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Torn ACL could end Rivera's legendary career

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Torn ACL could end Rivera's legendary career

From Comcast SportsNet
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Mariano Rivera drifted back to the outfield wall, just like he'd done in batting practice so many times before, baseball's greatest closer tracking down another fly ball with childlike joy. Everything changed before anybody could blink. The Yankees' 12-time All-Star caught his cleat where the grass meets the warning track in Kansas City, his right knee buckling before he hit the wall. Rivera landed on the dirt, his face contorted in pain, as Alex Rodriguez uttered the words "Oh, my God" from some 400 feet away. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey was the first to reach Rivera, whistling toward the Yankees' dugout for help. Manager Joe Girardi had been watching from behind the batter's box and set off at a run down the third-base line, angling toward center field and his fallen reliever. "My thought was he has a torn ligament, by the way he went down," Girardi said later. His instincts proved correct. Rivera was diagnosed with a torn ACL and meniscus Thursday night after an MRI exam taken during the Yankees' 4-3 loss to the Royals. The injury likely ends his season, and quite possibly his career, an unfathomable way for one of the most decorated pitchers in history to go out. "It's not a good situation, but again, we've been through this before, and we're being tested one more time," Rivera said, pausing to compose himself in the Yankees' clubhouse. "It's more mentally than physical, you know? You feel like you let your team down." The 42-year-old Rivera has said that he'll decide after the season whether hang it up after 18 years in the major leagues. And while Girardi said he hopes that baseball's career saves leader makes a comeback, Rivera sounded as if retirement is a very real possibility. "At this point, I don't know," he said in a whisper. "Going to have to face this first. It all depends on how the rehab is going to happen, and from there, we'll see." The injury seemed to cast a pall over the Yankees, who played from behind the entire way Thursday night. They put the tying run on third base in the ninth inning before Mike Moustakas made a stellar play on a chopper by Rodriguez, throwing him out by a step to preserve the win. Afterward, the only thing on A-Rod's mind was Rivera. "I saw it all go down," Rodriguez said. "It's hard even to talk about it tonight. I mean, Mo has meant so much to us on a personal level, and his significance on the field, on the mound. But the bottom line is we're the New York Yankees, and nobody is going to feel sorry for us." There's a much different feeling about Rivera, though. One of the most durable pitchers to ever play the game is well-liked and universally respected. That's what happens when you save 608 games and have five World Series rings. "You're talking about somebody who does something that's never been done," said Derek Jeter, who had four hits in the game. "It's not like somebody comes along the next day and does it." Jeter said that Rivera has been shagging balls for "20-some years," at least as long as they've known each other. It never crossed the captain's mind that Rivera would get hurt tracking down a fly ball in batting practice. It's just something that people had come to accept. "That's his conditioning. He's always shagging balls," Jeter said. "He's like a center fielder anyway. It was a freak thing. There's no other way you can explain it." Girardi also defended Rivera's decision to shag balls in batting practice, pointing out that the reliever hadn't been on the disabled list since 2003, and reasoning that Rivera may never have become the same shutdown closer if not for all the work he put in before games. "You have freak injuries, and this is one of them," Girardi said. "We had a guy carrying a box down the stairs that broke his foot. You can fall off a curb. You have to allow him to be an athlete and a baseball player and have fun out there. I've never seen Mo do anything recklessly, or seen Mo dive to try to rob a home run. It's the way he exercises." Girardi was too far away from the outfield wall to see what happened, but he knew that Rivera had sustained a significant injury when he saw players and coaches gathering around him. Rivera grabbed immediately at his right knee and started rubbing it, stopping only to briefly cover his face with his glove. Harkey and Girardi eventually carried Rivera to a cart brought onto the field, gently setting him into the back with his knee propped up. "At first I thought he was being funny, but then I realized that he was injured, he was down, and that's when I really got worried," said David Phelps, who made his first major league start Thursday night. "There's nothing I can do but stand there and watch. It's a miserable feeling." The cart rounded the warning track before disappearing up a tunnel, and Rivera didn't put any weight on his knee when he was helped back into the Yankees' clubhouse. He was examined by Royals associate physician Dr. Joe Noland, but it wasn't until the MRI exam was taken at KU MedWest that head physician Dr. Vincent Key made the diagnosis. "I thought it wasn't that bad, but it's torn," Rivera said. "Have to fix it." Girardi said that Rivera would be reexamined by the Yankees' physicians, but Rivera said that he would rather remain with the team in Kansas City than fly back to New York on Friday. The Yankees play three more against the Royals before a day off. "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen doing something I love to do. And shagging I love to do," Rivera said. "I'd do the same thing, without hesitation. The reasons why it happen, you have to take it as it is. Fight through it. You know, just have to fight." Rivera is only the latest closer to go down with a significant injury this season. The Royals' Joakim Soria, the Reds' Ryan Madson and the Giants' Brian Wilson all required Tommy John surgery. Tampa Bay's Kyle Farnsworth is out with a strained elbow, Boston's Andrew Bailey had surgery to repair a ligament in his right thumb, and Washington's Drew Storen had a bone chip removed from his elbow, though the Nationals expect him to pitch this season. Of course, none of those players has nearly the pedigree of Rivera. With the same devastating cutter that has carried him for years, Rivera has made at least 60 appearances each of the last nine seasons. He blew a save on opening day this year, but allowed only two hits in eight scoreless innings after that, picking up five of his 608 saves. "I always argued he was the best pitcher of all-time," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "Not just the best reliever, but the best pitcher of all-time. "Accidents happen. That's all I can say. You can get hurt getting out of bed, literally. You can get hurt doing anything," Teixeira said. "That's Mo. Part of what makes him great is he's so athletic, and he loves to run around out there and have fun. You can't play this game for 15-plus years without having fun. It was just a tough accident."

