Nationals

Saints not fretting uncertainty over Payton

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Saints not fretting uncertainty over Payton

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Regardless of the allure the Dallas Cowboys or some other franchises might have for a coach a successful who commands top dollar, Drew Brees cannot envision Sean Payton coaching anywhere but New Orleans next season.

Brees said he does not believe money is what motivates Payton as much as the pride he takes in what he has built with the Saints, and the desire to parlay his accomplishments in New Orleans into more championships when he is re-instated following his one-season suspension in connection with the NFL's bounty probe.

``I'd be shocked if he wasn't here next year,'' Brees said after practice on Wednesday. ``I have not even thought for a second that he wouldn't be here, honestly. Not even thought for a second.''

Payton's contract status has been in doubt, at least publicly, since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed last month that the league had a problem with certain language in Payton's 2011 extension, which would have run through 2015. The clause in question allowed Payton to opt out early if general manager Mickey Loomis left the club for any reason.

Because Payton was a top offensive assistant in Dallas from 2003 to 2005 and has a good relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and because Payton's children live in the Dallas area, there has been widespread speculation that Payton could return to the Cowboys should current coach Jason Garrett be fired after this season.

Payton, suspended from last April through next February's Super Bowl, has not commented on his contract situation, and neither has his agent, Don Yee.

The terms of Payton's suspension also prevent him from talking with any NFL employee - with limited and pre-approved exceptions - and Brees said he has not been able to talk to Payton about next season.

Brees said he would be highly skeptical of any reports of Payton's departure from New Orleans until he hears it from the coach himself, particularly if those reports cite only anonymous ``sources.''

``We also know how the whole sources thing works, don't we?'' Brees said. ``Sources can pretty much say whatever you want them to say because you never really have to be accountable for it. Like I said, I'm not worried.''

Brees' teammates largely echoed their quarterback's sentiments.

``What everybody thinks is that Sean will be back,'' Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. ``For right now, Sean Payton is our head coach. Just like a player has a contract that has to work out, there's going to be negotiations and that whole situation will play out.''

This Sunday the Saints play in Dallas, where Garrett has been unable to avoid questions about his own future and the Payton speculation, despite the fact that the Cowboys are riding a five-game winning streak that has placed them firmly in playoff contention after a shaky 3-5 start.

``Certainly, as coaches and individuals, we have to live'' with job uncertainty and speculation, Garrett said. ``There is always a lot of stuff going on on the periphery.''

``Sean is a great coach and good friend of mine. He has done a great job in this league for a long time,'' Garrett added. ``I'm focused on doing my job as well as I can.''

If Dallas can beat New Orleans this week and close out with a victory over the Redskins, the Cowboys would finish 10-6 and would be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, which might make it harder to for Jones to justify jettisoning Garrett. Jones has recently expressed confidence in Garrett in any event and credited him with how he has shepherded the team through the recent death of Cowboys practice squad player Jerry Brown in an auto accident.

``He's just a great communicator with his players and his colleagues,'' Jones said of Garrett. ``I've seen in him that in trying circumstances that he can do good things. My hat's off and I give him a lot of credit for how we're playing right now.''

Loomis and Saints owner Tom Benson could end the uncertainty by getting Payton locked into a new and perhaps more lucrative extension than the more than $6 million annually Payton would have earned had his 2011 deal gone through. And it remains to be seen whether they'll get a deal done before the league year ends a few weeks after the Super Bowl.

In the meantime, most Saints players said they'd spend their time worried about how to beat Dallas and Carolina in New Orleans' last two games.

``We would love to have Sean back, but that's out of our hands,'' running back Pierre Thomas said. ``That's between Mickey, Mr. Benson, and him. That's not between us. We can't have any say-so in it.''

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Howie Kendrick’s 6 best moments of the 2019 season

Howie Kendrick’s 6 best moments of the 2019 season

The Nationals took a significant step in building their roster for the 2020 season Friday when they reportedly re-signed Howie Kendrick to a one-year, $6.25 million deal with a mutual option for 2021.

Kendrick was limited to just 121 games during the regular season but played an important role for the team in the playoffs with some hits that will forever live in Nationals lore.

