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Rookie RT Harris braces for elite 49ers defense

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Rookie RT Harris braces for elite 49ers defense

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Saints rookie right tackle Bryce Harris is so grateful to have a chance to play in the NFL he isn't about to complain about the timing of his first career start, which is likely to come this Sunday against a San Francisco defense featuring some of the best pass-rushers in the NFL.

``I'm just glad to have the opportunity to start,'' Harris said following practice Thursday. ``I'm lucky for all this to happen to me. I've just got to take advantage of my opportunities.''

Harris entered the NFL with Atlanta as an undrafted rookie out of Fresno State and made the Falcons' practice squad before being signed to New Orleans' active roster in early September. Harris did not play a down until being pressed into service last week at Oakland, after Charles Brown went down with a right knee injury. Brown had been playing in place of injured starter Zach Strief, who has been sidelined since Nov. 5, when he injured his left groin during a victory over Philadelphia.

``It was nerve racking, obviously. Not warmed at all,'' Harris recalled of his unplanned debut in Oakland. ``My head was just racing.''

The Saints went on to win 38-17, and although Harris was beaten a few times after he first went in, he seemed to settle into his role as the game wore on.

``Bryce did a good job last week,'' said Strief, who returned to practice on a limited basis this week. ``Obviously, he gets tossed into the fire in the middle of a two-minute drill. That's less than ideal. I feel his pain. I've been in this situation before. It's not easy physically. It's not easy mentally, especially as your first reps in a live game.''

Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Thursday that Strief looked good in practice and appears to be ahead of schedule, but he stopped short of saying whether the veteran starter would be ready to play by Sunday.

For now, all signs point to Harris making his first start against the 49ers, whose lineup features defensive stars such as linebackers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith.

The 49ers allow an NFL-low 13.4 points per game. They have allowed 277.2 yards per game, which ranks second in the league. Aldon Smith has 15 sacks this season. Defensive end Justin Smith and linebacker Ahmad Brooks are also top play-makers on one of the league's best defenses.

Harris said he doubts the 49ers would change to their already successful defensive scheme just to challenge him, but he expects San Francisco to try to test him early, one way or another.

``I'm sure the first play Brooks is going to come off full blast and try to knock me out and just try to put that intimidation into me,'' Harris said. ``I'm expecting it and I'm just going to handle it accordingly.''

Harris said that if he does start, he will be glad he had last week's experience, along with a full week of practice with the first team. Coaches have also noted that there are ways to help inexperience tackles by having running backs and tight ends deliver more ``chip'' blocks.

``Last week let me get all the nerves out so I don't feel nervous,'' Harris said. ``This week I got all the reps with the first-team. So I got what (the 49ers are) going to do defensively.''

Harris noted that Strief has been tutoring him and that playing alongside right guard Jahri Evans, and All-Pro last season, helps as well.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he thought Harris looked ``very calm and comfortable'' for a player seeing his first NFL action. Strief echoed those comments.

``He's a really good athlete, strong player,'' Strief said. ``He has picked our stuff up extremely well. We have a lot of nuances in our technique and he's really on top of that stuff. ... You see so much improvement week to week and he's a good player. He's a guy I think all of us have plenty of faith in.

Notes: CBs Corey White (right knee) and Elbert Mack (concussion) missed their second day of practice this week, meaning the Saints might have only three healthy cornerbacks Sunday: starters Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson, and cornerback Johnny Patrick. Vitt said Malcolm Jenkins, who was drafted as a cornerback before moving to safety in 2010, could step in as a cornerback if necessary. ... Also not practicing were defensive end Junior Galette (left ankle) and linebacker Ramon Humber (illness). RB Darren Sproles (left hand), who has missed the last three games, practiced fully.

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With Caps in Vancouver, Jay Beagle receives his ring

With Caps in Vancouver, Jay Beagle receives his ring

On June 7 in Las Vegas, Jay Beagle was in a Capitals uniform as they hoisted their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Three weeks later, the 33-year-old signed a four-year, $12-million contract with the Vancouver Canucks

The Capitals begin a four-game, Canadian road trip this evening in Vancouver. Beagle did not attend the Capitals ring ceremony at the Palm three weeks ago so the Caps awarded Beagle with his ring today.

Each ring contains 252 diamonds, 35 rubies and one sapphire. Beagle was impressed but isn't sure how much use the ring will get.

“Not sure I’ll wear it again. It’s like wearing my truck.”

Jay Beagle will not be on the ice tonight against his former team. Beagle broke his forearm when he blocked a shot against the Florida Panthers on October 13th. Beagle is expected to be sidelined for another five weeks.

Despite the injury, it has still been a great week for Beagle. 

A shiny, new ring AND a baby girl. Not too shabby.

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As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper on Monday, and with that, alarms go off around the NFL that it's wheeling and dealing season. The trade deadline hits in one week, and for teams looking to bolster their squad before the second half of the year, it's time to see what areas could improve. 

For Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, the injury situation at wide receiver means that his team could use help at the position. 

"We could probably use one more there if we could," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Asked if there was one area the team could bolster via trade, the coach explained that if wideouts Jamison Crowder or Paul Richardson could come back from injury right away, the Redskins would have no need to trade for another receiver. Unfortunately for the Redskins, neither injury situation is very clear, and some reports show that Crowder could miss a few more weeks working back from an ankle injury. 

"I think if you look at our team right now with the injuries to Crowder and obviously the uncertainty with Richardson you might want to add another receiver, but I like what [Michael] Floyd’s done coming in here," Gruden said. 

Floyd had one catch for 20 yards in the Redskins win on Sunday over the Cowboys, but he's a physical veteran that has the coach excited. Gruden also complimented what Maurice Harris and Brian Quick have done in the absence of Richardson and Crowder.

While the Cowboys struck first in the receiver trade market, more players remain reportedly available, including Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and Dolphins WR DeVante Parker. 

Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler in Denver, but at 30 years old and with some trade value, it makes sense for John Elway to consider his market. The Broncos are 3-4 and have an underperforming offense. 

Parker was a first-round pick in 2015 but has not had a 1,000-yard season in Miami. Making matters more complicated, Parker's agent Jimmy Gould called Dolphins head coach Adam Gase "incompetent" to a host of different media outlets. Parker has only been active twice this season though he contends health is not an issue. 

Gruden remains confident that 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson will get going, and he is a similar big target as Thomas and Parker. Should Richardson miss significant time, the Redskins would lack a true speed threat.

There's certainly no clear indication that Washington will make a move before the NFL trade deadline, but as things stand now with injuries, there is a need. Remember, too, the Redskins are long on 2019 draft picks with 10 selections in seven rounds.



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