Redskins

Timberwolves mourn passing of biggest fan

Timberwolves mourn passing of biggest fan

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Mike Stephenson couldn't talk and still managed to get himself suspended from Minnesota Timberwolves practice for saying too much.

He couldn't walk and still managed to crawl out of his wheelchair to wipe up a wet spot he noticed on the court before anyone else could get there.

He couldn't shoot and still managed to leave a lasting impact on the organization that took him in and treated him as one of the guys.

Stephenson was born with cerebral palsy and died earlier this week after the latest in a long line of bouts with pneumonia, leaving Timberwolves past and present to mourn one of the team's biggest fans, and biggest inspirations. He was 42.

``He was so good for the players and the rest of us,'' former coach and executive Flip Saunders said. ``They all make a lot of money and are kind of on a different level. But Mike helped them get a better understanding that there's other things, bigger things, that make the world go round.''

Stephenson was born in the small town of Spring Valley, about two hours south of the Minneapolis. Cerebral palsy rendered him unable to talk and sentenced him to life in a wheelchair.

``When he was born the doctors told us he was severely mentally retarded and we should just put him in a home and forget about him,'' his mother Barb Stephenson said.

Barb and Randy Stephenson didn't do that and their son grew up to earn a bachelor's degree in political science from Southwest State University before moving to the big city and latching on with the Timberwolves.

A passionate sports fan, Stephenson started showing up to Timberwolves games regularly near the turn of the century. He had an elaborate electronic board mounted on his wheelchair that would allow him to hit certain buttons, which would prompt a computerized voice to say sentences he constructed. Never bashful, he once chased down former Wolves executive Kevin McHale at a Twins game and asked for his email.

Saunders would see Stephenson scooting around Target Center and struck up a conversation. Stephenson asked to come to practice, using that gregariousness he got from his father.

``I'll talk to a wall if it will listen,'' Randy Stephenson said.

Saunders started allowing Stephenson to come and watch practice, a privilege granted to very few. It came back to bite him later when Stephenson called into local sports talk radio station KFAN to break the news that the injured Wally Szczerbiak was practicing and likely to play in an upcoming game. Saunders barred him from practice for a week.

``Loose lips sink ships,'' McHale playfully chided him once. But all was clearly forgiven because Stephenson even appeared in the team's official photo in 2002-03.

Sam Mitchell could always hear Mike coming before he saw him. The hum of Stephenson's motorized wheelchair or his howl of excitement always getting the forward's attention for some basketball talk.

``I looked at Mike as an able-bodied person,'' Mitchell said. ``He got around differently than me, communicated differently than me. But he didn't let his disability become a disability. Why should I treat him that way? People would always tell me how nice it was for us to spend time with him. I felt honored that Mike took time out to spend time with us. I felt like he was doing us a favor.''

He had a sports blog and a Twitter account and would pepper reporters with sharp, insightful questions about how players fit into the system, who was on the trade block and how much patience owner Glen Taylor would have with the coach on the job at the time.

``He studied up on things,'' Saunders said. ``He knew a lot about the game, about our players. He couldn't accept that he had a disability.''

That's how he was raised, to be as independent as possible. And his enthusiasm was infectious.

``He led a good life,'' Randy said. ``A lot of people felt sorry for them when they met him but he didn't want any sympathy. He just wanted to be friends.''

Stephenson overcame cerebral palsy, overcame almost any obstacle put in front of his wheelchair. But he couldn't overcome the pneumonia that returned regularly thanks to his insistence on eating by mouth rather than through a tube. His doctors warned him that eating that way could cause food to aspirate in his lungs and bring on pneumonia. But Mike just loved food too much, and eating was another activity that made him just like everyone else.

The bouts got more difficult as time went on, the latest coming on Dec. 14. It caused him to vomit, which is extremely dangerous for someone in his condition. By Monday doctors told them ``a decision had to be made,'' Randy said.

Rather than endure it any longer, Randy said Mike decided to enter hospice care and say goodbye.

``I hesitated,'' Randy said. ``But Mike just kept shaking his head yes. He knew what was going to happen.''

