Nationals

Vigil planned to remember Paterno 1 year later

Vigil planned to remember Paterno 1 year later

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) From bumper stickers to signs posted by a few businesses to the occasional T-shirt, reminders of Joe Paterno sprinkle Happy Valley.

Most cues are subtle enough to make an outsider look twice. Like the decals with the outline of the bespectacled Paterno's distinctive face, or the shirt with the image of the longtime Penn State coach's trademark look of rolled-up khakis and sneakers.

A year after his death, Paterno and a reputation tarnished in the aftermath of the child sex abuse scandal involving retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky remain sensitive topics for groups of alumni, former players, staffers and community residents.

The Hall of Fame coach died of lung cancer on Jan. 22, 2012, at age 85. On Tuesday - exactly a year after his passing - community residents have organized a vigil at a downtown mural that includes a depiction of Paterno.

A family spokesman has said the Paternos would not take part, and remain in privacy.

Their supporters, though, spoke up at a recent meeting of the university's Board of Trustees.

Most critics are angered by how school leaders handled Paterno's ouster as coach and the explosive findings of the internal investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh that put part of the blame on Paterno.

Others say the school hasn't done enough to honor a 46-year career in which Paterno was known for focusing on academics and philanthropy as well as football.

``The university should lead the way and not sit in silence,'' said Ed Stine, 62, of Gaithersburg, Md., a member of the alumni watchdog group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship. He was one at least one of at least four dozen audience members who applauded or praised speakers who paid tribute to Paterno at the meeting.

The man who built Penn State's program into one of college football's marquee brands was fired in November 2011, days after Sandusky's arrest on molestation and other charges. The trustees had said Paterno was ousted in part because he had a moral obligation to pass on to police outside the university a 2002 allegation of sexual assault by Sandusky that was relayed to Paterno by a graduate assistant.

Sandusky was convicted in June on dozens of criminal counts, crimes that authorities said occurred on and off campus. In July, Freeh accused Paterno and three former school administrators of concealing allegations against Sandusky to protect the school's image.

The NCAA took unprecedented action two weeks later in levying strict sanctions including a four-year bowl ban, strict scholarship cuts and a $60 million fine on the university. College sports' governing body also vacated 111 wins under Paterno, erasing what had been his major college record of 409 career victories.

Paterno's family has vehemently denied Freeh's conclusions and has maintained the coach would not take part in a cover-up. They have said they expect to release a response to Freeh's report in the near future.

The trustees have maintained over the past year that they intend to honor Paterno at some point. When asked last week, a couple trustees cited ongoing legal issues related to the scandal.

``There's going to be a time and a place to do that, and I don't think that's right now yet,'' trustees chairman Keith Masser said last week.

University leaders continue to navigate tricky issues as they try rebuild Penn State's image. In the eyes of some national columnists and other critics outside Pennsylvania or the Penn State community, Paterno's name has been forever soiled.

A survey of alumni conducted for the school by an external public relations firm found that more than eight in 10 alumni remained positive toward Penn State, though that's down from nine in 10 in 2009. The survey also found that ``recent events'' still had a negative impact overall on the feelings of alumni, though the impact was less pronounced in December than in the last survey taken in May.

About 75 percent of respondents also said the school should publicly recognize Paterno for his decades of service to the school, down from 87 percent in May. The survey of 1,172 alumni was taken online and over the telephone, with a margin of error that was 2.86 percent.

``We still have an overwhelming majority of people who say he should be honored,'' said trustee Anthony Lubrano, who has long voiced support for Paterno and his family. He joined the board last summer with the backing of alumni critical of trustees who fired Paterno.

``It's important for us to address if we're going to heal and move forward,'' Lubrano said.

At the least, the football program that appeared to be in peril after the sanctions has regained its footing under Paterno's successor, Bill O'Brien. The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator conducted a masterful job leading Penn State to an 8-4 season and keeping most of the team together following the penalties.

``It was pretty impressive,'' said Terry Pegula, a proud Penn State donor and the owner of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres. ``To be down there, in the middle of that, wasn't a good situation. Even the students were feeling bad. So Bill turned into the shining light in the whole thing. He had a lot of pressure on him and he did a heck of a job.''

Al Pacino has been signed to play Paterno in a movie about the late coach. Producer Edward R. Pressman said last week that Brian De Palma will direct ``Happy Valley,'' the tentative title of the film, based on Joe Posnanski's best-seller ``Paterno,'' which followed Paterno's final years as his career ended with the sex abuse scandal.

Since the season's end in late November, questions have been raised again about the sanctions and Freeh's report. Gov. Tom Corbett - a trustee by virtue of his elected office - has sued the NCAA in federal court to have the sanctions overturned.

Lubrano and longtime trustee Alvin Clemens, who was on the board in November 2011, drew applause when paying tribute to Paterno last week.

