Redskins

Texans coach Kubiak concerned as injuries mount

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Texans coach Kubiak concerned as injuries mount

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans won another thriller, but coach Gary Kubiak has growing concerns about the health of his team.

The Texans (10-1) rallied late to force overtime for the second straight game and beat Detroit 34-31 on Thanksgiving. Kubiak was back at Reliant Stadium early Friday morning, mulling over a sobering list of injuries to key players.

Linebackers Brooks Reed (groin) and Bradie James (hamstring), and starting right tackle Derek Newton (right knee) underwent MRI exams on Friday after getting hurt against the Lions. Tight end Garrett Graham hurt his left shoulder in the game, and Houston was already playing without starting cornerback Johnathan Joseph (hamstring), nose tackle Shaun Cody (back), linebacker Tim Dobbins (left shoulder) and backup running back Ben Tate (hamstring).

``We've got some damage this morning, no doubt about that,'' Kubiak said Friday, ``but it is a huge win.''

The Texans next play at Tennessee (4-6) on Dec. 2. Kubiak is giving his players the weekend off after a draining five days in which they played nearly 2 1/2 games.

On Sunday, Houston came back from 14 points down to beat Jacksonville 43-37 late in overtime, then rallied from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to beat the Lions after just two days of light practice. The Texans gritted out a 13-6 win in rainy Chicago the previous week.

``I'm amazed at the players and the way they held up,'' Kubiak said. ``During that short period of time, to play that much football and in that competitive environment and the way we had to win the last week together, and even if you throw Chicago in there, it's been very taxing on the team.

``I just said that I think the biggest thing is, after what we've been through physically, winning was so important.''

Kubiak says he'd know more about the latest injuries on Monday.

Newton won the starting job at right tackle in training camp and has started every game. Ryan Harris, signed just before the season began, replaced Newton Thursday.

The linebacking corps, meanwhile, is suddenly the Texans' most depleted unit. Brian Cushing was already gone for the season with a torn left knee ligament. Dobbins stepped into Cushing's spot in the starting lineup, but he hurt his left shoulder in the Chicago game.

Reed, who has 2 1/2 sacks and 15 solo tackles this season, pulled up chasing Joique Bell on Thursday, and James left in the fourth quarter after assisting on a tackle of Mikel Leshoure.

Luckily for Kubiak, Darryl Sharpton is back after missing a year with a torn right quadriceps. Sharpton saw his first action since Oct. 30, 2011 against Jacksonville and then started in Detroit. The injuries also create more opportunity for first-round pick Whitney Mercilus, who had four solo tackles and two for loss on Thursday.

``We are in a mode of survival right there at that position until we get some guys healthy,'' Kubiak said.

Aside from the injuries, Kubiak is starting to have concerns about the defense, which was ranked fourth overall and seventh against the pass coming into the Lions game.

But Houston has given up 791 yards passing and six touchdown passes in the last two games, and Kubiak says the mounting injuries are becoming a factor.

``We have not played to our standard the last two weeks defensively,'' Kubiak said. ``Obviously, if we lined up today, we're missing three of our four starting linebackers,'' Kubiak said. ``I mean, that's a concern. Then, when your top corner sits down. There are some things there to say, `OK, we can be better if we can get healthy here.' But still, we've got to look at it and say, `That's not us.'''

The Texans escaped Detroit with a win when Shayne Graham kicked a 32-yard field goal with 2:21 left in overtime. Graham is 20 for 25 this season, but he missed a 51-yarder that would've given Houston the victory earlier in the extra period. He also badly hooked a 47-yarder at the end of regulation against Jacksonville.

Kubiak is also concerned that Graham's kickoffs are coming up short.

``He's just inconsistent hitting the ball and it's something we've been working on,'' Kubiak said. ``It is a concern because field position is so huge in the game. He has kicked pretty well for us. We expect him to make that kick at the end of the game. I know it's a 50-yarder, but that's our business, that's what he's here to do.''

Graham won the job when rookie Randy Bullock tore a groin muscle in training camp. Kubiak says he still has confidence in Graham, despite the recent misses.

``He's kicked in a lot of big games. He's made a lot of big kicks,'' Kubiak said. ``The situation with our kickoffs is something we're concerned about, but we have a lot of other issues with our team right now. So it's hard to go solve that with some of the other things we've got going on.''

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Reflections on Rich Tandler and a life well lived

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NBC Sports Washington

Reflections on Rich Tandler and a life well lived

I haven’t felt this way since my father passed last April. I’m not comparing the two, at all, but there were some similarities. Rich Tandler had life experience. Few people accomplish what he did; total life reinvention.

Think about that. After raising his two successful children and a lifetime in the restaurant business, Tandler created a blog. That blog became big enough to eventually become a full-time job, and over time, put him on television and send him all over the world.

That’s wild.

We get so caught up in the “startups” and “disruptors” from Silicon Valley that we missed a true internet success story in Rich Tandler. Our world has become extra cynical. The loudest snark wins, especially on the internet.

Tandler didn’t trade in those currencies. He provided good, quality information. He provided insight and analysis from six decades of obsessing over a football team. And fans loved him for it. The outpouring from folks that read "Need to Know" or listened to the podcast has been incredible. I’ve been flooded with messages from people, and one overwhelming response is that while they didn’t really know Tandler, they feel like they did.
Well, I was lucky to know him pretty well. And his persona on air was the same way off air.