A funeral was scheduled for Saturday in Elkton and he will be laid to rest in Dexter, where his parents live. The Timberwolves planned to honor him during their game on Wednesday against McHale's Houston Rockets.

One thing is for sure, the kid his parents were told to leave behind won't be forgotten anytime soon.

``Mike was a true fan,'' Mitchell said. ``He loved the players and he loved the Timberwolves. Through the good times and bad times, he was always right there in the tunnel.''

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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After Patrick Mahomes' injury, could Case Keenum or Colt McCoy be on the move?

After Patrick Mahomes' injury, could Case Keenum or Colt McCoy be on the move?

Patrick Mahomes hurt his knee Thursday night, and while the severity is unknown, Kansas City's Super Bowl plans just got dealt a major hurdle. 

The truth is if Mahomes needs knee surgery then the Chiefs might need to recalibrate their hopes for January and beyond. If Mahomes only needs rest, however, then the Redskins might actually be able to help. 

It's no secret Washington and Kansas City know how to make a trade. January 2018 the two teams worked out a blockbuster when quarterback Alex Smith came to the Redskins and cornerback Kendall Fuller along with a third-round pick went to the Chiefs. The same power brokers are in charge now that pulled off that trade: Andy Reid in KC and Bruce Allen in DC.

And oddly enough the Redskins have a bit of a surplus in veteran quarterbacks. Neither Case Keenum or Colt McCoy can replace Mahomes, the 2018 NFL MVP, but either signal caller might be able to keep the Chiefs afloat for a few weeks.

The trade deadline is approaching fast, coming October 29th. The Redskins are currently 1-5 and there is no reason to keep both Keenum and McCoy on the roster the rest of the year. 

Washington drafted Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick, and eventually, the Ohio State star will start for the Redskins. Beyond that, both Keenum and McCoy have contracts that expire after this season. Neither player figures in the long-term plans for the Burgundy and Gold, and certainly the future is to eventually go to Haskins.

Want one more mitigating factor? Even after his devestating injury last season, Alex Smith is due more than $20 million guaranteed next year. He has been at practice and games for weeks, and appears to be close with Washington upper management. It's not crazy to think that in some role Smith will be around in 2020 along with Haskins. That makes Keenum or McCoy that much more expendable down the stretch. 

If Kansas City needs somebody to run their offense for a few weeks, the Redskins should dangle McCoy or Keenum. Or both. 

It's unclear that either player would entice much of an offer, but keep in mind, McCoy is widely respected around the league and Keenum had the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game just two seasons ago. The return for Washington might not be much, but something is always more thank nothing. 

Most deals get made around necessity, and Kansas City might have a big need. 

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Fantasy Football: Start 'Em Sit 'Em Week 7

Fantasy Football: Start 'Em Sit 'Em Week 7

Week 7 is here and it is time to take a good look at your lineups and decide whether you like the direction your team is headed. If you are sitting at 1-5, its time to make a season-deciding trade. If you're sitting at 2-4 or .500, bolster your bench for later in the season. It's also time to stop wasting a roster spot on players that have continued to let you down.

Before we can get ready for Week 7, lineups need to be set, decisions need to be made and let's take a look at how last week's predictions fared.

Start ‘Em

QB: Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars: 163 Passing YDS, 1 INT, 4.6 PTS
RB: Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions: 34 Rushing YDS, 1 Rushing TD, 2 Receptions, 27 Receiving YDS, 14.1 PTS
WR: D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers: 7 Receptions, 73 Receiving YDS, 13 Rushing YDS, 15.6 PTS
TE: Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams: 2 Receptions, 9 Receiving YDS, 2.9 PTS

Sit 'Em

QB: Jimmy Garrapolo, San Francisco 49ers: 243 Passing YDS, 1 INT, 1 Fumble, 4 Rushing YDS, 1 Rushing TD, 12.1 PTS
RB: Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers: 18 Rushing YDS, 3 Receptions, 30 Receiving YDS, 7.7 PTS
WR: Robby Anderson, New York Jets: 5 Receptions, 125 Receiving YDS, 1 Receiving TD, 23.5 PTS
TE: Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings: 3 Receptions, 36 Receiving YDS, 6.6 PTS

