Nationals

Timmons breaks mold of Pittsburgh's linebackers

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Timmons breaks mold of Pittsburgh's linebackers

PITTSBURGH (AP) James Harrison rarely holds back when it comes to controversial comments.

Larry Foote's a congenial chatterbox on and off the field.

And among great Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers of the recent past, Joey Porter was known for his trash talking and James Farrior for his vocal leadership.

Something about the position, maybe.

Then, of course, there's Lawrence Timmons, arguably the best linebacker for the best statistical defense in the NFL. Timmons hardly fits the mold of a loud and rambunctious Steelers linebacker - past or present.

But he's just as productive, if not more. And he will be in focus when his Steelers (6-3) face the Baltimore Ravens (7-2) in an AFC North showdown Sunday night.

``Man, if Lawrence says more than two words to you, I guess you're his friend,'' Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton quipped. ``I might not be his friend. I don't think he's said more than two words to me since he's been here.''

Quiet and mild-mannered in the Steelers' locker room, Timmons maintains a steely focus when he's in the heat of battle. And the Steelers will need that this week.

The freakishly athletic former first-round pick is in his fourth season as a starter, but he's still the junior member of a veteran Pittsburgh corps. With Harrison and Foote in their 30s and LaMarr Woodley shaking off nagging hamstring injuries, Timmons has been the Steelers' most consistent playmaker at linebacker.

His interception of Matt Cassel and 23-yard return inside the Kansas City 10-yard line set up the winning field goal early in overtime of a 16-13 victory over the Chiefs Monday.

``He told me that he was one of the top offensive prospects coming out of high school, and I used to deny that,'' Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. ``But after that run he made Monday night, I think he's got a point.''

The 75-year-old LeBeau chuckled. But he wasn't joking a few moments later when he said, ``I think Lawrence has been playing at a Pro Bowl level for several years now.''

Timmons has yet to be selected for a Pro Bowl. LeBeau said that's because he's been overshadowed on his own team by the likes of Harrison, Woodley and Farrior, who have seven berths between them.

In the Steelers' 3-4 scheme, it's the outside linebackers who rack up the sacks. Timmons has played there at times for Pittsburgh, but he's settling into his inside spot next to Foote. That hasn't taken away, though, from the versatility that might be his greatest asset.

``I feel like I can fill in anywhere to help the defense,'' Timmons said. ``I love getting put in the game plans and I like being in spaces where I can make plays. That means a lot to me.

``(LeBeau) has set up things for me to roam around, play in space - which I love doing - and also blitz the passer. It's fun.''

A chiseled 6-1, 234 pounds, Timmons is big enough to be an effective tackler but fast enough to be a strong safety. That's exactly how LeBeau sees it. When Foote calls Timmons ``the Troy Polamalu of the front seven,'' it's because of his polite and soft-spoken ways. LeBeau actually uses Timmons as the Polamalu of the front seven.

Particularly with Polamalu out with a calf injury for much of this season, Timmons has increasingly been playing in centerfield on passing downs.

``Each year, he's just been getting better and better - and lately he's started to be a big-time playmaker for us,'' Foote said. ``The sky's the limit for Lawrence.''

That's a familiar offseason refrain in Pittsburgh about Timmons, who has shown some flashes of brilliance but hasn't been the consistently dominant player that the 2007 No. 15 overall draft pick should be. In the past 12 years, franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the only player the Steelers have drafted with an earlier pick than No. 15.

It seems as if every summer, Timmons is the popular choice as Pittsburgh's ``breakout'' player. That talk was amplified when he signed a six-year, $50 million contract extension in August of 2011.

But now, he seems to be living up to it.

``I'm always trying to be real hard on myself,'' Timmons said. ``I hate to make mistakes so I'm always concentrating and I try to be real focused. I'm always trying to be the best.''

On the field, there's no question. Competing in a locker room game of shuffleboard of table tennis, Timmons' intensely competitive nature shines through, as well.

But when he's not competing, the ``good ol' quiet Southern boy,'' as Foote puts it, comes out. Early in his career, a common sight in the bustling and crowded pre-practice locker room was Timmons flat on his back, a jersey over his face for an early-afternoon cat nap.

``I guess that's him resting up,'' said Hampton, ``because on the field, he's anything but quiet. He don't say a lot, but he speaks with his pads and his play - playing hard, playing physical.

``He can keep on being quiet, saving all his energy, as long as he keeps making plays for us.''

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NOTES: LB Chris Carter was placed on injured reserve because of an abdominal injury. The team promoted LB Marshall McFadden from the practice squad to take his roster spot and added TE Jamie McCoy to the practice squad. ... RB Rashard Mendenhall practiced fully for the second consecutive day and aims to play Sunday for the first time in more than a month because an Achilles injury.

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Online:http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Cubs drop protest, but not stance about Sean Doolittle's delivery

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Cubs drop protest, but not stance about Sean Doolittle's delivery

WASHINGTON -- Sunday afternoon’s discussions still revolved around Saturday night’s close, which Washington manager Davey Martinez referred to as a “fiasco” on Sunday.

