Redskins

Weiss takes unusual coaching path to majors

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Weiss takes unusual coaching path to majors

AURORA, Colo. (AP) A few of his high school players sauntered out to the diamond on a balmy Thursday afternoon, congregating near the infield grass that's beginning to turn brown.

A day after hearing the news that Walt Weiss, their coach at Regis Jesuit, was heading back to the big leagues as manager of the Colorado Rockies, they were still a little stunned. That was their coach, the one who just six months ago was taking grounders with them in practice - on this field - as he guided the team to the state semifinals.

Now, Weiss is making the unusual leap from high school coach to major league manager.

His players are already imagining the possibilities. Maybe Weiss will give them a tour of the clubhouse, or perhaps invite them to watch batting practice at Coors Field.

They're certain of this much: He's the right fit to turn around a team that finished a franchise-worst 64-98 last season.

``The way he respects the game, he'll be a very successful coach,'' senior catcher Jake Leathers said. ``He's going to get the program headed in the right direction.''

Everywhere they looked around the field at Regis, there were little reminders of Weiss.

Over there, that's where Weiss hit a double into the right-center gap one day in practice, an effortless swing filled with so much power. He was just clowning around to loosen the mood before a big game.

It worked.

And over there, that's where he gave an impromptu tutorial on the proper way to handle the infield fly rule if you're on base.

A lesson that would come in handy later.

More than anything, though, his players will remember the little sayings Weiss used to utter before they took the field. Nothing earth shattering, just things like: ``Play the game hard and play the game right'' or, ``Stay humble, because if you're not humble, the game will find a way to humble you.''

Those axioms hit their mark.

``He knows how to play it right and teach it well,'' said junior pitcher David Peterson, who just so happened to unintentionally show up for school Thursday wearing a Rockies sweatshirt. ``He'll take over the clubhouse and turn things around.''

Peterson will miss listening to Weiss' stories in the dugout. The 48-year-old Weiss was full of tales, too, ones he accumulated by playing shortstop for parts of 14 seasons in the majors. He started with Oakland (1987-92), where he won the 1988 AL Rookie of the Year award, and also had stops in Florida (1993), Colorado (1994-97) and Atlanta (1998-2000).

``I liked picking his brain and seeing what his days in the bigs were like,'' Peterson said. ``One story he told me was when he was with the A's and he was in a World Series game. He walked out on the field and just looked up at the whole crowd, in shock. It's what we all dream of and hearing what it's like was incredible.''

Leathers has known Weiss for quite some time, having grown up with Weiss' son, Brody, who's in his senior year at the school. It was on the advice of Weiss that Leathers switched from third base to catcher.

``It's opened so many doors for me,'' said Leathers, who's now being recruited by colleges. ``What he can see in you and how you play the game, it's unbelievable.''

The Rockies are hoping Weiss can have that kind of impact on Rockies players not all that much older than his high school team. The Rockies boast a young nucleus, featuring youthful players such as 23-year-old infielder Josh Rutledge and 24-year-old righty Jhoulys Chacin.

Weiss' ability to relate to his players may be one of his biggest attributes.

``The game is the same from when you're 10 to 25,'' said junior pitcher and first baseman Reagan Todd, who's already committed to Arizona State. ``Baseball is baseball. He will be able to teach.

``He's very patient and calm. But when comes to game time, he's intense.''

Asked for any good Weiss stories, junior outfielder Brooks Urich just laughed. He will never forget Weiss taking infield with the team during practice.

``Not to say he's old or anything, but he was just so smooth and threw the ball around the infield like he was playing in the majors the day before,'' Urich said. ``Just amazing.''

Weiss and Arizona Diamondbacks coach Matt Williams were the finalists to replace manager Jim Tracy, who resigned Oct. 7 with one year and $1.4 million left on his contract. Rockies bench coach Tom Runnells and first baseman Jason Giambi also received interviews.

