Nationals

Peterson, improved Vikings unsatisfied with season

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Peterson, improved Vikings unsatisfied with season

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) If Adrian Peterson was going to return from reconstructive surgery on his left knee in time to play the full 2012 season, he had to hit that rehabilitation program hard.

Peterson and the Vikings reaped the benefits of his persistence and determination, with 2,097 yards rushing for him and an externally unexpected trip to the playoffs for the team.

This year, Peterson is injury-free, but he doesn't plan on letting up. His aim for the Vikings is to follow his relentless lead, hoping that dedication will pay off this year with more success than a 10-6 record and a one-and-done postseason appearance.

``I won't take much time off. Last year was a blessing in disguise for me because I had to start extremely early working out, and I see what the results were,'' Peterson said Monday as the Vikings cleared out their lockers and scattered for the winter.

The NFL's leading rusher by a long shot and a strong candidate for the Most Valuable Player award, Peterson said he'd resume training in less than two weeks. He also said he'd like to gather as many teammates as he can near his Houston home before formal strength and conditioning begin in Minnesota in late April

``I'm all in. I'm about to grind again this offseason and come back and be better than I was this year,'' Peterson said.

He's not even willing to take it easy in the Pro Bowl, where the collective effort of the all-stars is always in short supply. Peterson has already served Eric Dickerson notice that he's coming for that single-season record again, after falling 9 yards short. He's even raised the possibility of reaching the 2,500-yard mark, as unlikely as that might be.

If fullback and fellow Pro Bowl pick Jerome Felton, one of 10 unrestricted free agents on this year's team, is re-signed then perhaps that milestone is in reach. The bruising blocking by Felton and a young offensive line on which none of the five starters missed a game had a lot to do with Peterson's success. After signing a one-year contract for a $700,000 salary, Felton said he'd rather not have to test the market again. He told general manager Rick Spielman as much on Monday.

``This is where I want to be,'' Felton said. ``I told him that I want it to get done.''

Right tackle Phil Loadholt is another one of the important players with expiring contracts.

``I'm going to keep my arms around him this offseason as well, just to make sure he's staying on top of his game and he's working out and he's doing the necessary things to make someone want to bring you back,'' Peterson said.

There are other positions that will be scrutinized this spring as the Vikings reshape their roster, with changes likely at least at wide receiver and linebacker. Quarterback Christian Ponder isn't going anywhere, but more improvement is mandatory after another up-and-down year. He said his decisions in the Dec. 2 game at Green Bay when he threw two devastating interceptions were the moments that still stung.

``To let my team down, that's what hurt the most,'' Ponder said.

Last week was painful, too, when a deep bruise in his triceps from a hit he took in the Dec. 30 win over the Packers prevented him from playing in the rematch at Lambeau Field on Saturday. His right arm was still badly discolored from the bruising on Monday. The flexibility and range of motion around the muscle was still returning.

``No surgery or anything,'' Ponder said. ``Just giving it some time, and it will get there.''

The Vikings, like most teams, expressed impatience with their development, even though this season by all accounts went ahead of the rebuilding schedule. They weren't willing to merely accept more steady progress, realizing the way the open-then-shut windows of championship opportunity usually work in the NFL.

Peterson is an obvious plus, as are blossoming young standouts such as left tackle Matt Kalil, tight end Kyle Rudolph, strong safety Harrison Smith, defensive end Everson Griffen and kicker Blair Walsh. But perhaps the biggest advantage these Vikings have in their quest to win a Super Bowl is strong chemistry, as evidenced all year.

``We started out fairly well, had some success, then went through a little rough patch where we lost some games,'' left guard Charlie Johnson said. ``When that happens, the spirit can drop. But you never had that. You never had that sense in this locker room where guys seemed deflated.''

On other subjects:

- Defensive end Jared Allen said he'll wait until after the Pro Bowl to have surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum he's had for months.

``I've played with it all year. I'm going to at least enjoy the benefits of it right?'' Allen said, joking he aims to follow Peterson's rehab success: ``Maybe I can get 2,000 sacks.''

- Walsh said he'll take long snapper Cullen Loeffler to Hawaii with him to the Pro Bowl as a reward, unless Loeffler is a late addition to the NFC squad.

``As was our team being doubted before the season, so was he and the selection that they made,'' Loeffler said. ``He's done a tremendous job staying focused.''

- Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has two years left on his contract at more than $7 million per season, acknowledged the possibility he'll be asked to restructure his deal but said he'd like to add to his 10-year tenure with the team.

``I `m not going to worry about it,'' Williams said. ``We'll work something out if that comes up.''

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With no access to in-game video, Trea Turner’s swing has taken time to adjust

With no access to in-game video, Trea Turner’s swing has taken time to adjust

Heading into the Nationals’ four-game series with the New York Mets this week, Trea Turner was hitting just .196 on the young season with one home run. The vaunted base stealer had been thrown out on the basepaths three times while having yet to swipe a bag successfully. In the field, he’d racked up three errors.

