<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Sports]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:44:34 -0500 Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:44:34 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[NFL Launches YouTube Channel]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:08:56 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/77248493.jpg

Searching for Super Bowl highlights next week after the big game?

They'll be available, legally, straight from the source.

The NFL has protected its video as fiercely as any league, pushing most users to its website or to its broadcast partners.

On Monday, the league and YouTube announced a partnership between two of the most powerful brands in the marketplace, creating an official NFL channel on the video website. Clips will also be directly viewable through simple Google searches.

Content posted daily to the portal by the league will include game previews, in-game highlights, post-game recaps and clips featuring news, analysis, fantasy football advice and other original programming from NFL Network and NFL.com. Highlight packages from the current postseason were already viewable Sunday, and plenty of Super Bowl programming was scheduled to appear throughout the week and after the game.

Game highlights and other content will also be available through Google's search engine, which will display official NFL videos along with related news and information in a box at the top of the page. Kickoff times and broadcast information for every NFL game will be prominently displayed.

Google acquired YouTube in 2006. The tandem previously formed partnerships with the other three major American sports leagues, MLB, the NBA and the NHL. Google has been trying to mine more revenue from YouTube, which is positioned for further growth as consumers continue to shift toward online and mobile viewing and away from live television.

"We continue to see an insatiable appetite for digital video content, and this partnership further expands fans' ability to discover and access NFL content throughout the year," Hans Schroeder, the NFL's senior vice president of media strategy, business development and sales, said in a statement distributed by the league.

Previously, the NFL videos that popped up in a YouTube search weren't sanctioned. The NFL, like many other entities and organizations, has used a YouTube tool called "Content ID" to be able to block unlicensed videos.

Football fans still flocked to the site, of course. Maybe they pulled up one of those "Bad Lip Reading" montages of silly voice-overs accompanying game clips. Or in the hunt for that favorite highlight — "Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed catch," for instance — they found a bunch of shaky camera-phone videos that some New York Giants fan took of the TV screen.

Now those searches will be more fruitful.

The billion-dollar question, then, is whether this partnership will pave the way for eventual live streaming of games through the YouTube site rather than over the air or on cable. Probably not anytime soon, though. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said "the focus is on non-live highlights." He added that "the agreement will provide tremendous exposure for our broadcast partners."

YouTube spokesman Matt McLernon, pointing to the site's past streaming of live Olympic events, said the opportunity is there and the technology is waiting if the league were to decide to do so.

"We would welcome it with open arms if the NFL or any other league" wanted to show live games on the site, McLernon said.

Terms of the deal were not provided. But it's a safe bet that it's worth a lot of money.

The league, citing Nielsen data, said the 2014 regular season reached 202.3 million unique viewers, representing 80 percent of all television homes and 68 percent of potential viewers in the U.S., and NFL games accounted for the entire top 20 and 45 of the top 50 most-watched television shows last fall.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ernie Banks Died of Heart Attack]]> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 22:31:51 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ErnieBanks2014.jpg

The family of Ernie Banks announced in a press conference Sunday that the famous Cubs player died after suffering a heart attack.

Banks' death was caused by the heart attack, according to Mark Bogen, the family attorney. Funeral arrangements are currently being made.

Banks passed away on Friday at the age of 83, just seven days before his next birthday.

Bogen also announced that a Facebook page has been created for fans to celebrate Banks' legendary life. The page, called Ernie Banks Remembered, was created shortly after Banks passed away.

Banks' family is currently working with the Chicago Cubs and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office to create a public memorial for Mr. Cub, Bogen said.

Liz Banks, the wife of Ernie Banks, was present at the press conference, but Bogen delivered the news and did not take any questions.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Scherzer Thanks Tigers, Fans In Full-Page Ad]]> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 08:09:55 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/461998782.jpg

The Nationals signed pitcher Max Scherzer last week to a seven-year contract, adding the 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner to what many already believed to be the best rotation in baseball.

Scherzer left the Tigers after five seasons and formally bid farewell to this former team in a full-page advertisement in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday.

