Capitals

TJ Jones follows father's footsteps to title game

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TJ Jones follows father's footsteps to title game

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) TJ Jones is the second player from his family to play for a national championship with Notre Dame.

He wishes the other one was still here to share the experience with him, as he and the top-ranked Fighting Irish prepare to play No. 2 Alabama for the BCS championship on Monday night in Miami.

Jones' father, Andre, was a defensive end on the last Fighting Irish team to win the national title in 1988. He died in June 2011 of a brain aneurysm. He was 42.

``I don't know if it's helped the healing process. There's a lot of things I wish I could have talked about (with him) to kind of figure out how to deal with things,'' TJ Jones said Friday. ``The mindset to take in certain situations. It's definitely helped me reminisce a lot about what we used to talk about and the times we used to have. But as far as healing, that's only time I guess.''

Andre Jones played for coach Lou Holtz from 1987-91. He played in 42 games and started four in `88, then a total of 18 in 1989 and `90.

He had a short professional football career. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and spent time with the Detroit Lions and in the Canadian Football League. Later, Jones was an executive for a sports management company in Atlanta. He left behind a wife, Michelle, and five children.

TJ, a junior receiver who is second on the team in catches and yards receiving, said his father wasn't one to display mementos of his football career.

``He had his Notre Dame stuff in his closet and in his bathroom,'' he said. ``He used to wear his rings around all the time. But he was more into art, so we had delicate painting on the walls and artsy stuff, rather than Notre Dame stuff.''

TJ and his father used to have long phone conversations. His father was his biggest fan and toughest critic. Not being able to share some of the highlights of this season with him have been especially tough for TJ.

``The game-winning catch against Stanford was definitely one of them,'' TJ said. ``We always talked about making a game-winning catch, having a game-winning catch in any game is what you grow up practicing, whether it's in the street or flag football.

``And definitely after we won the USC game knowing we were going to the national championship. That's something I wish I could have called him and just talked for hours about what we were going to do. How crazy it was that we were both going to be in the national championship. Really just celebrate those moments with him.''

He misses his father, for sure, but he said Andre Jones isn't totally gone.

``I feel he's here with me every day,'' TJ said. ``I feel he's watching over me. He's watching over Notre Dame and my family as well. I never feel lost. I don't feel like there's a void in my life. I know I miss him and I can't talk to him, but at the same time I don't have an empty feeling that he's gone.''

Some of his father's old teammates, Ricky Watters, Reggie Brooks, Pat Terrell and Rocket Ismail, TJ's godfather, have been sure to keep in touch with Jones

``All those guys who I have normally talked to, they've reached out just to kind of say, `What's up?' - give me a little advice about how to handle this game,'' he said.

Andre Jones taught his son many lessons, but TJ said what sticks with him most is to appreciate the gifts life gives you.

``Never to get too full of yourself,'' he said. ``To always give praise to the lord for the blessing you've been given. Because as soon as you've given them, they can be taken away. And you never know what tomorrow will bring. When you live in the present give praise and be thankful for what you have.''

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WHAT'S IN A NAME? Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart shared a secret to the defense.

The Crimson Tide is known as a 3-4 team with three down linemen and big, versatile linebackers, but that label is partly about recruiting the type of players Alabama wants. Coach Nick Saban has said `Bama only lines up with a three-man front about 20 percent of the time.

So why stick with the label?

``We're not in 3-4 as much as people think, but that's what we recruit to,'' Smart said. ``We do that for a lot of reasons: It gives you ability to recruit more linebackers, more skilled players. We have to line up in both. In today's day and age, offenses force you to.''

He said it also allows the Tide to have outside linebackers big enough to grow into defensive linemen, where they often line up.

``It's more about that, and we still think it's the best defense to be in for two-back offenses,'' Smart said.

He pointed to NFL teams like the Texans, the Ravens and the Patriots who are 3-4 teams that play both.

Alabama has six linebackers as starters or second-teamers that are listed as 243-plus pounds, including the 6-foot-3, 262-pound Xzavier Dickson.

Two similarly huge linebackers - Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw - were among the NFL's top 35 draft picks last year.

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GOOD SEATS: Yes, some tickets are still available to the Notre Dame-Alabama matchup that will decide the national championship on Monday night.

Available to the deep-pocketed, that is.

As of Friday afternoon, about 3,000 tickets to the BCS title game were available for purchase on the online site StubHub. None were cheaper than $899.

And that's in the upper deck of Sun Life Stadium - in the 30th row of the upper deck, to be precise. Nothing in the lower bowl was available for less than $1,000 per seat.

Want four seats, together, in the corner of the lower bowl? They can be yours for the low, low price of $40,000 (plus $15 processing, of course). And according to some South Florida tourism experts, more than 50,000 Notre Dame and Alabama fans will be in the South Florida area this weekend - just for the experience of being near the game, and with no chance of getting tickets.

``They've been traveling with us all year,'' Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin said. ``It's crazy to see.''

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ANOTHER LONG SEASON: Say this much for Chuck Martin: When someone hires the Notre Dame offensive coordinator for a season, he tends to make that season last as long as possible.

When Martin was coaching at Division II's Grand Valley State - first as an assistant, then the head coach - he was part of six trips to the national title game in nine years, winning the crown in four of those seasons.

And now in his third season at Notre Dame, Martin is again coaching in the final game: The top-ranked Fighting Irish play No. 2 Alabama for the BCS national title on Monday night.