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Scott Brooks plans to give Tomas Satoransky more minutes, and this time he means it

Scott Brooks plans to give Tomas Satoransky more minutes, and this time he means it

One of Scott Brooks' most common postgame platitudes is the assertion he needs to find a player more minutes. It is usually said about a guy on the bench who just had a nice game.

Quite often, that doesn't end up happening. Whether it's because he only meant it so much, or because other factors mitigate those plans, usually that player goes back to the very same role they had been serving.

Brooks seemed to acknowledge that after Tuesday night's win, when he really, really emphasized that he needs to find backup point guard Tomas Satoransky more minutes.

"A lot of times, I try to find everybody some minutes, but I'm finding him minutes," Brooks said. "I'm finding him minutes. I don't care who [it affects], I'm finding him minutes."

Satoransky had just played his second consecutive good game. Against the Clippers on Tuesday, he compiled 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block. 

The 27-year-old helped key a 24-point comeback for the Wizards by playing almost all of the third quarter. The Wizards went into halftime down 73-54, but caught momentum in the third and outscored L.A. by 10 points in the frame.

Satoransky and a host of bench players nearly led the Wizards back from down 29 points against the Blazers on Sunday. Those two games have caught Brooks' attention.

"He just plays hard and plays the right way. There's no agenda," Brooks said.

Satoransky's role has fluctuated over the past two seasons. Last year, he was in and out of the rotation, sometimes starting while also riding the bench for extended stretches.

He has been through enough to know that comments made by Brooks in a postgame interview only mean so much. But he likes to hear that the coach is taking notice.

"I'm happy, obviously," Satoransky said when relayed Brooks' comments.

"My approach to the game is to always play hard and play for my teammates. That's what I've learned throughout my career. I'm always trying to bring it every game. Obviously, hopefully it is going to bring me more minutes."

Satoransky played a season-high 24 minutes in Tuesday's win. Part of that was due to foul trouble for Kelly Oubre Jr. But Satoransky got some of the minutes that would otherwise go to fellow backup guard Austin Rivers.

He was playing well and he got rewarded for it. His teammate Bradley Beal was happy to see that.

"He's a killer. A lot of people don't know it though [because] he's nice," Beal said. "A lot of people don't respect him because he's European. A lot of people may not know who he is, but he got game." 

Satoransky seems to have done his part. Next up is the Toronto Raptors on Friday and that will be the first test of Brooks' goal to get Satoransky more playing time.

According to the coach, it's been a long time coming.

"I'm slow. It took me 15-16 games to figure that out, but he's earned it with the way he's playing," Brooks said.

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Thanksgiving is a huge game for the Redskins and a huge opportunity for Colt McCoy

Thanksgiving is a huge game for the Redskins and a huge opportunity for Colt McCoy

For decades, the most iconic image of America came from Texas. 

Hollywood loved the cowboy, silently toiling in the heat and cold, staring down danger and prepared to answer any challenge that came his way.

But over time, industrialization and modernization, cowboys drifted from the national consciousness, or at least from the movies and television screens. 

As things shifted, however, another Texas icon emerged: the quarterback. 

Friday Night Lights, first as a book, then a movie, and later a TV show, made the country care about small town Texas high school football. The sophomoric Varsity Blues helped too. 