"On Thursday, the Free Press received a call from the Boras Corporation (super agent Scott Boras is Scherzer's agent)," the paper said. "The corporation asked to purchase a full-page ad in today's Free Press so Scherzer could thank the fans of Detroit for his five seasons here."

Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Ernie Banks Mourned]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 18:38:48 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Ernie-Banks-Chicago-Cubs.jpg

Ernie Banks is a Chicago legend who touched many lives, both on and off the field. He embodied the spirit of the Chicago Cubs and united fans as an unwavering point of pride for the team.

Fans across the country and in Wrigleyville are mourning the loss of "Mr. Cub," who passed away Friday at the age of 83. Here's what some of his big-name fans are saying.

President Obama and Michelle Obama: "He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team's behind him, and Mr. Class -- 'Mr. Cub' -- is ready to play two."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: "Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago's greatest ambassadors. He loved this city as much as he loved -- and lived for -- the game of baseball. This year, during every Cubs game, you can bet that No. 14 will be watching over his team. And if we're lucky, it'll be a beautiful day for not just one ballgame, but two."

Gov. Bruce Rauner: "Ernie Banks was a trail blazer who helped break down barriers, a veteran who served his country with honor, a respected community leader and the greatest Chicago Cub of all time. While we mourn him here, there's no doubt that up in heaven, 'Mr. Cub' is lacing up his cleats an asking Saint Peter if they can 'play two.'"

Sen. Dick Durbin: "'Mr. Cub' was so much more than a great hitter and Gold Glove fielder. His infectious love for the game of baseball was matched only by his passion for the people of Chicago ... His positive, hopeful Cub view of life filled every room and every baseball diamond he ever touched."

Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Cubs: "Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known."

John McDonough, president and CEO of the Chicago Blackhawks: "Ernie was an illuminating superstar who was personable, humble and selfless. He was also the greatest player to ever wear a Cubs uniform. He loved the Cubs, Wrigley Field and the city of Chicago. The Friendly Confines were always a bit friendlier when he was around. I will miss him."

Jesse White, Illinois Secretary of State: "I was honored to learn many things from him while I was in the Cubs organization. And I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with him throughout the years in our joint efforts to help others. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to his friends. I was privileged to have played baseball with him, and to call him my friend. Ernie Banks -- Mr. Cub -- will be missed."

Rev. Jesse Jackson: "He was not only a great baseball player, but beyond his talent as a shortstop and eventually a first baseman, was his character, his eternal optimism -- "let's play two today" -- and his personality was a racial bridge builder. He treated all people with dignity and respect. He never stopped reaching out to bridge the racial chasms."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Life and Times of Ernie Banks]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 09:18:58 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ernie_banksP11.jpg Ernie Banks is a baseball legend, the first African American to play for the Chicago Cubs and the first black manager in Major League Baseball. He is known for his skills at bat and in the field, as well as his sunny, positive attitude and love for the game. Click to see pictures from throughout this memorable figure's life.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Cubs Great Ernie Banks Dies at 83]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 10:06:57 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ErnieBanks2014.jpg

Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs great who was affectionately known as "Mr. Cub" and was the face of the franchise for decades, has passed away at the age of 83. 

Banks was the first African-American to don a Cubs uniform, and it was the only one he would wear.

In a 19-year career, Banks slugged 512 home runs, drove in 1636 RBI, and perhaps more than any other player who has ever played for the franchise embodied the spirit of the club in the eyes and hearts of Cubs fans.

Even after his playing career came to an end in 1971, Banks continued to be an ambassador for the team.

He was a constant fixture at Cubs games, often singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" after the passing of Harry Caray in 1998, and he was one of the most popular figures at the annual Cubs Convention.

Banks made his MLB debut in 1952 at the age of 22 years old, and as his career went on he cemented his status as a legend. He was never better than in the 1958 and 1959 seasons. He won the MVP award in both seasons, and he set career highs in both home runs and RBI in those seasons. 

Unfortunately for Banks and the Cubs, he never made it to the postseason as a member of the team. In the 1969 season, Banks teamed up with fellow legends Ron Santo and Billy Williams and led the team to a massive lead in the standings as August ended. As September unfolded however, the Cubs faded badly, and they missed out on the postseason as the New York Mets surged and ultimately won the World Series title. 

