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Te'o wins Nagurski Award for top defensive player

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Te'o wins Nagurski Award for top defensive player

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Manti Te'o got a call from Dick Butkus on Monday morning, letting him know he was voted the nation's best linebacker. A few hours later, the Notre Dame star accepted the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's top defensive player.

Oh yeah, he also picked up a trip to New York as one of the finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

Not a bad day at all.

The energetic senior from Hawaii helped put Notre Dame back in the spotlight this season, leading the top-ranked Fighting Irish to an unbeaten regular season and a date with Alabama in the BCS championship game Jan. 7.

Te'o says being mentioned along with former Nagurski winners such as Charles Woodson, Terrell Suggs, Warren Sapp and Champ Bailey is ``something very special to me.''

Te'o led the nation's top-ranked defense with 103 tackles and seven interceptions.

He beat out four other finalists: South Carolina end Jadeveon Clowney, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner and Florida State end Bjoern Werner.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly was on hand as the event's keynote speaker at a downtown Charlotte hotel Monday night and said it's impossible to describe what Te'o has meant to the program.

``It takes time to move from not being part of the national championship discussion for over 20 years to be right at the point of being able to be a national champion,'' Kelly said. ``You need somebody that can galvanize the team and somebody to get them to believe that they can do it. His actions, the way he played and the way he led did incredible things for our football program.''

Te'o said this will be a season he'll never forget, but first he'd like to see the Fighting Irish get one more win.

``It's something that you dream of when you're a little kid,'' Te'o said. ``You never think it could happen, then it finally hits you in the face and it's a dream come true.''

When asked what he'd rather win - a national championship or the Nagurski Award - Te'o smiled and laughed as if it's the easiest question he's ever answered.

``Hey, all these awards are great, but football is a team sport,'' he said. ``If you ask people who the Butkus Award or the Bednarik Award winners are, or even the Heisman Trophy winner some years, they probably don't remember them. But they remember who won the national championship. They remember that. That's the trophy everybody wants.''

Te'o said he's anxious for the BCS title game, although it's still a month away.

As for the 45-day layoff, he doesn't believe it will be a factor once the game begins.

``It can be good or bad, depending on the player and team,'' Te'o said. ``It depends on how badly you want it. You can approach those 45 days as a pro. But if you just want to be in the national championship game and that's enough, you're obviously in trouble. Alabama has obviously been there a lot recently. You've got to act like you've been there, even if we haven't.''

Kelly said he doesn't see the Fighting Irish losing focus as long as Te'o is in the locker room leading the way.

``He's a great student and he's really been a role model for everybody in our program,'' Kelly said. ``When you put all of those things together he's more than just a football player and I'm blessed that I had an opportunity to coach him.''

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Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

Capitals are the class of the Metropolitan Division for fifth year in a row

You know what’s fun? Winning Metropolitan Division titles. 

No, it’s not as good as the big prize. The Capitals will never top their 2018 Stanley Cup championship. But winning a competitive division against their biggest rivals five years in a row? Pretty, pretty good. 

Washington took its fifth in a row officially on Tuesday when the NHL announced that the regular season had concluded thanks to the ongoing coronavirus. The Capitals just outlasted the Philadelphia Flyers with 90 standings points to 89. The difference over 69 games? One extra Caps game going into overtime for a single point. 

Credit to the Flyers for making a late run. No one was playing better in the NHL than Philadelphia just before the season was halted. Whether that carries over into the Stanley Cup Playoffs remains to be seen. 

But the Capitals should take pride in that streak. It’s hard to do in an age of parity. They play in a division where the Pittsburgh Penguins won two Stanley Cups in the previous four seasons. The two teams slugged it out three times in the second round. That’s the luck of the draw, and so four straight division titles -- and two Presidents’ Trophies -- meant just one Cup for Washington. 

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It’s also rare to dominate a division the way the Capitals have for five years. The Anaheim Ducks won the Pacific Division title every year from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, the Detroit Red Wings won the Central Division an astounding eight times from 2001 to 2009. It doesn’t get you a championship -- Washington won the expired Southeast Division from 2008 to 2011 -- but it does mean you played great hockey year after year.

And to do it in the reconstituted Patrick Division, where long-time rivals like the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Islanders and Devils joined with newer rivals Carolina and Columbus, makes it even sweeter. Add another banner to the rafters at Capital One Arena. The Caps are the class of the Metropolitan Division yet again. 

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Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

Nationals will not lay off full-time business or baseball employees amid coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Nationals decided to use “partial furloughs” to keep their baseball and business employees at work through the end of their contracts or the calendar year.

The road map works like this:

All full-time business and baseball employees will receive a reduction in pay and hours ranging from 10 to 30 percent. If the employee’s contract runs to the end of baseball season -- typically Oct. 31 -- then these parameters apply from now until then. If the employee is not on contract, these reductions persist until Dec. 31.

No full-time employee is being laid off because of the economic impact from coronavirus.

An example: If a person works a 40-hour week, and has the 10 percent reduction in pay and hours, they are down to a 36-hour week at 10 percent pay cut.

The reduction scale slides. The highest-paid employees, like Mike Rizzo, are taking the largest reduction in pay. Then on down the line.

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The Nationals deciding to do this now allows their staff to know what the future holds as opposed to wondering month-to-month what decision the organization will make in regard to their job status.

Major League Baseball organizations remain uneasy about their financial future in 2020 since the season has stalled. The league and its team owners are in the midst of negotiations with the MLBPA while attempting to find a safe, revenue-satisfactory path back to the field.

Meanwhile, teams across the league are assessing their non-player finances, and the approach varies. For instance, the Anaheim Angels decided last week to furlough some non-playing employees.

In Washington, no full-time employee will be laid off because of this salary adjustment.

USA Today was first to report the Nationals’ overall decision.

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