Nationals

Steelers hire Danny Smith as special teams coach

Steelers hire Danny Smith as special teams coach

PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers have hired longtime Washington Redskins assistant Danny Smith as special teams coordinator.

Smith, a Pittsburgh native, spent the last nine seasons in the same capacity with the Redskins. The 59-year-old Smith has spent 18 years in the NFL. Prior to joining the Redskins in 2004 he worked with the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Steelers were erratic on special teams in 2012. Kicker Shaun Suisham had a career year, making 28 of 31 field goals. However, the kick return and kick coverage units struggled at times. Pittsburgh was ninth in kickoff return average but 28th in punt return average.

The Steelers were 16th in kickoff return yardage allowed and 11th in punt return yardage allowed, but did give up a punt return for a score in a 13-10 loss to Baltimore in November.

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Much to his pleasure, Max Scherzer ‘probable’ to start this week

Much to his pleasure, Max Scherzer ‘probable’ to start this week

WASHINGTON -- If you ask Max Scherzer, he is ready. Which is not an upgrade from where he was earlier in the week.

Scherzer felt well again Sunday when he woke up following his second simulation game of the week. His workload increased Saturday, his comfort remained the same and Sunday his body told him he is ready to pitch in a game for the first time since July 25. Davey Martinez agreed -- for the most part. He said Scherzer is “probable” to start Thursday in Pittsburgh.

“I feel good,” Scherzer said. “Kinda do my normal little tests, move my arm and go through the throwing motion, so I feel good. I’m basically sore today the way I should be sore, given that and all the treatment we did yesterday and throwing a sim game. Like everything feels right where it should be. There’s no extra soreness other than what I anticipated. To me, that’s right on par.”

Scherzer remains irritated he was instructed to throw a second simulation game. He understands why. It just was not his personal preference. Part of the reason is in the title of the act. “Simulation” is not reality. For instance, he warned Gerardo Parra a slider was coming in the first simulation game. “Watch your foot,” Scherzer told him out of concern for possible injury. Pitchers are not truly pitching inside during simulations because of that worry. Players could be found to stand in the box without concern of injury. However, they couldn’t competently handle a hall-of-fame pitcher. So, that’s a false test, too. Only being in a game tells the truth.

But this is what Scherzer had to deal with because of the organization managed his return slowly. They focused on the future -- both this season and beyond. Scherzer is much more concerned about the now because, in his view, his rhomboid strain is not a significant injury.

“The long-term health, that’s not even part of the equation,” Scherzer said. “We all know that’s going to be good because we’re dealing with a muscle strain. Every other structure within the back, shoulder, you name it – nothing at play here. It’s literally dealing with the muscle strain and getting through it.”

Knowing this is not a long-term injury has keyed Scherzer’s frustration with the process. He’s felt close, then ready, really close, and again ready throughout the recovery. He’s being teased by the thing he wants to do most: get back on the mound in a real game. 

“Honestly, the toughest part about this whole thing is I feel like the carrot’s right in front of my face,” Scherzer said. “That it’s such day to day that any day it could turn and you always wake up every single day thinking today’s the day that you’re going to wake up and not feel anything and you’re going to go out there and you’re going to throw it and you’re going to feel no pain whatsoever. And you go off running because it’s not a serious injury. That’s been the most frustrating part. 

“If I knew that was going to be however long this is going to take – if I was dealing with, say, a more significant injury where they say, ‘You’re not going to feel good in six weeks’ – all right, you got it. You can easily mentally check out for six weeks knowing I’m not going to be able to throw a ball in six weeks and you can build your rehab around that. That hasn’t been the case. It’s really been day to day: ‘Hey, you might be feeling good here in two days.’ That’s really been the prognosis I’ve gotten from the doctors and everybody about what I’m dealing with. 

“So for me, that’s really been the hardest part mentally. I feel like at any point in time I could be ready to get back out there and at any day everybody’s expecting that this could turn. For me, when you have that carrot right in front of your face and you want to be helping your team, that’s what’s been the most frustrating part for me mentally.”

A bullpen session Monday should be next. After that, a final step to diffuse all of Scherzer’s irritation, his competition-based combat with Martinez and the organization and exasperation with a muscle strain which derailed him for a month can come: pitch one.

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Ravens not changing much for three days against the Eagles

Ravens not changing much for three days against the Eagles

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With the Ravens headed up to Philadelphia to face the Eagles in two joint practices before a game on Thursday, there isn’t much expected to change in terms of game reps. 

Coach John Harbaugh said Lamar Jackson will play about the same amount that he played in the first two games. He was on the field for 16 snaps against the Jaguars and 22 against the Packers. 

What could change, however, is some of the offensive game planning that goes into preparation for a different style of defense. 

“Not specifically, no, but I definitely think (with) this style of defense, we’ll definitely have a little bit of a different game plan going in,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “It necessitates that, which is good for us. I don’t think we’re saying, ‘We’re going to run what we’re going to run in the first couple weeks of the season.’ We might, but we might not. I don’t want to give away anything. I definitely think we’ll do some different stuff.”

While Roman remained secretive about the exact plan for Thursday, a week in Philadelphia against a team expected to contend in the NFC this season will be illuminating for the Ravens. 

The Eagles run a 4-3 defense, different from the Ravens' 3-4, so they’ll get a new look on defense, too. 

Offensively, Philadelphia boasts Carson Wentz, one of the league’s top quarterbacks. With a skill group of Zach Ertz, Nelson Agholor and DeSean Jackson, too, the Ravens secondary will be under the lights in both this week’s practices and game.

“This is going to be a big test for us, going to Philly, because they’ve got a lot of skill at wide receiver and tight end and running back,” defensive coordinator Don Martindale said. “It’s going to be a measuring stick definitely, for sure.”

As the days tick away toward final cut down day on Aug. 31, the margin for error is shrinking daily.

“This third preseason game, it’s getting down to crunch time now, where guys are going to make the 53 or they’re not. The biggest message was, ‘If you think you’re on the bubble, you are,” Martindale continued.

The Ravens will take a slightly more banged up team into Philadelphia than they had last week, as there were some notable absences from practice on Sunday.

The 14 players missing from practice included: Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin, Kenneth Dixon, Gus Edwards, Randin Crecelius, Greg Senat, Marshal Yanda, Tavon Young, Iman Marshall, Marlon Humphrey, Chris Board, Nicholas Grigsby, Pernell McPhee and Shane Ray. 

Young (neck injury) is expected to be out long term, but no other injuries are thought to be as serious.

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