Nationals

Veteran Chiefs lineman Lilja announces retirement

Veteran Chiefs lineman Lilja announces retirement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Veteran offensive lineman Ryan Lilja, who helped block for Peyton Manning during the Colts' Super Bowl-winning 2006 season, announced his retirement Monday.

Lilja said he was going to ``hang it up'' after the Kansas City Chiefs finished a 2-14 season with a 38-3 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Lilja had played guard his entire career until injuries along the Chiefs' line forced him to play center the majority of this season.

``I'm ready to shut it down and move on with my life,'' said Lilja, who grew up in Kansas City and starred for Kansas State before signing with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2004.

Undersized by NFL standards, the 6-foot-2, 285-pound Lilja was waived by the Chiefs and quickly claimed by Indianapolis, where he became one of Manning's most trusted blockers. He played in 11 games the year the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.

He returned to Kansas City three years ago, and would have become a free agent.

``I think I'm done,'' Lilja said while cleaning out his locker Monday. ``I've made a ton of dynamite relationships, but I think it's time I shut it down.''

The 31-year-old Lilja said he had a feeling before the season that this would be his last, and a series of injuries - including a nagging back injury that forced him to miss a game - served to reassure him that walking away was in his best interest.

He wound up starting 104 of 111 career games over eight seasons.

``Physically, you kind of hit a wall,'' said Lilja, who started 104 of 111 games over eight seasons. ``Your body tells you to start thinking about it.''

Lilja had never played center until this year, when a season-ending injury to Rodney Hudson moved him to the middle of the Chiefs' patchwork offensive line. Lilja had his struggles, too, with several botched handoffs and a few cases of costly miscommunication.

Still, his willingness to take on a new role impressed his teammates.

``I can't say enough about how professional he is,'' right tackle Eric Winston said. ``This organization is going to miss him and the guys in the locker room are going to miss him.''

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Nationals ace Max Scherzer takes ball off face during batting practice

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Nationals ace Max Scherzer takes ball off face during batting practice

Nationals ace Max Scherzer was struck in the face by a baseball during batting practice Tuesday and was taken to see the team trainer. 

According to NBC Sports Washington's Todd Dybas, Scherzer was attempting a bunt during BP before the Nationals' game against the Phillies, the ball coming off his bat and hitting him in the face. 

Scherzer was expected to start one of the games during Wednesday's doubleheader against Philadelphia. As of now, the Nats have not named starters for either of Wednesday's games. 

The 34-year-old last pitched Friday in a win over Arizona in which he tossed seven innings of three-hit baseball while striking out 10 Diamondbacks. It marked the 87th time in his historic career he's fanned 10 batters or more in a game.

This is a developing story. We'll have more information as it comes out. 

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Newest Caps defenseman Radko Gudas happy for a fresh start in D.C.

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Newest Caps defenseman Radko Gudas happy for a fresh start in D.C.

Radko Gudas was surprised, but also relieved. A different year in Philadelphia, where everything seemed to go wrong for the Flyers, is behind him now. He plays for the Capitals now. 

 

“I was a little bit shocked to be honest,” Gudas said in a conference call on Tuesday. “But when I heard where I'm going, I was pretty happy that I got traded to a team that's well known for their winning and their will to win every game they play.”

 

It capped a whirlwind few days for the 29-year-old, a polarizing figure in the sport along the lines of Washington forward Tom Wilson. Gudas has been suspended four times by the NHL Department of Player Safety. To say he plays the game on the edge is an understatement.

 

“Staying on right line of suspensions: It's always tough lately in the hockey these last few years,” Gudas said. “I worked on it in the summer and I thought I adjusted the game enough to still be able to play physical, just not be a liability out there for my team. It's always something hard to adjust, but we still have to do it. It's our job.”

 

In the midst of a rough year for Philadelphia that saw a coach firing and a late playoff surge fall short, Gudas took advantage of increased ice time – and cut his penalty minutes to 63 from a high of 116 when he joined the Flyers four years earlier. He will never be a big offensive threat, but he’s figured out how to suppress shots and play a reliable defensive game.

 

At a friend’s wedding in the Czech Republic on Friday when he got the news, Gudas received messages from his new teammates and wasn’t even sure who, exactly, of the Capitals coaches he spoke with. There was a lot going on. But he’s excited to play “for a well oiled machine” like Washington, which has its 2018 Stanley Cup and has won the Metropolitan Division four years in a row. 

 

Gudas knows fellow Washington defenseman Michal Kempny, 29, well. The two men were born just three months apart in 1990 and were teammates on the World Juniors under-18 Czech Republic team in 2008. They reconnected in 2017 for the Czech Republics’ entry in the IIHF World Championships. Jakub Vrana, 23, is a third Czech on one of the NHL’s most diverse rosters and played with Gudas at the 2019 World Championships. Kempny was still recovering from a torn hamstring sustained during the regular season. 

 

That familiarity is nice, but Gudas has been traded before when Tampa Bay sent him to Philadelphia in 2015. You just adjust to the role given with your new team. He’s ready for a fresh start with the Capitals. 

 

“They’re the winners from last year, they were the contenders this year,” Gudas said. “They always have a good team. They in the playoffs every year all these years. Play my simple game, the guys to know what to expect for me and know I’ll be there for them.”