Capitals

QB Vick, RB McCoy back at practice

QB Vick, RB McCoy back at practice

PHILADELPHIA (AP) LeSean McCoy expects to step right into his starting role. Michael Vick has no choice but to stand on the sideline.

Vick and McCoy returned to practice Tuesday after missing several weeks with concussions, and both players could be active when the Philadelphia Eagles host Cincinnati on Thursday night.

In McCoy's case, he's still the No. 1 running back. Vick, however, lost his starting job to rookie quarterback Nick Foles.

``If I was back, I'd be playing,'' McCoy said after practice.

Vick and McCoy still must be cleared by an independent neurologist and the team doctor before playing in a game. Vick, who was injured on Nov. 11, has missed four straight games. McCoy got hurt the following week at Washington.

``We're not listing them as out,'' head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said. ``They're still very much alive for things and we'll see how they do and take it day by day.''

The Eagles (4-9) have been eliminated from playoff contention and are reduced to playing spoiler. Their record factored into coach Andy Reid's decision to go with Foles.

``This will be another challenge for him doing it on a short week,'' Reid said. ``I know he was here late last night going over stuff and I'm sure it'll be the same tonight. It's one more step. Let's see how he does with it.''

Rookie Bryce Brown, a seventh-round pick, filled in nicely for McCoy. He had 347 yards rushing in his first two starts before getting held to just 6 yards on 12 carries against Tampa Bay's top-ranked run defense.

Vick hasn't talked to reporters since Reid said Foles would start the rest of the season. His demotion hasn't affected his communication with Foles.

``There's no awkwardness,'' Foles said. ``Our relationship has stayed the same. I'll always support Mike and I know he'll always support me no matter what. Our relationship will stay the same.''

Foles has leaned on Vick and veteran Trent Edwards for advice since the start of training camp. The third-round pick is coming off an impressive performance against Tampa Bay, leading the Eagles to a comeback win with a TD pass on the final play to snap an eight-game losing streak.

``Both of them played as rookies so I always ask them what it was like for them and how they went about their business,'' he said. ``That's been huge for me just to pick their brains because I want to know. I'm a rookie. I have a lot to learn from these veterans. They've been there, done it and the more I can learn from them the more I can put myself in a situation where I can understand what they went through and hopefully I'll go about it the right way.''

Tight end Brent Celek won't play against the Bengals (7-6) because of a concussion he sustained on the first play in a 23-21 win over Tampa Bay. Burkholder said Celek already has passed his ImPACT test, but won't be able to complete the team's five-stage recovery process in time.

Defensive tackle Mike Patterson also won't play because of a viral pneumonia that hospitalized him late last week. Patterson is recovering at home.

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Stephen Strasburg will start for Nationals Sunday against Orioles

Stephen Strasburg will start for Nationals Sunday against Orioles

Davey Martinez said Friday that Stephen Strasburg will start Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Strasburg has yet to pitch this season because of a right wrist impingement which led to a nerve problem in his right hand. He missed his first start, slated for the second game of the season on July 25, then what would have been his second start five days later. Strasburg said his hand was falling asleep in the middle of the night. The Nationals medical staff needed to give Strasburg multiple injections in his hand in order to help the pain subside.

RELATED: IS NATIONALS VS. ORIOLES A TRUE RIVALRY?

He threw a heavy bullpen session Wednesday before throwing 32 pitches in a simulated game. Martinez said Strasburg felt well during the simulated game, so instead of continuing, they had him stop in order to throw 70-plus pitches Sunday against Baltimore.

"The tingling in his thumb is gone," Martinez said Friday. "That's a good sign. We watched him, like I said, he's thrown some really good [bullpen sessions]. That was the big thing for me. Nothing in his mechanics has changed. Everything's good. Based on conversations with him, he feels good. He wants to pitch. He's ready to pitch on Sunday."

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Max Scherzer left his Wednesday start after just an inning because of a hamstring "tweak" from the day before when he was running sprints. He was expected to play catch Friday. Martinez labeled him "day-to-day."

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