Week 1: 5/8

Week 2: 6/8

Week 3: 4/8

Week 4: 6/8

Week 5: 4/8

Week 6: 2/8 

Start 'Em

QB: Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Opponent: at Falcons


The Rams travel to Atlanta in Week 7 hoping to bounce-back after a terrible performance on Sunday at home at the hands of the 49ers. Goff was especially bad, completing only 13 of 24 passes for just 78 yards and a fumble. This week’s matchup gives him the chance to bounce back. The Falcons have been a disaster in 2019 after beginning the season with high expectations and despite Matt Ryan’s solid play, the defense has been atrocious. The Falcons’ defense has allowed the third-most fantasy QB points per game thus far, and the Rams will be locked and loaded and ready to capitalize.

RB: Tevin Coleman, San Francisco 49ers
Opponent: at Redskins


Kyle Shanahan and the unbeaten 49ers make a pit stop in the nation’s capital on Sunday and their dominant ground attack should continue to roll through every opponent in their path. Tevin Coleman is finally healthy and has been a welcome sight and will look to continue against Washington.

WR: Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys
Opponent: vs. Eagles


With Amari Cooper not at 100% after suffering an injury against the Jets in Week 6, Michael Gallup will assume a larger target share regardless if Cooper is active or not against the Eagles. It couldn’t come at a more opportune time for fantasy managers who can slip him right into all lineups against a horrid Eagles secondary that gave up four touchdowns to the Vikings on Sunday as well as over 200 yards through the air. Gallup is a solid WR2 for the Sunday Night Football matchup with top-10 upside.

TE: Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills
Opponent: vs. Dolphins


The Bills come off of a Week 6 bye to host the Dolphins in Buffalo. With John Brown questionable for the matchup, the only other Bills pass-catcher I have confidence is Dawson Knox, who has shown flashes throughout the season but hasn’t had the opportunity or usage to capitalize on. This matchup provides that opportunity. 
 
Sit 'Em

QB: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
Opponent: at Titans


The Chargers had playoff intentions before the start of the season. At Week 7, they’ll be luck to sniff .500 at 8-8 if all goes well from here on out. Injuries have decimated the club. Star second-year safety Derwin James suffered a stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his foot before Week 1 and underwent surgery and was placed on IR and isn’t able to return until Week 9. 

Melvin Gordon returned from his holdout but hasn’t shed the rust. Keenan Allen came out blazing but has regressed of late. Philip Rivers can’t be the deciding factor in whether the team wins or loses, and going up against a stout Titans defense, he needs to be on your bench. 

RB: David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
Opponent: vs. Saints


The Bears come off their bye in Week 7 to host Teddy Bridgewater and the New Orleans Saints. The Saints defense has been exceptional thus far at containing the run, allowing the sixth fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. The Bears' David Montgomery hasn't gotten off to the start most anticipated and this won't be the week he gets going.

WR: Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins
Opponent: vs. 49ers


The Redskins’ rookie phenom has been electric through the first six games of 2019 but faces one of the best pass defenses in football when the Burgundy and Gold host the 49ers. The San Francisco defense held Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to seven receptions and 35 receiving yards combined in Week 6 and held Odell Beckham Jr. to just two receptions for 27 yards the week prior. Curb your expectations for McLaurin on Sunday afternoon. 

TE: Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
Opponent: vs. Texans


The Colts come off of their bye with a matchup against the red-hot Houston Texans. For the Colts, the only viable pass catching option for Frank Reich should be T.Y. Hilton. With Andrew Luck retired, the offense has pumped out a few victories but the team hasn’t been utilizing the tight end as much as last season. Through 6 weeks, Jack Doyle has only posted 14 receptions for 128 yards, which is well below what you need from a viable tight end to win your matchup. Greener pastures await for Doyle, but it would be best to find another option in Week 7.

For a tiered breakdown of each fantasy football position, click below:

Quarterback Rankings: Week 7
Running Back Rankings: Week 7
Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 7
Tight End Rankings: Week 7