Despite not having postseason experience on his resume, Banks was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and he never stopped being an ambassador for the game and for the team. His indomitable spirit and constant optimism were a bright spot for the Cubs through some of the team's leanest years, and despite teams coming close in 1984 and 2003, Banks' teams were the ones that fans still talk about and remember.  

"Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball," Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. "He was one of the greatest players of all time.  He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And and more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known.  Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie's life in the days ahead."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Face a Test in Seahawks' Read-Option]]> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 00:19:17 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/russwillsea.jpg

To beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, the Patriots know they’ll have to contain running back Marshawn Lynch. Yet here’s the problem: If they focus too much attention on Lynch, quarterback Russell Wilson may burn them.

Wilson led all NFL quarterbacks in rushing in 2014 with 849 yards. In fact, Wilson ranked 16th in the league in rushing. And when Wilson does take off, his plays can be painful for defenses. He averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, had eight runs of more than 20 yards and scored six touchdowns.

What New England will face on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 1, is the Seahawks’ read-option scheme, which forces defenses to choose between focusing on Lynch or being cautious, in case Wilson pulls the ball out and sprints around the defenders crashing on Lynch.

Against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks’ read-option was very effective. On 17 read-option plays, Seattle’s Lynch or Wilson gained 121 yards and scored two touchdowns. Most of the time, Lynch got the ball. But late in the game, Wilson had two key carries on the read-option that resulted in 16 yards and a score.

“They execute the read-option at a very high level,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia told the Boston Herald this week. “It’s extremely dangerous. They do it from a number of different looks. They obviously have tremendous skill players that can handle the ball and handle that type of offense.”

The read option, however, is not unfamiliar to the Patriots, who’ve faced it many times over the past two years. In fact, coach Bill Belichick brought Tim Tebow into camp last year largely to run the offense against his defenders.

One tactic is to emply a spy -- a defender whose responsibility it is to keep his eyes on Wilson and not let him break free if he decides to fake the handoff to Lynch. That spy might be delegated by how the Seahawks line up. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich has played the role well before, as has linebacker Jamie Collins.

Last season, Ninkovich played spy against Cam Newton of the Panthers.

But whoever it is, he’ll have to stay vigilant. Even one play where he’s tricked or loses concentration -- as happened to the Packers late in Seattle’s comeback win -- could be costly.

Ninkovich has said in the past that the read-option scheme is simply “a green light to hit the quarterback.”

But Wilson is an extremely skilled, smart and patient ball handler who can also exploit overly aggressive defenders.

“You just have to be under control and know what your assignment is every time,” said Ninkovich.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NFL Patriots Probe ]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:05:33 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/super-bowl-footballs-AP339355819322.jpg

The New England Patriots used footballs that were under-inflated in the first half of Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts, evidence so far in the National Football League's investigation has found. 

But the team's footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed to have been properly inflated at the conclusion of the game, the NFL said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The NFL's investigation into the "Deflategate" controversy involving the Patriots is ongoing, and 40 interviews have been conducted so far, including of Patriots personnel, game officials and third parties with relevant information and expertise, the league said. The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss.

The league said it has obtained and is continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. It has also hired an investigatory firm with expertise in forensics to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.

"The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action," the statement said. "We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence."

The league said the Patriots have pledged their full cooperation and have made their personnel and other information available upon request. In the coming days, the NFL will be conducting interviews, examining video and other forensic evidence, in addition to any relevant physical evidence.

Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft also issued a statement on Friday, saying that he received a letter from the league on Monday informing him of the investigation. He said he instructed Patriots staff to be "completely cooperative and transparent with the league's investigators." During the three days the investigators were in Foxboro, he said the team provided access to every full- and part-time employee the league's representatives asked to speak with and produced every communication device that they requested to search.

"It is an ongoing process that the league and our team are taking very seriously," Kraft said. "Competitive balance and the integrity of the game are the foundation of what makes our league so special and I have the utmost respect for those principles. Our organization will continue to cooperate throughout the league's investigation."