It was a frustrating start for the 27-year-old shortstop, who’s coming off a season in which he played with only nine fingers and still found a way to serve as a catalyst atop the Nationals’ lineup. Now fully healthy, Turner was expected to play a role in helping Washington absorb the loss of Anthony Rendon in the middle of its lineup.

Normally, poor at-bats would prompt Turner to head down to the replay room for a quick look at his mechanics. He goes into the clubhouse in between innings and examines his previous swings to see if he needs to make any adjustments. It’s a practice Turner has grown to rely on over the course of his major-league career.

But this season, Turner hasn’t had access to the replay room after MLB banned in-game video as part of its health protocols for playing in the middle of a pandemic. Instead, he’s had to wait until after each game before being able to break down his swing. It’s made for slower progress, but after going 5-for-9 with two home runs and four RBIs over the first two games of the series in New York, he feels that his adjustments have started to pay off.

“I felt good in the box and I feel like my approach was good but not having video is a little different and I feel like in years past I was pretty good at going back and just checking out the swing real quick and making the little adjustment I need to make in game,” Turner said in a Zoom press conference after Tuesday’s 2-1 win.

“Finally made the right adjustment a few games ago and started putting the barrel on the ball and feeling a little better. The last four or five games or so my contact has been a little bit stronger and it was just a matter of time for the hits to start to fall.”

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Turner hasn’t been the only member of the baseball community to express how the lack of video access has changed their approach. On Saturday, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash told MLB Network Radio that he wasn’t pleased with MLB’s decision to ban something that had become an integral tool for coaches and players during games.

“Without being too controversial, I think it's absolutely ridiculous,” Cash said. “It's probably one of the worst things that I've seen Major League Baseball do in take video away from players. Video is what makes us good. It helps us learn, it helps us coach, it helps us attack. And it's been taken away from us because of one team, or a couple teams' stupid choices.”

“We can't even watch a game; we cannot watch our own game. Our players cannot come in and watch a game in the clubhouse. It is asinine. The entire protocol system, how they came up with that, it is wrong. They're doing an injustice to players.”

While it’s unknown whether the real reasoning behind MLB’s decision is related to health protocols or the sign-stealing scandals that surrounded the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox over the offseason, Turner isn’t making any excuses. In fact, the results are beginning to turn his way.

Entering play Tuesday, Turner had a hard-hit percentage of 40.9 percent, well above his career rate of 32.5. His batting average on balls in play was just .238 (league average is .300), indicating he had been getting unlucky on some well struck balls. In fact, his groundball rate is down five percentage points from his career average while his flyball rate is up 10 percent.

Then came his home run off Mets starter Rick Porcello in the first inning. Turner took a breaking ball high and away and hit it off his back foot on a line straight into the seats in right field.

It was only Turner’s second opposite-field homer of his career after he hit none all of last season. Yet even with the adjustments he’d been making to his swing, he said that he didn’t go into the at-bat looking to hit anything to right field against Porcello.

“I think it’s just swing path and pitch,” Turner said. “I’ve hit a few balls to right-center out in certain stadiums, mostly probably at home, and I don’t know if those are opposite field per se. They might be more center field but I just think when you’re facing righties, to hit an opposite-field home run is fairly tough. He tried going toward that backdoor sinker and I just felt like it was the right swing on the right pitch and just keeping it fair and not slicing the ball.”

Turner will continue tweaking away at his swing, hoping to produce results like he has so far in the New York. But with or without the video replay room, he doesn’t expect the opposite-field homer to be the start of a new trend.

“I don’t have necessarily that oppo power some of these big guys get,” Turner said. “I usually have to pull them but every once in a while, if you get the right pitch on the right swing, it sneaks out. So I’ll take it.”

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'Washington Rexes' name suggestion creates a stir on Twitter

'Washington Rexes' name suggestion creates a stir on Twitter

As the Washington Football Team searches for a permanent new moniker, it's no surprise that some rather unique names have been suggested. Take the Washington UFOs or Washington Wanderers as examples.

The newest member of that group is the Washington Rexes, a name highlighted by the team as part of the fan recommendations initiative it's taking. The name was recommended by a fan named Carl, and the reasoning behind it certainly unique.

"Washington Rexes. I know this seems strange, but hear me out. Washington is home to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, which houses an impressive collection of dinosaur skeletons, including a Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of the largest and most terrifying predators in history," Carl wrote. "Rexes would be an impressive nickname, implying strength, power, and ferocity. The mascot would be amazing. Plus, who doesn't love dinosaurs?" 

As wild as it may seem, Carl does kind of bring up some good points. The dinosaur is a very strong and scary animal, so it checks the intimidation box. The Smithsonian gives it the local connection and naming the stadium "Jurrasic Park" or something of that nature actually works. Wait, is Washington Rexes genuinely a good idea?

Well, for the most part, Twitter did not think so.

If dinosaurs weren't their thing, some suggested picturing it as an homage to former Washington quarterback Rex Grossman. 

Washington Rexes probably won't be the eventual name of the team. But, Carl deserves an A+ for creativity. 

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