The tributes at the meeting were appropriate, said trustee Paul Suhey, captain of the 1979 football team and another November 2011 trustee. He hoped there would be ``a time when (the board) can honor Paterno more'' after addressing lingering problems from the scandal.

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AP freelance writers Christina Gallagher and Mike Haim contributed to this report.

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Kurt Suzuki finds himself in surprising spot of headline maker

Kurt Suzuki finds himself in surprising spot of headline maker

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Kurt Suzuki will turn 37 years old while in a major-league uniform if the Nationals play October baseball again this season. This is year 14 and the second stop with one of four teams he’s played for. Suzuki spent time in the American League,
 then the National League, then back to the AL before a return to the NL. He’s well-traveled.

Which makes the headlines cooking with his name all the stranger to him. Following comments to The Washington Post that the Houston Astros were using a whistling system to steal signs in the 2019 World Series, Suzuki’s name was hurled to the front of the cross-player sniping currently pervasive in Major League Baseball. Houston’s Carlos Correa transitioned to specifically talk about Suzuki on Saturday when he rumbled through a session with Astros writers. Sunday, Suzuki conducted his own group session, something he was partly in disbelief about, and something he doesn’t want to keep occurring. 

“Honestly, I’m too old to get in the middle,” Suzuki said. “I really don’t associate myself with this kind of stuff. I just kind of go about my business and try to stay out of everything and get ready to play baseball. That’s what it’s about -- playing baseball.”

Suzuki’s steady answers Sunday inside the Nationals’ clubhouse focused on two ideas: he’s enjoying the World Series and preparing for 2020. Suzuki stopped short of saying “I’m just here so I don’t get fined,” but that was the general tenor after he politely agreed to talk with reporters despite being self-aware enough to realize the topic.

“I thought you guys were going to talk about the 1-for-20 in the World Series,” Suzuki joked.

He made the same joke with teammates before heading to meet the media. He was asked where that “one” landed.

“Train tracks.”

Suzuki joined Yan Gomes, pitching coach Paul Menhart, Davey Martinez and others in devising a multi-tiered system to protect signs against the Astros in the World Series. Suzuki did not say Sunday he knew the Astros were cheating in the World Series. 

“You hear stuff around the league,” Suzuki said. “All you do is you do your due diligence and you try to prepare yourself to not get into that situation. We just did our homework on our end and did everything we possibly can to combat the rumors going around and we just prepared ourselves. That was the bottom line: just getting ready for it if it did happen.”

His session of diffusement ended with a nod to Max Scherzer’s comments from when spring training began. Scherzer bounced back questions about the Astros by advising reporters to go talk to them. 

“That’s their situation,” Suzuki said. “I think Scherzer said it best. They are the ones that have to do the answering. We’re just getting ready for the 2020 season to defend the title. That’s it. We’re getting ready, enjoying our teammates, enjoying the World Series and getting ready for the season.”

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Ron Rivera sees releasing Josh Norman as an opportunity for Redskins to get younger

Ron Rivera sees releasing Josh Norman as an opportunity for Redskins to get younger

On Friday the Redskins released veteran cornerback Josh Norman, and on Saturday head coach Ron Rivera explained that the decision allowed the team to get younger at a key position. 

"The big thing is it's an opportunity for us to get younger. Josh is a veteran guy and again, just looking at the young guys that we have, we got to get these guys on the football field and more exposed," Rivera said. 

Rivera spoke to reporters at a charity event in Charlotte, and while everything he said is true, it's also not the full story. Yes, Norman just turned 32 in December, but Washington's decision to cut him was not solely about age. 

Norman was set to make $15 million in 2020, and the team will save $12.5 million on the salary cap by letting him go. And his level of play no longer validated the hefty price tag and probably hasn't for the last two seasons. Norman finished the 2019 season on the bench and only played in rare situations when the other active cornerbacks were hurt. 

As for a youth movement at cornerback, it's coming, ready or not. Quinton Dunbar is in the last year of his deal and will be 28 when the season starts. Fabian Moreau will be in the last year of his rookie deal and will be 26 when the season starts. Jimmy Moreland had an up and down rookie year in 2019 and will be 25 when the season starts this fall. 

Some NFL sources also expect the Redskins to be quite active in free agency, particularly at the cornerback spot. Two names to watch are unrestricted free agents James Bradberry and Bashaud Breeland. Bradberry played for Rivera in Carolina while Breeland nearly signed with the Panthers as a free agent in 2018 before a foot injury voided his contract. 

So sure, the Redskins released Norman in part of an effort to get a younger roster. But there was plenty more involved, Rivera just decided to take the high road with his public comments. 

NOTES: Rivera also got asked about taking the Redskins job earlier this offseason: "It's going well. It's a little bit of a transition obviously as well. It's an opportunity to change things and kind of put things in the way we want to have them done. "

The coach also got asked about the difference between coaching in Charlotte and coaching in D.C. "The area is huge. Compared to here there's a lot of people," Rivera said. "It's very loud. All the restaurants are very loud." True words. 

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