The NFL began looking into the issue not only because doctoring the footballs could provide a competitive advantage, but because it would compromise the integrity of the game. Deflating a football can change the way it's gripped by a player, or the way it travels through the air.

"Our investigation will seek information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well," the statement said. "As we develop more information and are in a position to reach conclusions, we will share them publicly."

No timetable was given by the NFL for when the investigation might be wrapped up.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has denied altering the ball "in any way," saying that he would never break the rules. Coach Bill Belichick said he had "no explanation" for what happened, and like Brady said the first he heard of the entire ordeal was on Monday morning.

The Patriots will take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday, Feb. 1.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Rick Osentoski]]>
<![CDATA[Ravens Nose Tackle Cody Investigated for Animal Cruelty]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 17:41:22 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Terrence+Cody+157365657.jpg

Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody is under investigation for animal cruelty

The case deals with the death of Cody's dog, an $8,000 bull mastiff from Spain.

The case is being discussed with the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office.

The team said Friday morning it plans to release Cody after the Super Bowl but didn't give a reason, NBC Sports reports. His one-year contract is set to expire in the spring.

The Ravens selected Cody in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He played in 57 games over five season but only one in 2014 after having hip surgery in the spring.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Putting Balls To The Test]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 11:28:29 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/NC_deflatedballs0122001_1500x845.jpg University of Indianapolis football players take part in experiment to demonstrate the potential advantages of a partially deflated ball.]]> <![CDATA[Inmate Vows $88B Suit for "Gross Stupidity" After Cowboys "Stolen" Victory]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 13:59:59 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/terry-hendrix.jpg

A prison inmate still reeling from the Dallas Cowboys' playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers has decided to take action to remedy to defeat, announcing intent to sue NFL officials for $88 billion for "gross stupidity" and "the loss of a Super Bowl."

In a hand-written notice, Terrance Hendrix, a 51-year-old inmate at the Fremont Correctional Facility in Colorado, accused the NFL and its officials of "committing fraud" and "gross negligence" when they overturned a potentially game-changing catch. He's seeking $88,987,654,321.88 — Bryant's jersey No. 88 book-ended by digits 9 through 1 — in damages on behalf of the team, its fans and "all people in or and from the sovereign Republic of Texas."

Dez Bryant's catch at the Green Bay 1 yard line on fourth down late in the fourth quarter put the Cowboys in position to take the lead in a game that sent the winner to the NFC Championship Game. Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, though, and referees overturned the call.

According to the lawsuit, Hendrix stated that referees Dean Blandino and Gene Steratore and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "have stolen a victory from the plaintiff(s) because the Cowboys offense would have perfectly created an 'autobahn' for DeMarco Murray to drive into the end zone for the score and victory." That loss, he writes, constitutes the theft of a Super Bowl committed against the "hearts, minds and souls" of the players, cheerleaders, fans and all Texans.

Hendrix is acting as his own attorney in the case.

Officials with the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL declined to coment.

NBC Owned Television Stations' Esther Katro contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Blount: From Unemployed to Starring Role]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:39:41 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/blountbakpat.jpg

On Nov. 18, LeGarrette Blount was out of a job. The running back had just been released by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and his career was in doubt.

Blount had left the field the night before while the Steelers-Titans Monday night game was in progress, upset that he hadn’t had a single carry. One source with the Steelers told the NFL Network that the reason for his release was “selfish behavior.”

So, just over two months ago, Blount seemed like the most unlikely of potential Super Bowl difference-makers.

But after he re-signed with the New England Patriots just two days after his release, Blount is heading nto Super Bowl XLIX as one of his team’s biggest offensive stars and a factor in the team’s run to the AFC championship.

Blount carried the ball 30 times for 148 yards in this past Sunday’s AFC Championship Game victory over the Colts. And in the five regular-season games he played with New England late in the season, Blount averaged 4.7 yards per carry, with 281 yards on 60 carries for three touchdowns.

