Capitals

Utah State player who collapsed getting stronger

Utah State player who collapsed getting stronger

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah State forward Danny Berger ran a mile the other day then did some stairs afterward. Not unusual for an athlete, except that he did it just six weeks after he nearly died after collapsing on the basketball court.

Now, unless Berger takes his shirt off to reveal where a defibrillator has been implanted in his chest, it's hard to differentiate him from most other 22-year-old college athletes.

``I feel good,'' Berger said after watching his Utah State teammates practice late Tuesday during a 13-game winning streak. ``The doctor said everything looks great. I look normal.''

While previously hopeful he would play again this season, he is resigned that won't happen. But he looks forward to an extra year of eligibility. This was to be his junior season; now he'll have two seasons left.

``I just try to think about the long run,'' said Berger, who was revived after going into cardiac arrest on Dec. 4. ``I have another year. I'll be more mature, be stronger and a better teammate and more of a leader. I focus on that, and look at the fact I am extremely fortunate.''

That's not to say it is easy just watching.

He can shoot, ride the stationary bike and run, but he isn't cleared to practice or play.

While his team heads to New Mexico State for Thursday's game that kicks off a short road trip, Berger will be back in Logan, catching up on school work.

``It feels like it's longer (than six weeks), to be honest,'' Berger said. ``It's hard to sit there and watch, but I'm happy for them.''

With a 14-1 record, Utah State is one of a dozen Division 1 teams with only one loss, though the Aggies don't get much attention playing a Western Athletic Conference schedule.

Berger sees a team that is a bit more unified - perhaps since players witnessed his life-threatening incident.

He recently took time to write a heartfelt blog entry, published by the Aggies, in which he updated schoolmates about his health, thanked all those who helped save him or even thought about him, and reiterated how grateful he is to be alive.

``I'm trying to get better one day at a time psychologically, and remember the things I've learned over last the last six weeks,'' Berger said Tuesday.

He cited his relationship with others.

``How I treat people and how I conduct myself is what really matters. A lot of things just don't matter that we get caught up in,'' he said.

Berger still doesn't remember much of what occurred on the court that December afternoon.

He was working on his defense in preparation for an upcoming game against instate rival Brigham Young but suddenly felt dizzy as if he had stood up too fast.

Fast action by longtime assistant trainer Mike Williams, among others, was credited with saving Berger's life.

Four days later, he was out of the hospital and being reunited with his teammates in front of a packed crowd.

The Aggies won that night, their fourth win in a row. Since then they've won nine more - the 13-game winning streak the sixth longest in school history and second longest in the country behind Kansas (14 straight).

Through everything, the small defibrillator implanted in Berger's chest hasn't kicked in once - a good sign.

In a few weeks doctors will be monitoring him when he gets his heart rate up as high as he can.

That will let them set his defibrillator a little higher so it doesn't go off when he is just working out -thus enabling him to work out even harder.

He's also hoping some additional blood work and research will shed more light on his collapse.

``Hopefully, we find something out. We may not find out why it happened,'' he said. ``It's obviously pretty scary because they don't know what caused it. But I decided I can't live my life like that. I've got to look past it, just live . try to be normal.''

In that respect, he's glad the attention has quieted but he doesn't mind talking if it is important to others.

``I said it before,'' Berger said. ``I know it happened for a reason. I'm here for some purpose and need to figure out those things. I have the rest of my life to do that.''

As for that mile, he ran it in 6 minutes, 55 seconds.

``It was a little slower than normal, but better than I was expecting,'' he said.

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The only question in net for the Caps is not who the backup will be, but how much he will play

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The only question in net for the Caps is not who the backup will be, but how much he will play

As excited as fans may be about prospect goalie Ilya Samsonov’s first season in North America, it was Pheonix Copley who entered the preseason as the No. 2 goalie behind Braden Holtby.

After a strong performance in the Capitals’ first preseason game on Sunday in which he turned aside 21 of the 22 shots he faced, Copley is doing his best to cement himself as the Capitals’ backup for the upcoming season.

“He knows the challenge that's in front of him and I thought he was real solid [in Sunday’s game],” head coach Todd Reirden said to reporters Monday.

“A number of big saves early on. We were a little bit slow to get going in the game, so we needed him. We needed him in the beginning of the game. He was there for us and I thought he really sent the message in game one that he's prepared for that opportunity." 

Copley, 26, has only two games of NHL experience in his career. He does not generate the same buzz as a player like Samsonov who is believed to be the team’s starter in net. Add in a rough season for Copley in Hershey in 2017-18 and it has led many to believe there is an open competition for the backup goalie this season.