But Kendrick wasn’t just a clutch hitter in the playoffs. His 1.135 OPS in “late and close” situations—defined by Baseball-Reference as any situation in the seventh inning or later where a hitter’s team is either up by one, tied or the tying run is on deck—ranked second on the team among players with at least 30 such plate appearances last season.

Washington is bringing back the 36-year-old with hopes that he can continue to come through in key moments as his career winds down. But even if he doesn’t, Kendrick has cemented his Nationals legacy.

Here are six of his best moments from the 2019 season.

April 13 – Eaton, Kendrick spoil Archer’s big day

Chris Archer has had an up-and-down tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates since being acquired in a blockbuster trade midway through the 2018 season. His best start of the year, however, came against the Nationals on April 13.

Archer held Washington one run on four hits over seven innings, handing the game over to the Pirates’ bullpen with a 2-1 lead. Reliever Richard Rodriguez retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth before Adam Eaton came to the plate.

That’s when the pendulum swung, as Eaton left the yard only for Kendrick to do so a few minutes later. Sean Doolittle closed the door in the top of the ninth and the Nationals moved to 7-6 on the year.

May 9 – Kendrick drives in four against the Dodgers

Patrick Corbin may have been the story in this one by blanking the Los Angeles Dodgers over seven strong frames, but it was also one of Kendrick’s best games of the year.

His big hit didn’t come late, however. Kendrick took Rich Hill deep for a three-run homer in the top of the first to set the tone early. He then hit an RBI single with two runners on in the eighth before the Nationals eventually won 6-0.

June 9 – Kendrick hits the first of four straight homers

It was a 1-1 game when Kendrick came to the plate in the top of the eighth against the San Diego Padres on June 9. So naturally he saw a curveball heading for the center of the plate and pulled it into the left field seats for a go-ahead home run.

What followed was absolute madness. Trea Tuner homered. Then Eaton did. Then Anthony Rendon. It was the second time the Nationals went back-to-back-to-back-to-back in team history and more than enough to give Washington the win.

NLDS Game 5 – The greatest moment in Nationals history, for a few weeks

“Do you believe it!?”

That was the radio call Dave Jageler made when Kendrick hit a go-ahead grand slam in the 10th inning. It was the moment that delivered the Nationals’ first postseason series winning, putting to bed a history of disappointment for the franchise.

It was the single-most important hit any Nationals player ever had. That is, until a certain World Series game a few weeks later…

NLCS Game 3 – Kendrick hits three doubles en route to NLCS MVP honors

There was no way a list like this could be put together without a nod toward Kendrick’s NLCS performance. He reached base seven times in the series, driving in four runs and scoring another four of his own. But by far his best game came in Game 3.

The Nationals returned to D.C. with a 2-0 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and treated their fans to a blowout 8-1 win. Kendrick smacked three doubles, including a two-run, opposite-field gap plugger off Jack Flaherty in the bottom of the third that gave Washington a 4-0 lead.

World Series Game 7 – You know the one

When that ball clanked off the foul pole down the right field line, it changed the lives of D.C. sports fans forever. The magical run had one last bit of magic left, and of course it came courtesy of the man who gave the fan base real hope in the first place.

Kendrick is back for another run in 2020. The Nationals? They’re hoping his magic hasn’t run out just yet.

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How Ed Reed pulled off one of the best plays that Bill Belichick has ever seen

How Ed Reed pulled off one of the best plays that Bill Belichick has ever seen

Bill Belichick has seen a lot of football. A lot.

The New England Patriots head coach certainly knows what he's talking about and he didn't hold back when talking about Baltimore Ravens legend Ed Reed.

On a segment for NFL 100, Reed and Belichick recalled one of the former safety's interception against Manning, a play that Belichick called "one of the greatest plays I've ever seen."

Just listen to how giddy Belichick got talking about the play. 

Reed said he purposefully misplayed a certain coverage so that when Manning watched the film to prepare for the next game, Reed could fake him out the next time.

Manning became an all-time great because of his cerebral approach to football, so it's no hyperbole to say more men have walked on the moon than have outsmarted Peyton Manning on the gridiron. Reed is one of the few players to do so and became a Hall of Famer for playing that way his whole career.

Reed knew the entire time where the ball was going and made Manning look foolish for making that throw.

That's the stuff of legends.

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