At 6 feet and 250 pounds, the former standout from Oregon has plugged right back into the New England offensive scheme he had been a part of in 2013. That season, he averaged 5.0 yards per carry, collecting 772 yards on the ground and scoring seven touchdowns for Bill Belichick’s team.

When Blount became available, Belichick didn’t hesitate. He re-signed Blount and immediately gave him the ball.

Now the Patriots have a physical, hard-to-bring-down back almost in the mold of Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Both defenses in the Feb. 1 Super Bowl in Arizona will have to stop the big backs early to set the tone.

Belichick isn’t usually effusive with his praise, but he’s very happy he has Blount again. Blount had left the Patriots as a free agent after the 2013 season to sign with Pittsburgh.

“You don’t see a lot of guys like him,” Belichick told reporters this week. You just don’t. I thought a couple of cuts he made (against the Colts), the way he can stop, start, accelerate, change directions – for a 250-pound guy or whatever he is, he’s got great vision and athleticism. At times he looks like a small back, but he’s not. He’s a big guy and he’s a hard guy to tackle.”

The way Blount has played with the Patriots led to some criticism of the Steelers’ decision to release him, based on the fact that Pittsburgh could have used him when No. 1 back Le’Veon Bell was unavailable for its playoff game against the Ravens.

But this week, Steelers president Art Rooney II said he has no regrets.

“I think we made the decision for the right reasons,” Rooney told ESPN.com. “Not going to worry about it too much. We just have to make sure that we make a better decision this year and fill that position with someone we’re comfortable with and who will be a good fit.”

Now Blount has a chance to win a Super Bowl ring. He’s gone from unemployed to a potential Super Bowl star. Like Belichick, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is grateful Blount is on their side again.

“He’s tough to bring down and has the ability to make people miss in the hole, which I think is a unique trait for a bigger back,” said McDaniels this week. “Obviously he played well (vs. the Colts), really carried a big load for us and made a huge impact. … We’re very happy to have him here with us.”


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wall To Start In NBA All-Star Game]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 20:14:21 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/461936076.jpg

Washington Wizards guard John Wall will start at guard for the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 15, the NBA announced Thursday.

Wall, who received 886,368 votes to lead all Eastern Conference backcourt players, will be joined by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, Cavaliers forward LeBron James, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and Bulls center Pau Gasol. He is the first Wizards starter since Gilbert Arenas in 2007.

Wall averages 17 points and 10 assists per game, the latter of which leads the league. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Brady: "I Didn't Alter the Ball"]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 19:24:25 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/tom-brady-presser-thumb-AP210855816629.jpg

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said he "didn't alter the ball in any way" at a Thurday afternoon press conference amid the "Deflategate" controversy.

"I feel like I've always played within the rules. I would never do anything to break the rules," he said. When a reporter asked if he were a cheater, he said, "I don't believe so."

The NFL is investigating after ESPN reported that the Patriots used under-inflated footballs in Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Earlier Thursday, Belichick said at a press conference that he had "no explanation" for what happened, and that the first he heard of the controversy was on Monday morning.

Brady told reporters Thursday afternoon that he first heard about the under-inflated balls Monday morning during his regular weekly radio interview. At the time, he said, he laughed, thinking that it was just "sour grapes" on the Colts' behalf. "It ends up being a very serious thing," he said.

"Everyone's obviously trying to figure out what happened," Brady added. "I was as surprised as anybody when I heard Monday morning what was happening."

The quarterback said he goes through the same process before every game, choosing between 12 and 24 balls to use during the game. He said he did that Sunday night. "When I felt them, they were perfect," he said.

Much like Belichick, Brady said he has no knowledge of any wrongdoing.

"Obviously, I'd like to know what  happened," he said. "In the meantime, I'm going to try to do the best I can to get ready to play against the Seahawks." 

Asked if the controversy might serve as motivation for the Patriots, Brady said "We've got a lot of motivation as a team. I think our team's overcome a lot of adversity this year. Sometimes in life the biggest challenges end up being the best things that happen in your life."

