Nationals

Super-confident Peterson says he's NFL's best CB

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Super-confident Peterson says he's NFL's best CB

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Arizona safety Kerry Rhodes says teammate Patrick Peterson will never catch up with his confidence.

But, as Rhodes says, ``it works for him.''

In his second NFL season, Peterson does not hesitate when asked if he's already the best cornerback in the game.

``I believe so,'' he said after practice on Wednesday. ``I believe I'm playing at a top level right now. Week in and week out, I'm given the opposing team's No. 1 receiver and I believe I'm handling that pretty well so far.''

It's an attitude instilled in him while growing up in the football-crazy state of Florida, an attitude essential at a position where the odds and the rules are stacked against you.

``I believe all the good corners have something in common, that's confidence in their ability to go out there and make plays for their team and themselves as well,'' he said. ``I believe the confidence started when I was back in high school. My dad, just something he always instilled in me as I was growing up - just always be confident in your ability and be confident in what you're doing at all times.''

Peterson has seven of Arizona's NFL-leading 22 interceptions this season, one in each of the last four games. His pick of Matthew Stafford's pass and 29-yard return to the Detroit 3-yard line set up the go-ahead touchdown in a 38-10 victory last Sunday that ended the Cardinals' nine-game losing streak. That pick came when Stafford overthrew Calvin Johnson.

Some of Peterson's interceptions have been far more spectacular.

The former LSU star has a knack for appearing to be beat on a play, only to somehow catch the receiver when the pass arrives and take the football away.

``It's just a God-given talent,'' Peterson said, ``having the ability to have that makeup speed, to catch up with guys who maybe break away from me and having the knowledge on where the quarterback is looking to throw the ball. When the guy does beat me across the crease, I want to beat him to his landmark.''

Peterson found out in a hurry as a rookie that God-given talent was enough to excel in an NFL secondary. Both he and coach Ken Whisenhunt said the difference between Peterson's play this year and last is technique.

``He's always been very gifted as far as seeing the ball and making plays on the ball,'' Whisenhunt said, ``but he's a guy that's worked very hard on his technique and that's one of the things I think is paying off for him.''

Peterson studied the video of last season and knew what to work on.

``Coming into this year I wanted to get better at the line of scrimmage,'' he said. ``Last year I wasn't patient. I was always opening up the gate, giving receivers the easy advantage to pretty much go wherever they want. Now this year I basically get my hands on them at the line of scrimmage, stand square, being patient, understanding what teams want to do in basic situations.''

Whisenhunt said Peterson is that rare athlete with an abundance of natural talent combined with the drive to do what is necessary to be among the best players in the NFL.

``He's one of those types of guys that have tremendous talent and that's very driven to be great,'' Whisenhunt said, ``and there's not a whole bunch of those, but I'm glad we've got him.''

The Cardinals selected Peterson with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 draft. While he had plenty to learn about playing cornerback at this level, he wasted no time in making an impact as a punt returner. He became the first player, let alone first rookie, to have four punt returns of 80 or more yards for touchdowns. That included a 99-yarder to beat St. Louis in overtime.

But there have been no such plays this season with teams focused on pinning him to the sidelines on returns or making other adjustments to neutralize him.

``It doesn't bother me in a sense because, at the end of the day, the Arizona Cardinals drafted me to be a defensive back,'' he said. ``The punt return is just a plus. It's something that I'm good at as well. When the opportunity comes, I'll definitely do my best to break one.''

Arizona also has worked him into the offense on occasion, usually in the wildcat. With the worst offense in the NFL, the Cardinals could be expected to try that a time or two when they are home against Chicago. Peterson has often said he relishes any chance to touch the ball.

``We'll see if it gets called this week,'' he said, flashing the big smile that has already helped make him one of the most popular players on the team. ``You guys will find out on Sunday.''

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Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman tests positive for COVID-19 with Opening Day 12 days away

Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman tests positive for COVID-19 with Opening Day 12 days away

The New York Yankees could be without their top relief arm on Opening Night against the Nationals.

