ball 22 times for 106 yards with two touchdowns, to become the first pair of Patriots backs to surpass 100 yards on the ground in a single game since 1980.

The talented tandem is trying to replace the reliable running of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who began his rookie campaign on the practice squad before blossoming into a bullish back who scored 24 touchdowns in his last two seasons with New England and signed with the Bengals this offseason.

Learning from each other as they go, Ridley and Bolden have New England ranked eighth in the league in rushing at 144 yards per game, one year after finishing 20th.

``We all realize that we are a young group and I guess we kind of embrace that as a group, if that makes sense,'' Bolden said. ``Because we all know that we have to pick each other up. `Hey you messed up on this. Let's work on this.'

``We try to make each other better and that's pretty much our game plan.''

Bolden admitted he had no idea how many reps he'd receive prior to the Buffalo game. He says he's in the dark again this week, too, yet is ready for whatever comes his way against Denver.

``You go into every week of practice, going in and trying to learn as much of the game plan as you can,'' he said. ``Because in case your number does get called, you have the opportunity to go execute everything.''

He did Sunday.

Bolden carried the ball 16 times against the Bills, averaging 8.6 yards per touch, after entering the game with just seven carries for 15 yards on the season. He also scored his second touchdown of the season on what quickly could become his trademark approach, using his 5-foot-11, 220-pound frame to run over Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore on a 7-yard counter.

``Offensive line, first off, did a real great job of just giving everybody a chance to run,'' Bolden said. ``And what you do after you get the ball is pretty much all you.''

Sounds like a lesson he learned from Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

``I think the thing that really matters the most with the backs is how many yards they gain on their own,'' Belichick said. ``Any back can really run until the first guy gets to him, that's not really that special, but it's what guys do after they could or should be brought down, whether they can continue to add yards to the play after that. That's the mark really of a good runner.''

New England may have seen that when other teams didn't.

Bolden scored 33 touchdowns during his collegiate career, second most in school history, yet still wasn't selected in last year's draft. He said he didn't pay much attention, though. He was just eager for an opportunity.

Now, he's making the most of it.

``I really just wanted to play football,'' Bolden said. ``Drafted or undrafted, it really didn't matter.''

So far, so good.

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Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals deal Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik ahead of the draft

DALLAS—The Capitals have dealt backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer and veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round pick, the team announced shortly before the NHL Draft kicked off Friday at American Airlines Center.

After the moves, the Caps had more than $21 million in space under the salary cap ceiling, according to www.capfriendly.com, and potentially enough room to accommodate new contracts for John Carlson and other key free agents.

GM Brian MacLellan was widely expected to deal Grubauer, a 26-year-old who wanted the opportunity to be a No. 1. As a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who was also coming off a strong season, Grubauer was due a significant raise.

“We would like to thank Brooks and Philipp for all of their contributions to our organization,” MacLellan said in a statement. “Philipp has been a consummate professional and a great teammate and we wish him all the best.”

Trading Orpik, on the other hand, was a bit unexpected, particularly considering how much the 37-year-old’s rugged play and leadership meant to the Caps during their run to the Stanley Cup.

By dealing Orpik, MacLellan shed his $5.5 million cap hit for next season—an important development given the Caps’ tight salary cap situation and the number of key players who need new contracts. Carlson, Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek are unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Avalanche are expected to help Orpik land a preferred spot, whether via trade or buyout. By taking on Orpik in the deal, Friedman reported, the Avs only had to give up one pick.

“Brooks,” MacLellan continued, “was a great leader and a tremendous role model for our young players in his four years with our organization. This was a difficult move, but the one we felt we needed to make in order to give some flexibility moving forward.”

Will moving out Grubauer and eliminating Orpik’s cap charge allow MacLellan to ink Carlson, who's set to become the top defenseman on the free agent market? That’s unclear, but it will sure help the Caps’ cause. Carlson is expected to command an extension in the eight-year, $8 million per neighborhood. 

Dealing Orpik also opens up a spot for a young and inexpensive defenseman such as Christian Djoos or Madison Bowey to take on a bigger role in 2018-19.

Without Grubauer, the Caps are likely to turn to Pheonix Copley, who is due to earn the NHL minimum of $650,000 next season, as their backup next season. And if Copley starts the year in Washington, that allows 2015 first round pick Ilya Samsonov to take the reins in Hershey.

The second round pick the Caps received in exchange for Grubauer and Orpik is the 47th overall selection.

MacLellan is expected to speak to reporters following the first round later Friday night. The Caps currently hold the 31st overall pick.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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