Nationals

Play or Sit: the coaches' quandary

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Play or Sit: the coaches' quandary

NEW YORK (AP) At some point, an injured player, even a star like Robert Griffin III, is too hampered to help a team. Deciding when enough is enough is the problem.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan became the target of widespread criticism after Griffin reinjured his right knee in Sunday's 24-14 wild-card loss to Seattle. The questions have ranged from whether Shanahan made his sensational rookie's health his No. 1 priority to whether the protocol for dealing with injuries was followed.

Coaches who have been in such tricky situations say the solutions aren't complicated.

``You have to rely on the doctors, the health always has to come first,'' said Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy. ``If the doctor says he can go or he can't go, you don't argue, there's not even a discussion.

``If the doctors say, `Here are the limitations, he can go,' then you have to judge for yourself. How is he mentally? How limited is he physically?''

Dungy recalls many times when players wanted to go and he had to say no. While coaching the Buccaneers, Dungy told Warren Sapp he wouldn't be suiting up for a national TV game against Miami because Sapp had cracked a bone in his hand.

Sapp wanted to wear a splint, but team doctors said it was too soon for him to play.

``Warren was upset,'' Dungy said.

``If you ask the player, it means nothing. It's rare a player will tell you he can't do this or this or that.''

Shanahan said Monday that Griffin will see renowned orthopedist James Andrews for more examinations on the knee, leaving open the possibility the quarterback will be sidelined for a lengthy period.

Shanahan added he thought he made the ``right decisions'' and it would be ``crazy'' to think he would purposely sacrifice Griffin's career to win a game.

But Shanahan admitted he did not talk to team doctors initially after Griffin was hurt in the first quarter.

``I went up to Robert. I said, `You OK?''' Shanahan said. ``And he said, `I'm fine.'''

Not exactly the way some coaches would have handled it.

``You never put a player in harm's way,'' said Herm Edwards, who defended how Shanahan handled the situation during his ESPN show.

``It starts with the medical staff on the sideline. They advise you if a player is able to go back in. If they say, `Yea,' you put him back in. If he can play, you keep him on the field.''

Players don't ever want to come out, and Dungy says some will even try to hide medical problems. Or at least minimize them.

San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis suffered a concussion on Dec. 23 at Seattle and returned to play in the season finale against Arizona. He admits to being a little ``woozy'' during his limited reps, but insists sitting should not have been the first option.

``You trust the player. A player knows his body better than anyone,'' Davis said. ``If he's feeling a certain way, then I don't think you can go against that. He knows he can play.''

But he could be placing himself in greater jeopardy, whether in the short term or for his entire career. For every Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles who makes a stunningly quick recovery, there are dozens of players who are never the same.

Some don't even get back in uniform again.

Or they come back too quickly, as Griffin's teammate, cornerback DeAngelo Hall, did in 2010.

Hall missed practice leading up to a game against the Colts. Usually, Shanahan bars players from suiting up when that happens, but Hall was allowed to play.

``I gave up a couple of touchdown passes,'' Hall said. ``And Mike was just like, `That's my fault, you shouldn't have been out there. I respect you wanted to be out there, but I could tell you just couldn't go.'

``You always want to be out there. It's nothing against the guys behind you, but just that competitiveness in you. You want to compete, you want to be a part of it, especially this run we've had.

``Man, it would have been hard for that guy (RG3) to say, `Nah, coach I can't go' or `pull me.' Everything was going so special, he wanted to be a part of it.''

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AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley and Joseph White contributed to this report.

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Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

If Ryan Zimmerman did not return to the Nationals, he at least would have a future teaching how not to negotiate.

Zimmerman openly drove down his bargaining leverage for almost a year before signing a one-year deal on Friday to return to the only professional team he’s known, a source confirmed. The deal is reported at $2 million.

Throughout the season, Zimmerman openly discussed his interest in returning and understanding it would be at a low rate. As if his stance wasn’t already clear, Zimmerman explained at a screening of the Nationals’ championship video he would return or play more golf.

“So, we’ll be good to go,” Zimmerman said.

It’s baseball for now. Zimmerman rejoins the defending World Series champions to play his 16th season. He’s a 35-year-old platoon player this season. Zimmerman’s money and legacy have been established. He’s back in the fold to pursue another title. 

And he makes an already old Nationals team older. Zimmerman turns 36 years old the day after the 2020 regular season ends. Howie Kendrick will be 37 years old by midseason. Asdrúbal Cabrera is 34 years old. Eric Thames is 33 years old. Will Harris is 35, Daniel Hudson 32, Sean Doolittle 33, Max Scherzer 35, Kurt Suzuki 36. Yan Gomes will be 33 just after the All-Star break. 

Zimmerman will share first base with Thames and, occasionally, Howie Kendrick. They provide an intriguing splits-based platoon. Thames hits right-handers well -- 23 of his 25 2019 home runs came against them, as did much of his opportunity in Milwaukee -- and Zimmerman has a .917 career OPS against left-handed pitchers. Zimmerman is the much better defender.

He’s back because he -- and the Nationals -- believe Zimmerman’s production remains directly tied to his health. His September and postseason work showed Zimmerman’s bat speed remains intact. He is quietly one of the better defensive first baseman in the league. They think they can protect him. Overall, the Nationals are so comfortable with an expanse of older players because they plan to shield them with limited usage. Also, Josh Donaldson went to Minnesota, clearing the cash and providing a need for Zimmerman. 

Kendrick, Cabrera and Starlin Castro can play various infield spots. Thames and Zimmerman will reduce the other’s role, as well as pinch-hit when not starting. Davey Martinez has options. He also has the challenge of rotating players. One thing on his side: older players know they are just that. Grousing about playing time should not be an issue with the group, the majority of which played as role players last year on the way to a World Series title. 

One other thing to note about Zimmerman: he’s 30 home runs short of 300. Can he get there with another two years on the field? He has at least one more to add to his total, assuring his driver has another lonely summer.

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Alex Ovechkin named to NHL's All-Decade first team for 2010-19

Alex Ovechkin named to NHL's All-Decade first team for 2010-19

Alex Ovechkin once again was named to one of the NHL's All-Decade teams.

This go-around, Ovechkin was named to the first-team for the All-Decade Team spanning 2010-2019. 

During those 10 seasons, there was no one that totaled more than Ovi's 437 goals. Only two others had more than his 730 points.

Through our eyes, we saw him mature from a unique superstar to a once-in-a-generation athlete. Ovechkin won his first Stanley Cup in the decade after years of heartbreak and dominant Capitals teams that could never escape the second round. 

Now, he's a mere eight goals away from reaching 700 and further etching his name in the fabric of the sport. 

He is joined with fellow forward Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks. Sidney Crosby of the Penguins, Drew Doughty of the Kings and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights rounded out the six-player first team. 

NHL ALL-DECADE FIRST TEAM

Alex Ovechkin - F - Capitals
Patrick Kane - F - Blackhawks
Sidney Crosby - C - Penguins
Duncan Keith - D - Blackhawks
Drew Doughty - D - Kings
Marc-Andre Fleury - G- Golden Knights

NHL ALL-DECADE SECOND TEAM

Evgeni Malkin - F - Penguins
Patrice Bergeron - F - Bruins
Steven Stamkos - F - Lightning
Erik Karlsson - D - Sharks
Zdeno Chara - D - Bruins
Henrik Lundqvist - G - Rangers

The Great 8 was also named to the All-Decade team in 2000-10. Only Zdeno Chara and Sidney Crosby, named to the second team for the last decade, received the recognition last decade as well. 

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