``It's a great hire,'' Urich said of Weiss. ``Everyone has respect for coach Weiss. There's never a bad word said about him.''

As for receiving any special perks at the ballpark now that his former coach is leading the Rockies, Leathers said that's hardly necessary.

``Just having him on my resume, being my coach, that's plenty,'' Leathers said.

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Pat Graham can be reached at: www.twitter.com/pgraham34

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Inside linebacker

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Inside linebackers

Additions: Shaun Dion Hamilton (drafted in the fifth round)

Departures: Will Compton (free agent)

Starters: Zach Brown, Mason Foster

Other roster locks: Josh Harvey-Clemons

On the bubble: Hamilton, Zach Vigil, Martrell Spaight

How the inside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: This is a difficult comparison to make since only about half of the teams use the 3-4 with two inside linebackers and there are many variations when they go out of their base defense. Brown certainly is in the upper tier of players at his position. Foster’s skill set may not be coveted by many teams around the league, but he is a perfect fit in the Redskins’ defense in many ways. The player who could differentiate this group from others around the league is Harvey-Clemons. If he turns into a top-notch nickel LB the inside linebackers will be a great asset. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  This is about health. In 2017, Foster missed 11 games, Brown was hampered by a variety of injuries before sitting out the last three games. Compton was the top backup to both players and he went to injured reserve after just three starts. They did re-sign Vigil, who had spent training camp with the team, and he played pretty well near the end of the season. If the front-line players can stay on the field for most of the season this should be a much better group than the one that was partially responsible for the league’s 32nd-ranked rushing defense. 

2018 Inside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: The 2017 season was supposed to be a redshirt year for Harvey-Clemons as he transitions from college safety to NFL linebacker. He played a lot in the base defense during the offseason practices and that indicates that they are considering him for a bigger role beyond just playing nickel. You have to wonder how his size (6-4, 230) will affect his ability to get off of blocks. 

Most to prove: Spaight was a fifth-round pick in 2015 and he has yet to establish a regular role in the defense. It was telling that when they needed someone to start in the latter part of last year they brought back and started Vigil and mostly kept Spaight is going into the last year of his contract, but it would not be surprising to see Vigil beat him out for the last roster spot.  

Rookie watch: The Redskins traded up in the sixth round to get Hamilton. It wasn’t a blockbuster deal but the fact that they thought enough of him to move up says something. Gruden has said that he thinks Hamilton could be a starter at some point. He was one of the leaders on a strong Alabama defense before injuries struck. Hamilton is not going to start this year barring multiple injuries, but he should develop a role as the season goes on and be ready to compete in 2019.

Bottom line: The Redskins have not invested much in terms of free agent dollars or draft capital in the inside linebacker position in recent seasons. That changed somewhat this offseason as they made sure to spend to retain Brown and Foster. Neither commanded a huge contract but they did make a commitment and that is important. Last year Brown gave the defense a sideline-to-sideline dimension it hasn’t had in quite some time and retaining him was critical. Inside linebacker may not be a major strength for the defense this year but it should be able to get the job done. 

2018 Redskins position outlook series


 

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Wizards plan to introduce Dwight Howard Monday

Wizards plan to introduce Dwight Howard Monday

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has stayed relatively busy this summer crafting his new-look lineup for the 2018-19 season. 

One of the team's key additions, Dwight Howard, is set to be introduced as a member of the Wizards on Monday. 

NBC Sports Washington will air the introductory press conference live at 1 p.m. while also streaming it online.  

Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks are both expected to be in attendance. 

The 32-year-old big man is coming off a 2017-18 season with the Charlotte Hornets in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. 

Since leaving the Orlando Magic after eight seasons in 2011, Howard has played for four different teams in the last six years. 

Howard is an eight-time all-star and a three-time defensive player of the year. 

 

RELATED LINKS: 

John Wall's take on Dwight Howard 

Wizards make Dwight Howard free agent signing official 

By the numbers: Is new Wizards center Dwight Howard still in his NBA prime?