Manager Aaron Boone announced Saturday that Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is experiencing “mild symptoms” after testing positive for the coronavirus and will be away from the team “for the foreseeable future.” Chapman is the third Yankees player to contract the virus after infielder DJ LeMahieu and reliever Luis Cessa tested positive in early July.

Boone’s announcement comes 12 days before the Yankees are scheduled to take on the Nationals in D.C. to kick off MLB’s abbreviated 2020 season. New York will play three games against Washington in the only series between the two clubs this year.

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However, if any team is built to absorb the loss of its closer, it’s the Yankees. Boone said that reliever Zack Britton would be the “natural guy” to handle ninth-inning duties if Chapman isn’t ready for the start of the season. New York’s bullpen also includes Adam Ottavino, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle, each of whom—like Britton—would be a closer on most other teams.

On Friday, MLB and the players union announced that 28 of the 30 MLB teams had at least one player or staff member test positive for the coronavirus between intake screening and monitoring testing. Overall, 83 of the 11,149 samples collected have come back positive—a rate of 0.7 percent.

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Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Howie Kendrick among several Nationals players still not in Summer Camp

Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Howie Kendrick among several Nationals players still not in Summer Camp

WASHINGTON --More than a week into the Major League Baseball’s reboot, and its gleefully-named and grotesquely-sponsored Summer Camp, the Nationals are still in wait-and-see mode.

Two players tested positive for Coronavirus at intake screening. The team is not obligated to release their names and cannot do so without the player’s permission. So, what we do know is Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Howie Kendrick are among multiple players not yet in Nationals Park for workouts 12 days before the season is scheduled to begin.

Their health and safety is paramount. However, when they are not working with the team, the organization needs to formulate a baseball-specific plan to go forward without them, should the need arise. And, that time is close because the preparation window is closing.

RELATED: HOW WILL MLB'S NEW EXTRA INNING WITH A RUNNER ON SECOND RULE WORK STRATEGICALLY?

“Right now, we’re taking things one day at a time,” Davey Martinez said Saturday. “I’ve got to put eyes on these guys and see where they’re at. I know Soto was actually working out pretty good in the Dominican back home, so was Robles. I talked to those guys. We talked to the strength-and-conditioning guys. They think they’re in really good shape. They worked really hard. We’ll have to get them on the field.

“The biggest thing is they can be in great shape, but how much baseball shape have they done? To me, where something happens, if anybody strains an oblique, you’re looking at a significant amount of time. You’re probably looking at almost a whole season here with only 60 games. We got to be careful, we’ve got to see where they’re at. Then once they get here, we’ll determine whether they’re going to be ready or not.”

The Nationals have three exhibition games scheduled before the season opener against Gerrit Cole and the New York Yankees. They can carry 30 players into that game. Martinez is trying to worry about who is in the stadium since he has no control over the clearances for the players who are not.

“We’re in a difficult situation,” Martinez said. “We really are with these guys. We’ve done everything we can. I know our strength guys have Zoomed with them and actually put them on some kind of workout program and watching them do what they can do in their apartment. You’re talking about some of our younger players, too. We don’t want to get them hurt. We’ve got to be smart. We’re also talking about a shorter season where we’ve got to win games right away. We’ll see how these guys come in and for me, it’s the baseball shape....Standing on their feet for seven, eight, nine innings.”

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Catcher Raudy Read played first base during Saturday’s intrasquad workout at Nationals Park. He was there in part because Read could well be a first baseman in the long-term. The Nationals also needed another body at the spot because Eric Thames -- their lone true first baseman available -- played for the opposing side.

The team variations spread across the infield and into the outfield because Soto, Robles and Luis Garcia remain in quarantine.

Martinez said “hopefully” the players in quarantine will be with the team soon. Even if they are, their window to be prepared for Cole is extremely limited, which is going to force the Nationals to start making contingency plans.