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Shaw: Stanford's renaissance has only just begun

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Shaw: Stanford's renaissance has only just begun

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) As David Shaw addressed his Stanford players for the final time this season, a sense of sadness started to circulate around the room.

No more games. No more trophy celebrations. No more upsets, comebacks or any of the other thrilling moments that took place during the most sensational season in 40 years on The Farm.

``It was almost like, `Gosh, we want to play another game,''' Shaw said. ``These guys were such a joy to be with. We almost didn't want the season to end. Even though it ended in the Rose Bowl and everyone was really excited, it was almost like, `Man, we need to play again.'''

After a Pac-12 Conference title and the program's first Rose Bowl victory since the Nixon Administration, Stanford's players simply can't wait to take the field again - and their sights may be set even higher next season.

The Cardinal are in far better shape than last January, when Andrew Luck left to become the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick and several other starters departed along with the record-setting quarterback. But instead of taking a step back, Stanford sprung forward, finally toppling Oregon and coming within a victory - or a disputed replay - at Notre Dame from perhaps supplanting the Fighting Irish in Monday night's BCS championship game against Alabama.

Kevin Hogan is solidified at quarterback, and most of the Pac-12's top defense will return. Shaw, winner of two straight conference coach of the year awards, also turned down the NFL to sign a ``long-term'' deal at Stanford in December - though that didn't stop a few NFL teams from inquiring about his services anyway.

``There have been conversations,'' Shaw said, speaking by phone before heading back on the recruiting trail this week. ``But I think they all understand now that that's the reason we signed the contract when we did, to keep me out of that speculation to let people know I'm going to be at Stanford.''

The Cardinal have so much depth that Shaw expects to add only ``10 to 12'' recruits on signing day Feb. 6. Even a preseason ranking in the top five of The Associated Press poll is possible.

``We're not going to lose a lot of guys,'' Shaw said. ``We're bringing back a whole lot of guys.''

Middle linebacker Chase Thomas will leave the biggest hole on defense, though the Cardinal had such a legion of linebackers, playing time proved to be the only real problem at the position this season. Leading tackler Shayne Skov wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he will be back as a fifth-year senior, as expected, after defensive lineman Ben Gardner tweeted he'd return.

Running back Stepfan Taylor is set to graduate, and so is wide receiver and punt returner Drew Terrell. Tight ends Zach Ertz - who could be the top player taken at his position - and Levine Toilolo appear likely to forego their final year of eligibility for the NFL draft.

But there are several freshmen from what the program considered the best recruiting class in Stanford history who didn't play, or played sparingly, and could emerge quickly. Among those is running back Barry J. Sanders, who spurned his Hall of Fame father's alma mater at Oklahoma State to make his own mark out West, but injured his ankle in the fall and ended up redshirting.

With a doubt, though, Stanford is more settled on offense heading into next season because quarterback is no longer an issue. The strong-armed and quick-footed Hogan finished 5-0 - including beating four ranked teams en route to the Rose Bowl - since replacing Josh Nunes. He impressed so much that the only question now is how good he can be in his redshirt sophomore season.

``Is he going to be able to make that next step from an athletic kid to a true, legitimate threat as a passer and as a runner? Will he be a complete quarterback this year? We'll see,'' Shaw said. ``We know he has the ability to. Can he make that jump?''

The only other concern Shaw has is guarding against complacency.

Shaw received more than 250-plus text messages, emails and voicemails - and a hug from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - since Tuesday's victory in Pasadena. He called the response overwhelming, though in some ways it also was a bit unsettling.

For so long, Shaw heard so many consider the Rose Bowl ``out of reach'' for the rigorous academics university. Now that the Cardinal have accomplished the one goal Shaw sets every season, he doesn't want everybody celebrating the accomplishment too much.

After all, there are more games to be won, more trophies to hoist and perhaps even one more milestone to reach before Stanford could be considered a powerhouse to those who recognize only one accomplishment: a national title.

``Will coaches have to crack the whip to get guys motivated, or will we continue to be motivated even though we did win the Rose Bowl? Can we continue to push ourselves through success?'' Shaw said. ``We'll find out.''

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Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

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Associated Press

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

Even though it was a bright, warm Wednesday in Ashburn the Redskins held their OTA session in the practice bubble because recent rains have left their outdoor fields to soggy to use. Here are my observations from the practice:

—A few Redskins were not present and a few who were there were not participating in the drills. Jay Gruden said that OT Trent Williams is rehabbing in Texas and that LB Zach Brown is in the process of relocating to the Washington area. RB Chris Thompson and OT Morgan Moses were present, but both were spectators. 

— It should be noted that even though Moses didn’t practice and is still rehabbing after ankle surgery, he still participated in the sideline-to-sideline running the team does at the end of practice.

—At rookie camp, RB Derrius Guice was first in line to do every drill. Today, he gave way to the veterans to all take their reps and then he went first among the rookies. 

— “Fat Rob” Kelley never really was fat but he is now lean and mean. He also seems to be a half step quicker than he was in the past. Added competition in the form of second- and fourth-round picks being added at your position will do that to a player. 

—The “starting” offensive line from left to right was Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, and John Kling. The interior could well start the season; the tackle position awaits the returns of Williams, Scherff, and Ty Nsekhe. 

—RB Byron Marshall, who was on the team briefly last year before getting injured, looked very quick with good acceleration.

—CB Josh Norman was back with the group fielding punts. I seriously doubt that he will handle any kicks in games, even preseason games, but perhaps with DeAngelo Hall being gone he wants to be available as an emergency option. Also back with the punt returners were CB Danny Johnson, CB Greg Stroman, WR Maurice Harris, WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, and, of course, WR Jamison Crowder.

—S D.J. Swearinger spent most of the special teams practice on the sideline working on catching passes with his hands extended away from his body. A little while later, he had a chance to make an interception with his arms extended. Of course, he dropped it. 

—It seems like QB Alex Smith and Crowder have some good rapport built already. Once on the right sideline and a few minutes later on the left, Smith threw a well-placed ball into Crowder, who was well covered on both occasions. 

—Eventually, CB Orlando Scandrick caught on and he swatted down a quick out to Crowder. 

—With Brown out, Josh Harvey-Clemons was with the first unit at inside linebacker. He’s still skinny but less so than he was last year. The second-year player was impressive in coverage, staying with Crowder step for step on a deep pass down the middle.

—The play of the day was a deep pass down the right side from Smith to WR Paul Richardson. Stroman was with the receiver step for step on the 9 route but Smith laid the ball out perfectly and Richardson made a lunging catch. Even though it doesn’t have to under the new rule, the catch did survive the ground. 

—WR Cam Sims had a few impressive plays. On one, QB Colt McCoy lofted one high in the air down the right side. Sims kept his focus on the ball while two defenders lost it and made the catch. 

—WR Trey Quinn had his moments. He made a good grab while being bumped by Scandrick. But a while later he dropped a fairly easy one. 

—The running backs all looked good but Guice looked the best of all of them. He had an ability to cut and maintain his speed that not many have. With the warning that they were playing with no pads with no contact and not at full speed, Guice’s vision appeared to be outstanding. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

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USA TODAY Sports

NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that allows players to remain in the locker room if they prefer but requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance.

This new policy subjects teams, but not players, to fines if any team personnel do not show appropriate respect for the anthem. 

Teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction separately though. 

The NFL Players Association released it's own statement after the news was made official.