Tandler helped me a in a lot of ways. I can be impulsive and have a temper, Tandler would calm me down. Whenever I had something important to say, news to break or a sharp angle of criticism, I would run in by Tandler first. Sometimes, maybe often, I would say too much, and he would reign me in.

Tandler loved pointing out mistakes. If the universe gave honorary degrees for pointing out minor math errors in salary cap blog posts, Tandler would have a Ph.D. He was smart and he was sharp. Good natured but feisty. He could dish it out plenty in a media room full of alphas. And he literally dished it out; Tandler controlled all the plastic utensils and paper plates that every media member used at Redskins Park. When we were running low on forks, Tandler would put out some not too subtle calls to action.

I think for a while he considered the podcast an annoyance, but somewhere along the way, we had a breakthrough. He realized its potential, and everywhere we went, listeners came up and told us how much they enjoyed it. That made an impact on RT. And seemingly overnight, he was all in. That’s when things really started to gain steam. Wherever I am in my career, Tandler played a huge role in it.

But that kind of doesn’t matter now. We will keep the pod going but it will never be the same. Not better, not worse, but way, way different. Same thing with writing and TV. The show will go on, but it won't be the same. It will never be the same.

In the hours since I learned of Tandler’s passing, I’ve done some reading. I drank a bunch. And I ended up landing on some YouTube videos. The one I kept going back to was Jimmy V’s famous ESPY speech. Before he died, Jimmy V implored us all to think, laugh and cry every day, and that would lead to a good, full life. If there was ever a dude that laughed, it was Rich Tandler. His belly laugh was contagious, and his wit was superior. There were the wacky Tandler’s Got Jokes, and the sly one liners about players, plays and our road antics.

It wasn’t all laughter.

Tandler was smart as hell, and he was always thinking about new ways to present content for Redskins fans. Seriously, our organization employs an army of young and talented digital-first thinkers. And Tandler generated more web traffic than all of them. He constantly tried to figure out why people would read something, or the optimal time for us to drop a new podcast.

Where I’m an idea guy, Tandler was all execution. I’m a terrible planner and constantly late. Tandler would be on time and busting my chops about our lack of schedule. It’s just how we operated.

As for crying, Tandler wasn’t much of one. I did see him tear up from laughing a few times, and once because it was real windy when we were taping a segment and something got in his eye.

I’m not much of a crier either. I’m glad that Jimmy V was, but it’s just not me. Thinking about Tandler though in the last 36 hours, there have been some truly hard moments. He was kind and gracious. A true gentleman. He never took personal shots at the team we cover, or their front office. Plenty do. He would certainly say when things were bad, and say it loudly. He was binary in a world full of context. He was a good dude. He was my coworker, my partner and my friend.

And damn if it isn’t getting dusty in here all of a sudden. 

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Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

The Washington Wizards open their regular season on Thursday night against the Miami Heat. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Just one week ago, it would have seemed near impossible that Dwight Howard, the Wizards' biggest offseason acquisition, would be ready to play in the season opener, but after three solid days of practice, it can't be ruled out. The Wizards plan to evaluate him throughout the day on Thursday to determine if he can take the court in what would be his first live game action with his new team.

Howard, 32, missed the entire preseason and nearly all of their practices leading up to the opener with a strained piriformis muscle. Though reports have been encouraging from his three practices, he is not yet in game shape. Even if he can play, expect him to be limited. If he can't play, Ian Mahinmi will get the start.

Heat are banged up

Miami is not only coming off a game the night before, as they lost in their season opener to the Orlando Magic, but they are missing some key guys. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow are out due to injuries.

That will leave Miami perilously thin at the guard and small forward position. That happens to be an area of the roster where the Wizards are especially deep, now with Austin Rivers as the backup shooting guard behind Bradley Beal and with first round pick Troy Brown Jr. behind Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.

That said, Waiters and Ellington being out means Dwyane Wade may get more run and, as we saw in the preseason, he is still very hard to stop. He is capable of a big night, especially given it's so early in the year and he doesn't yet have the wear-and-tear of a long season.

Can Beal reach the next level?

One of the most important indicators of how much better the Wizards will be this season is the continued improvement of their young players. John Wall, Porter and Oubre are included in that and particularly Oubre, who is entering an important season in the final year of his contract.

But the guy who improved more than anyone last year and has a chance to take another big leap this season is Beal. Now with one All-Star nod under his belt, what does he have for an encore? 

If Beal can get his scoring average up even higher from the 22.6 he put up last season, he could enter the All-NBA conversation. And he now has more help than ever with Rivers behind him. Beal should, in theory, be more fresh each night with Rivers taking away some of his workload. 

The Heat offer a good matchup defensively for Beal with Josh Richardson. He is one of the more underrated players in basketball and is a menace on the perimeter.

"I've been a fan of his since I played him in college at Tennessee," Beal said. "He's always been a pest. He's super athletic, sneaky athletic. And I feel like he developed his shot to where you have to respect it. If you go under [on screens], he's shooting it."

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