``It doesn't feel any different,'' Martin said. ``I know everybody says, `Well, it's a bigger stage,' and it's not. It's a football game and it's a national championship game, and fortunately for me it's seven times in 12 years we've gotten to go try to win it all. It's been a good time - more fun than we should be allowed to have, actually.''

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'He's a heart-and-soul guy:' Capitals begin to process Oshie injury after Game 4 loss

'He's a heart-and-soul guy:' Capitals begin to process Oshie injury after Game 4 loss

RALEIGH — T.J. Oshie shuffled out of the Capitals locker room, hunched over, half dressed, his face a mask of anguish and pain, his right arm pinned against his body. 

He made it to the X-ray room at PNC Arena on his own, two medical staffers at his side, moaning as he entered to learn his fate. Moments later, his teammates came off the ice at that same spot, 2-1 losers to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of a Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series. 

Players clomped past in various states of frustration and distress. Nicklas Backstrom smashed his stick against a wall and, when it only half broke, finished it off with one last theatrical whack. 

It was a perfect summation of Washington’s visit to Raleigh, where it arrived with a 2-0 series lead and left tied 2-2 with a critical Game 5 back home at Capital One Arena on Saturday. 

Oshie will not be with them. He will be out “for quite some time,” said Capitals coach Todd Reirden. Carolina forward Warren Foegele nudged Oshie from behind as both skated near full speed and he crashed hard into the boards in Washington’s offensive zone. 

Oshie yelled out in pain and lay on the ice for several minutes. He was helped off the ice and Foegele received a two-minute penalty for boarding. That did not sit well with Oshie’s teammates, who failed to score on the power play. They thought the play deserved more – a major penalty, for sure, and supplemental discipline by the NHL Department of Player Safety. They didn’t get the five minutes. They might get a suspension when the league looks at the play.   

“It was a defenseless player that was quite a distance from the boards,” Washington coach Todd Reirden said. “It’s an extremely dangerous play and (Oshie) will not be with our team for a while.”

Added captain Alex Ovechkin: "Did you see that? What did you think? I was on the ice, I watched the puck, so I didn't see what happened there, but if you think it's not a dirty play, you have to watch it again."

The frustration was understandable. Oshie had 25 goals in 69 games this season. He missed 11 with a concussion in November before returning. On Thursday, he’d moved up to the top line with Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and he’s been a staple on the second line much of the season. He is as skilled a player as there is on the Capitals and has a goal and an assist in the series. 

“It’s always tough. He plays the game so hard,” goalie Braden Holtby said. “He’s a heart-and-soul guy. I have no idea what it is or whatever. But the thing with [Oshie] is no matter what he’s going to find a way to have a positive impact on our team - whether in or out. It doesn’t matter. He’s a leader and he’s a guy that guys want to fight for.”

Carolina didn’t agree with the Capitals, of course. Foegele called it “an unfortunate play” where he was just trying to lift Oshie’s stick and he lost an edge and careened into the boards. It doesn’t matter now. With the series now even, Washington will have to build on a much better game than it played Monday night in a 5-0 loss, but without one of its best players. On Friday they can begin figuring that out. On the plane ride home Thursday night they were still trying to process what happened to Oshie. 

“We have all those meetings. GMs make meetings with referees and watch the video and it's two minutes?” Ovechkin said. “We're players and we have to go out there and play, but those guys have to make a decision. They can't be afraid. If the guy hurt, it's a dirty play, it has to be not two minutes. It has to be different call."

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'He barely hit him': Rod Brind'Amour finds a way to downplay T.J. Oshie injury

'He barely hit him': Rod Brind'Amour finds a way to downplay T.J. Oshie injury

The Capitals were incensed by Warren Foegele’s shove to the back of T.J. Oshie in Game 4 on Thursday that sent Oshie dangerously into the boards and knocked him out of the game. Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, however, does not know what all the fuss is about.

“You see a lot of hits that are way, way worse than that,” Brind’Amour told the media after the game.

Oshie entered into the offensive zone with the puck and Foegele came in on the backcheck. Oshie had a good position on the puck, blocking Foegele out with his back. Foegele responded with a cross-check to the back of Oshie that knocked him over face-first awkwardly into the boards. Oshie appeared to strike the boards with his right shoulder and was doubled over in obvious pain as he slowly made his way off the ice.

Ovechkin was so angry that he followed Foegele and continued yelling at him after he went into the penalty box.

But Brind’Amour did not see it as a dirty play.

“I think [Oshie] just went in awkward,” Brind’Amour said. “I don't know the extent of the injury or whatever. Barely hit him I thought, really. He gave him a little shove, but it certainly wasn't what we've been seeing out here.”

In fact, Brind’Amour did not think a penalty was going to be called at all until Oshie stayed on the ice.

“There wasn't a penalty being called and then obviously he crashed into the boards hard and that's when the arm went up because he stayed down,” Brind’Amour said. “You don't like to see that, but I think more than anything he just was not ready for the hit.”

For those of you keeping track at home, Brind’Amour took issue with two consenting players fighting one another, but a cross-check to the back leaves a guy doubled over in pain and, well, he just was not ready for the hit.

Right.

Of course, you can file this away under, “What is he supposed to say?” It’s not as if Brind’Amour would come out and bury his own player for an illegal hit. He is going to defend his guy. Having said that, there were probably better ways to handle the injury of an opposing player rather than diminishing it quite as much as Brind’Amour seemed to.

“We've got way more injuries than they do,” Brind’Amour said. “I don't worry about their team.”

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