Ravens

Simpson sees no need for belly ban

Simpson sees no need for belly ban

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda (AP) U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson isn't worried about a potential rule change that would ban long putters, and he's already practicing with a conventional putter.

That doesn't mean he agrees with a change, saying Monday that larger drivers have affected golf far more than putters anchored to the body.

The U.S. Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club are discussing a possible change to the rules of golf that would keep players from anchoring the putter to their body, such as the belly or the chest for the broom-style putters.

Three of the last five major champions have anchored their putters - Simpson, British Open champion Ernie Els and PGA champion Keegan Bradley. Simpson and Bradley are at Port Royal for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, a 36-hole exhibition for the four major winners which starts Tuesday. Bradley is filling in for PGA champion Rory McIlroy.

``I'm friends with a lot of the R&A guys and the USGA guys. It's nothing personal and I know they are trying to do it for the betterment of the game,'' Simpson said. ``But I don't think it's a good decision.''

Simpson said the PGA Tour's new putting statistic, known as ``strokes gained,'' shows no discernible advantage for players using long putters.

``If the USGA bans it, I think it's going to be a whole other ballgame if the PGA Tour bans it,'' Simpson said. ``It's going to be tough if they do ban it. It's going to be tough for a lot of people. Not players, I think it's going to be tough for the committees to really have their stance on it. If you look at the facts, last year there was no one in the top 20 of strokes gained category that anchored a putter.''

``So the argument of, `It's an advantage', you have to throw that out there,'' he said. ``There's a bunch of arguments going around but I haven't heard a good one yet.''

Golfweek magazine reported USGA executive director Mike Davis met with the PGA Tour's policy board last week at Sea Island to let it know it's getting widespread support for a potential ban.

Davis has said he expects to announce a decision by the end of the year, though he has stressed the USGA and R&A have not decided anything yet.

Simpson switched to a belly putter in 2004 and said he felt the club made him more consistent, something he believed would ultimately give him a longer career.

``What I found was that I just became a more consistent putter,'' he said. ``I don't get hot quite as much, I don't get cold quite as much. With the short putter I was a real streaky putter. The best players in the game, who have had long careers, have been steady players, which is why I switched.

``But I'm not worried about it. I'm ready, and if they do it for next year, I'll be ready.''

If there is a rules change, it likely would not be made until 2016. The Rules of Golf only make permanent changes every four years.

Simpson is more concerned with the rulings on other equipment.

``We all know that the R&A and USGA love to keep golf as original as possible,'' he said. ``But I think with the changes in the grooves, the golf balls, the drivers - you've got a little persimmon head 20 years ago the size of a fist, and now a titanium head 460 cc. In 1980, the long drive guy was hitting it 285, and now if you hit it 285, you're one of the shortest guys on the Tour. To me, it's a bigger change to go from that size head to what we play now than the putter.''

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

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Dominant defense earns Ravens' Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors

The defensive performance on display by the Baltimore Ravens Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in a 21-0 shutout win was flat out historic. So historic that it's earned linebacker Za'Darius Smith AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

A franchise-record 11 sacks were laid on quarterback Marcus Mariota during the Week 6 matchup, with Smith leading the way with three of them.   

So far this season the 26-year-old has 20 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble. As someone who is in the final year of his rookie NFL contract, he's certainly proving he is worthy of getting paid this offseason. 

"It feels great, man. It's big," Smith said of the honor during media availability Wednesday. "I know when I first found out I called my mom and she was already looking at it. But I called her and she was trying to congratulate me and was like 'who would've ever thought the guy that played one year of high school football would be where he at now and making so many goals.'"

But earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week isn't the only goal Smith has in mind. His performance through the first six weeks and assisting the No. 1 ranked scoring defense is just a stepping stone to the ultimate honor.

"I was telling her, 'Ma you know this is a good self-goal but my main goal is to get us to the Super Bowl.'" 

The road to the Super Bowl for Smith and the Ravens continues this Sunday vs. Drew Brees and the Saints. 

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4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

The Caps return to action Wednesday as they host the New York Rangers (7 p.m., NBCSN) in a Metropolitan Division clash.

Here are four things you should be watching for in this game.

The schedule finally gives the Caps a break

The early season schedule for Washington has been bizarre to say the least. Finally, they will be catching a break on Wednesday as the Rangers will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back.

That certainly does not guarantee a victory, but it is something the Caps are very aware of and they hope to take advantage.

“I think speed is a big part of the game and for them to be fatigued off the back-to-back is definitely going to help us whether we move the puck a little quicker than we would in other games just kind of knowing they are coming off that back-to-back,” Nathan Walker said.

“We've got to make them skate, we've got to make their D go back for pucks,” T.J. Oshie said. “I don't feel like they're going to look tired at the start of the game, usually that comes towards the end of the game, second half, and so you've got to work to drain them down a little bit and we've got to take advantage of that opportunity tonight.”

Top-line Stephenson

Stephenson was added to the top line on Saturday with no practice other than the morning skate that day. A few days between games has given him a chance to practice with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and it should pay dividends on Wednesday.

This game also should be a good opportunity for Stephenson who was added to the top for his speed. Playing a tired Rangers team is something he will need to take advantage of.

“It's always tough to play back-to-back and with the travel and stuff like that,” Stephenson said. “For the most part, I think that that's going to be important and just to play a full 60, that's something that we want to get consistent with and we haven't been so far … But for the most part, I think the start will really help us tonight.”

Nathan Walker returns

The Caps made a change to the lineup for Wednesday’s game as Nathan Walker will be in for Dmitrij Jaskin on the fourth line.

When asked why he made the change, Reirden said, “Just a different look. A team that's on a back-to-back, we wanted to really come at them with some speed, tenacity and intensity that we know we always get from Nathan so thought it was a good add into tonight's lineup.

The Caps have got to get more offense from their bottom six and adding the speedy Walker to the bottom six could provide a boost. He has had trouble playing within the system in the past and his play has been more frenzied than controlled at times, but with Tom Wilson still suspended, there’s definitely an opportunity for Walker to earn more playing time depending on how he plays Wednesday.

King Henry remains on his throne

In addition to a tired Rangers team, the Caps are also expected to face a tired goalie.

Henrik Lundqvist started New York’s game on Tuesday and is expected to start again on Wednesday against Washington. That is not confirmed as the Rangers did not have a morning skate because of the back-to-back, but it is believed Lundqvist will play again.

There was a time when Lundqvist was considered the best netminder in the NHL and he is off to a phenomenal start this season with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage in five games thus far.

But how will the 36-year-old goalie handle a back-to-back?

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