The reality is, however, that this has always been Copley’s job to lose.

As he tries to make the transition from the KHL to the North American game, getting Samsonov as much playing time as possible in the AHL will be better for his development than sitting him on the bench behind Holtby.

While Copley prepares for the NHL, Holtby will have to adjust as well to having a backup not quite as established as Philipp Grubauer to rely on. The relationship between Holtby and Copley, however, is already a strong one and Holtby is excited for the opportunity this preseason brings for his new backup.

“It’s his first chance to get a few good starts in, and my job's just to be there to support him, make sure we can work through things together,” Holtby told reporters on the first day of camp. “I can learn things from him, he can learn things from me and vice-versa.”

Regardless of how Copley plays in the preseason, however, there is risk involved with pinning such an inexperienced goalie as the team’s backup. Until he gets a few starts at the NHL level playing against NHL competition, we ultimately do not know how good he will be. Until that question is answered, we also do not know how much he will play.

Grubauer played in 35 games last season as Holtby struggled. Regardless of how good the Caps may feel about Copley as the backup, it seems safe to assume the team is not expecting Copley to see quite that much action this season. If they believed he would need to, the team likely would have considered other options.

Holtby, for his part, said he is ready to take on a larger load again as the starter.

“Hopefully I play a few more games or something like that would be nice,” he said, “But whatever it is, we're just trying to make sure that our goalie department is as good as we can be from top to bottom."

Holtby seemed to benefit from the extra rest as he elevated his game in the postseason, but he disputes that. Instead, he said it was the heavy workload of the postseason that helped him settle in.

“I'm not a guy that likes time off,” he said. “Through the playoffs was the best I've felt because I was playing every day. That's just the way I like to do it. I find it easier when I'm playing. I find it really difficult when I'm not. That's just the way I work."

With no Grubauer backing him up and Samsonov still developing, Holtby is likely to get his wish of more games.

But while Copley was a major question mark for the Caps heading into the season, Sunday’s game could go a long way towards assuaging those fears and justifying the confidence the team has put in him to be their No. 2 this season.

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The Redskins’ inconsistency is a consistent issue

The Redskins’ inconsistency is a consistent issue

A home loss to a team that was 4-12 a year ago, 0-1 this year, has a rookie head coach, and is clearly in rebuilding mode is more than just a mark in the “L” column. In the case of the Redskins’ loss to the Colts on Sunday, they also lost an opportunity. 

The Eagles lost Sunday, and the Redskins’ loss cost them a chance to have sole possession of first place in the NFC East. That doesn’t mean much two games into the season, but it would have been a psychological boost for the team and its fans. Instead at 1-1, they are in a three-way tie with the Eagles and Cowboys. 

What’s worse for the Redskins, however, is what is ahead.

They will be decided underdogs at home to a Packers team with an apparently healthy Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. After their ridiculously early bye, they travel to New Orleans, the scene of their worst loss of 2017, a game where they blew a 15-point lead late in the game and lost in overtime. The Saints have been struggling but they will be solid favorites. Then the Panthers come to town and the Redskins have not beaten them since Cam Newton become their quarterback (0-4). 

If coming events follow form, the Redskins will go into their Week 7 game against the Cowboys at 1-4. If they had won Sunday that could have been a much more palatable 2-3. 

But just like it was futile to predict that the Redskins would steamroll the Colts, tread carefully if you want to buy a parlay ticket on Washington going 0-3 between now and the end of Week 6. They have looked good and they have looked bad. It would not surprise me in the least if they came out for the Packers game playing at a very high level. 

The Redskins are not the only inconsistent NFL team. The Ravens and Jets posted impressive Week 1 wins and lost in Week 2. It works both ways. The Falcons couldn’t get anything done in the red zone in their opening loss to the Eagles. Yesterday they were 4-4 there and beat the Panthers. 

Still, the egg they laid at home in concerning. Following an impressive win with a deflating loss isn’t an occasional thing with this team, it’s a pattern.

Since 2015, the team has had two four-game winning streaks, one to close out the 2015 season and one in Weeks 3-6 the following year. Other than those, they have not had a winning streak of longer than two games and they have had just three of those. 

Simple math will tell you that a team will have a tough time making the playoffs if it can’t string together an extended winning streak or at least multiple two-game streaks in a season. 

So, while losing to the Colts isn’t the end of the season for the Redskins, it is an indication that they still are having problems stringing wins together. If they are going to contend for the playoffs, something that needs to happen if they are going to fill FedEx Field and if Jay Gruden is to stay employed, they will need to do better than win one, lose one. 

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