Capitals

Remembering Al: Vitt on Al Davis

201211141609581875537-p2.jpeg

Remembering Al: Vitt on Al Davis

Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said a trip to Oakland this week brought back memories of longtime Raiders owner Al Davis.

Vitt and suspended Saints coach Sean Payton made a point last year of visiting Davis in his suite before an exhibition game about two months before Davis died. But it was Vitt's first meeting with Davis 30 years earlier that still resonates.

Vitt had just been fired as Colts strength and quality control coach in 1981 and went to the NFL combine looking for work. He ran into Davis in the locker room during player weigh-ins and introduced himself.

``I go up to him, I say, `Hey, coach, my name is Joe Vitt. I'm only 26 years old, but I've been in the league three years. I was the strength coach, I was the quality control coach, I gave out the tickets on the plane. I told him all the wonderful accomplishments I had over my three-year-period with the Baltimore Colts,''' Vitt recalled.

``He looked me in the eye and said, `Son, when I was 26 years old I was the commissioner of the AFL.' I crawled out of the locker room. And he never forgot that, and I never forgot that.''

Davis actually didn't become commissioner until he was 34 and was a college assistant at The Citadel when he was 26.

---

MANNING'S SLIDE: Peyton Manning has caught a lot of grief for his ungainliness at Carolina last Sunday when he didn't kick his cleats up high enough on a feet-first slide after a 6-yard scramble.

His left cleat got stuck in the grass and he rolled awkwardly to the ground in the second quarter of Denver's 36-14 win over the Panthers.

Linemen Manny Ramirez and Orlando Franklin, tight end Jacob Tamme and running back Ronnie Hillman surrounded him immediately. But their concern was quickly assuaged when Manning bounced up, straightened out his left knee brace and returned to the huddle.

Whew!

It was something they all had a good laugh over later on.

As the seconds ticked away, rookie cornerback Omar Bolden sat on the bench next to Manning and told the four-time MVP, ``You know, after we get this `dub,' we're talking about that slide.''

``I hear ya,'' Manning replied. ``Fair game.''

Manning said he caught plenty of guff from teammates.

``It's not even worth explaining what happened. It looked bad, and the fact that my knee brace got caught, nobody wants to hear that,'' Manning said. ``It is what it is, as they say, and it's right there on film. I'm very aware that it's fair game for criticism and ridicule. I have plenty thick enough skin to handle it.''

One teammate who stayed away from the fray was wide receiver Eric Decker, who was the fall guy last month after tripping on his way to a sure touchdown when nobody was near him.

``He probably does not have the grounds yet,'' Manning said. ``But (Dan) Koppen and Omar Bolden, a rookie, it's fair game. Believe me, it's not pretty.''

The ribbing nor the slide.

---

TUNED OUT TO THURSDAY: George Wilson has no issue playing an occasional game on Thursday night. Just don't ask the Buffalo Bills safety if he's ever watched any of the weeknight, prime-time games since the NFL made it a regular part of its schedule.

``I don't have the NFL Network,'' he said days before Buffalo's victory against Miami on Thursday night. ``So this is all new to me.''

Wilson explained that his cable provider, Time-Warner, didn't carry the NFL Network. He then said he wasn't aware when informed the NFL reached a deal two months ago to have Time-Warner carry the network.

``Well, obviously, it must cost extra to get it, because it's not in your normal cable package, so I don't have it,'' he said.

Wilson, the Bills' NFL Players Association representative, can understand the reason the league has made Thursday night games a mainstay despite the short break players have between games.

``The league is trying to boost its viewership and commercial opportunities,'' Wilson said. ``It's tough, but this is what we signed up for. This is what the job calls for, and we're not going to make any gripes or complaints about it.''

---

WAITING HIS TURN: Minnesota Vikings rookie wide receiver Jarius Wright was inactive for the first nine games, but the fourth-round draft pick from Arkansas made quite the impact in his debut.

Filling in at the slot position for injured star Percy Harvin, Wright caught a 54-yard pass from Christian Ponder on Minnesota's first possession to set up his own short touchdown reception from Ponder. Wright was open for another potential score later in the game, too, when Ponder tripped at the beginning of his backpedal and fell down for a sack.

Randy Moss is the only Vikings rookie to catch two touchdown passes in his first NFL game.

``I'm glad I was able to help the team,'' Wright said. ``I'm glad the coaches gave me the chance to be able to help the team. And hopefully they continue to give me the opportunity.''

Coach Leslie Frazier wouldn't guarantee that because Harvin is expected to return after the team's bye week, but Wright's speed clearly helped give what had been a lagging passing game a small boost.

``There are ways we can get that done if we want both of them on the field,'' Frazier said.

Wright actually dropped the same long pass on a post pattern in practice last Friday, and he was discouraged the Vikings might not call that play in the game. But he bounced back.

``I have high hopes for myself, and I set my personal goals really high,'' Wright said. ``And I know I'm capable of going out and playing good football.''

---

NO MORE HOLES: A.J. Green won't be giving any more scouting reports.

Cincinnati's Pro Bowl receiver created a stir in New York a week ago when he told a radio station that the Giants ``have a lot of holes'' in their defense. Turned out he was right. Green caught a 56-yard touchdown pass on the fifth play of the game, and the Bengals pulled away to a 31-13 win.

The low-key Green was surprised his observation became big news in New York. He won't make that mistake again. Asked about an upcoming game in Kansas City, he refused to make the same comparison.

``No, no, definitely no holes in their defense,'' Green said.

Green and some of the Bengals' other young players are learning that an off-the-cuff remark can have a long shelf life in the NFL. Quarterback Andy Dalton learned from Green's experience that it's important to be careful in choosing his words.

Asked about the Chiefs' defense being vulnerable to big plays this season, Dalton said, ``I wouldn't say they're vulnerable. I think guys are finding holes and finding windows that they're able to get in, and guys are making big plays.''

He paused to think about how his words might play in the media, then clarified: ``I'm not saying there's holes in the defense.''

---

AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Arnie Stapleton and Dave Campbell, and Sports Writers Steven Wine, John Wawrow, Josh Dubow and Joe Kay contributed to this story.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

MORE CAPITALS STORIES:

Quick Links

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

usatsi_10847206.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.