Chicago manager Joe Maddon started a chaotic situation when he popped out of the dugout following Sean Doolittle’s first pitch in the ninth inning Saturday. Maddon contended Doolittle’s “toe-tap” was an illegal delivery, akin to when Chicago reliever Carl Edwards Jr. tried to add a pause in spring training, but was told the move was illegal.

The umpires told him, and Doolittle, the delivery was legal. Chicago filed a protest with the league. After consulting with Major League Baseball and MLB’s Chief Baseball Officer, Joe Torre, the Cubs dropped their protest Sunday morning.

A point of differentiation is whether the pitcher is taking a second step. Umpires previously determined Edwards was taking a second step. They determined Doolittle was not. This is a judgment call for the umpires and is not reviewable.

Official Baseball Rule 5.07(a) states in part: “The pitcher may not take a second step toward home plate with either foot or otherwise reset his pivot foot in his delivery of the pitch. If there is a runner, or runners, on base it is a balk under Rule 6.02(a); if the bases are unoccupied it is an illegal pitch under Rule 6.02(b).”

The league, according to Maddon, said there is a difference between Edwards placing his full foot on the ground and Doolittle grazing the mound with a cleat when he delivered. Maddon continued to not agree with the interpretation.

“We went through the whole process,” Maddon said. “Our guys in the office spoke to MLB and I talked to Mr. Torre. The whole thing I wanted to really get done was protect Carl. I really didn’t anticipate a whole lot to be done with it. Even though I still don’t agree with the conclusion, because I think it’s exactly what Carl did, only a different version of it. But the point was, I would not be a good parent if I had not spoken up for my guy. And that’s what I was doing last night and, again, it’s just to eliminate any gray area there just for future because it’s going to happen again down the road somewhere and you’re just trying to delineate what is right and what is wrong. In my mind, it wasn’t a judgment call, I thought it was black-and-white. It wasn’t gray.”

Maddon said multiple times that Doolittle tapped with his toe in addition to grazing the mound, both of which, he contended, were not legal or different than Edwards' attempt at deception.

The congenial Doolittle was steamed postgame Saturday and remained irritated Sunday. Saturday, he took multiple shots at Maddon during his postgame commentary. He also taunted the idea when throwing warmup pitches while Maddon argued with umpires by making exaggerated kicks with his leg and multiple stops with his foot. Doolittle switched to a delivery without any stops -- one he often uses -- after the protest as a way to show Maddon he didn’t need the tweak to be successful.

“In that moment, he's not trying to do anything other than rattle me and it was kind of tired,” Doolittle said Saturday. “I don't know. Sometimes he has to remind people how smart he is and how much he pays attention to the game and stuff like that. He put his stamp on it for sure.

"I actually have to thank him. After they came out the second, the [Kyle] Schwarber at-bat, I threw two fastballs and a slider and a fastball to [Kris] Bryant and those were probably the best ones I've thrown in a while. I don't do the tap when there's somebody on base so I can keep my pickoff move available if I need it. I've had a lot of traffic recently, so I've had practice doing it, so it wasn't like a huge adjustment to me. I don't know. In a way, I kind of need to thank him."

Asked Sunday if Doolittle’s comments were relayed to him, Maddon smiled and said yes.

“Listen, I have no issue with that whatsoever,” Maddon said. “We’re all emotional. I’ve said a lot of things I didn’t want to say years ago -- even in this ballpark. I think if he understood the entire context, he might have had a different opinion. Even if he was the manager himself -- if he was me -- or if he was being protected by his manager under similar circumstances, I think his stance may be different.”

No one -- the league, Maddon or Doolittle -- changed their perspective a day later.

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

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NHL Playoff 2019 Roundup: Blues shutout Sharks 5-0 to win Game 5

The St. Louis Blues won a decisive Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks 5-0, pushing the Sharks to the brink of elimination.

The Blues are now one win away from their first Stanley Cup Final since the 1969-70 season, where they lost to the Boston Bruins in a sweep.

St. Louis started the scoring early when Oskar Sundqvist netted his second goal of the series in the first five minutes of the game. 

Jaden Schwartz then tallied his first goal of the game off a juicy rebound in front of Martin Jones to start the scoring in the second period. It was Schwartz's 10th goal of the playoffs, which tied him for third all-time in Blues history for goals in the postseason.

Vladimir Tarasenko added to the Blues lead off a penalty shot. He's the first player in Blues franchise history to score a penalty shot goal in the playoffs.

Schwartz then added two more goals in the third period for a hat-trick. The first came on a 5-on-3 power play advantage off a scramble in front of the net, and the second came from a backdoor one-timer pass from Tarasenko.

Schwartz now has 12 goals these playoffs, and it's his second hat-trick of the playoffs.

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington recorded 21 saves for a shutout, and he's the first rookie goalie to accomplish that feat for the Blues.

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