As that mythology grew, one real life QB emerged to fit the storybook casting: Colt McCoy.

With blue eyes and a humble voice, McCoy came from tiny Tuscola, Texas, a town of fewer than 800 people about three hours west of Dallas. He went on and excelled as the starting quarterback at the University of Texas, becoming the winningest Longhorn QB ever. 

Then the storybook ended.

In 2010, he was drafted by a terrible Browns team. In two seasons he started 21 games, but went 6-15. 

His career stumbled, he landed on a few bad San Francisco teams after that. He battled injuries, often, and didn't play all that well in spurts. 

His chance at NFL stardom, like he'd found in college, faded. Eventually, he caught on with the Redskins in a weird situation. 

McCoy joined the team in 2014, the same year Jay Gruden took over as head coach. Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins were already on the roster, and a multi-year awkward dance ensued. 

All three QBs got starts in 2014, but by 2015, Cousins got the starter's job, McCoy became the backup and RG3 hit the bench. In 2016, Griffin went to Cleveland, with McCoy firmly entrenched as Cousins' backup.

For two years, Cousins took every snap in Washington, and McCoy worked hard on the scout team to press the defense. 

Things seemed to be coming to a head as Cousins' contract situation reached a breaking point in 2018. Finally, maybe, McCoy would get his chance. 

And then Washington traded for Alex Smith.

McCoy again seemed destined to the bench, but much like fictional characters Johnny Moxon or Matt Saracen, the backup got thrust into the spotlight. 

After 10 games and a 6-3 start, Smith went down with a broken leg last week in a loss to Houston, and now, after a long, long wait, it's McCoy's team.

"For me, now is not a time to really kind of think about what got me to this point right here," McCoy said Tuesday. "Now, it's time to play."

That said, a small town upbringing is a big part of his story, and for McCoy, he can't forget it.

"I certainly wouldn’t change where I grew up, where I came from," McCoy said. "Everyone there means so much to me and that's a special part of me. Right now, my focus is on this team and how I can help this team this week because I know they're counting on me."

What McCoy might not know, or realize, is that his story is part of what makes him so appealing. 

The small town hero, the Texas gunslinger, McCoy fits all those bills. 

Redskins running back Chris Thompson tried to describe the intangible trust that comes from playing with McCoy, and the best he could muster was labeling it that "Texas thing." 

Watching McCoy enter the game for the Redskins last week at FedEx Field, there was an undeniable electricity that shot through the stadium. It was palpable, and multiple Redskins players said they felt it, too. 

And now, after four starts in four years in Washington, McCoy has the chance to lead a good team into the NFL playoffs in a league where a backup quarterback got named Super Bowl MVP last season.

"This opportunity is a great one for him," Gruden said.

"We don't have to change a thing with Colt at quarterback. We just go on as scheduled. I know the players all have a ton of respect for Colt and they're going to play hard for Colt and they know the ball's going to be thrown in the right spot."

Of course it starts on Thursday, on national television, and of course it starts in Dallas with the Redskins installed as big underdogs. 

McCoy found success once before playing against the Cowboys in Dallas on national television. It was a riveting win, down to the wire, and the Redskins entered the game as big underdogs, too. 

That came in 2014, in the middle of a lost season for Washington, but the victory still resonates for a lot of fans, in the same way Colt McCoy resonates with a lot of fans. 

The story is easy to root for and the person makes it even easier. McCoy, despite some circumstances where other players would complain, publicly or privately, never did. He never really got his chance to start, but kept soldiering on. 

"It's not easy but at the same time, I'm thankful for where I am and for the things that I’ve gone through. Hopefully some of the ups and downs that I've been through in my career will help me now, help me in this situation. I think if I didn’t enjoy football, if I didn’t love football, I probably would have maybe been through. But I love the process. I love the challenge each week."

This week's challenge is much different than it has been for McCoy. 

The challenge is no longer staying engaged in meetings or practices when playing time isn't on the horizon. 

The challenge is the Dallas Cowboys, on a short week, with a surging defense and a vicious pass rush.

The challenge is a beat-up Redskins offensive line and the pressure of maintaining a one-game lead in the NFC East. 

For years, the challenge has been mental. Now, the challenge will be very, very real. 

This game is huge for the Redskins. For their playoff hopes. For their coach's job security. For the organization's direction in 2019. 

And it's also huge for McCoy. To validate his hard work. His patience. To validate Tuscola. 

"I'm thankful for the opportunity but I think it's even more than that. It's time to just go play and put everything else aside," he said.

"We have a huge game this week. It's a huge game."

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