Softer balls are generally considered easier to throw and catch, and quarterbacks, specialists and equipment managers are known to have very individualized preferences in how footballs are readied for games, The Associated Press reported. Belichick said he was unaware of the process for game balls until the accusations were raised.

"I think we all know that quarterbacks, kickers, specialists have certain preferences on footballs," Belichick said. "They know a lot more about it than I do. They're a lot more sensitive to it than I am. I hear them comment on it from time to time, but I can tell you and they will tell you that there is never any sympathy whatsoever from me on that subject. Zero."

Brady reportedly addressed his teammates behind closed doors at Thursday's team meeting. Per teammates, he told them he prefers the football "a certain way." He also told them to stay focused on next Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Elise Amendola]]>
<![CDATA[Patriots Coach: "No Explanation" for "Deflategate"]]> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:37:23 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/bill-belechick-deflate-presser-AP145710954535.jpg

"I have no explanation for what happened," New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Thursday morning when addressing the media on the "Deflategate" controversy.

"We have cooperated fully, quickly and completely," with the NFL's investigation, he said.

The league is looking into a report that claimed the New England Patriots used under-inflated footballs in Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The NFL says its investigation is ongoing.

"When I came in Monday morning, I was shocked to learn of the news reports about the footballs," Belichick said. "I had no knowledge whatsoever of this situation until Monday morning. I would say I've learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew or have talked about in the last 40 years that I have coached in this league.

"In my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player or staff member on football air pressure," he added. "To me, the footballs are approved by league and game officials pre-game and we play with what's out there."

The Patriots will take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, on Sunday, Feb. 1.

"I'm trying to coach the team, and that's what I want to do," Belichick said.

The NFL began looking into the issue not only because doctoring the footballs could provide a competitive advantage, but because it would compromise the integrity of the game.

Deflating a football can change the way it's gripped by a player, or the way it travels through the air.

Under NFL rules, each team provides balls each game for use when its offense is on the field. The balls are inspected before the game by the officiating crew, then handled during the game by personnel provided by the home team.

Belichick said in the future, the Patriots will be sure to inflate footballs over the minimium 12.5-pounds per square inch to account for any possible change during the game.

"It's unfortunate that this is a story coming off of two great playoff victories by our football team and our players," Belichick said. "But again, we've been cooperative with the NFL investigation. We'll continue to do so and we will turn all our attention and focus on to the Seattle Seahawks, a very well coached, talented, tough, competitive football team."

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is scheduled to address the media around 3:45 on Thursday afternoon.

Photo Credit: AP/Elise Amendola]]>
<![CDATA[ESPN Sues Notre Dame Over Open Records Request]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 04:05:05 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/157220308.jpg

ESPN has filed a lawsuit against University of Notre Dame, alleging the school is violating Indiana's public record laws by withholding police incident reports about possible campus crimes involving certain student-athletes.

The lawsuit filed Jan. 15 on behalf of ESPN and its reporter Paula Lavigne says state Public Access Counselor Luke Britt has twice issued advisory opinions stating the university is subject to Indiana's public records law. The lawsuit and opinions don't specify what incident reports ESPN is seeking or which athletes may have been involved.

In his first opinion on Oct. 31, Britt said that while the university is private, Notre Dame Security Police Department is a public law enforcement agency subject to public records laws. He acknowledged that his view may be inconsistent with past opinions from other public access counselors, but that it wasn't inconsistent with Indiana's public records law.

And earlier this month, he wrote that Notre Dame and other that private universities in Indiana that have professional police forces should follow the state's public records laws despite being private institutions. He also noted that his October opinion "is not compulsory."

Notre Dame has argued that it believes it is complying with state law, saying that three previous advisory opinions had agreed with the university that its police department and those of other private colleges and universities in Indiana are not public agencies.

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said Wednesday the university believes its practices are in "full accord with the Access to Public Records Act and consistent with multiple advisory opinions that have addressed this matter over the past 12 years."

"We are confident that our position will be affirmed in court," he said.

The lawsuit, filed in St. Joseph County Superior Court, states Notre Dame told ESPN it does not have documents "responsive" to its request.

The lawsuit contends ESPN is entitled to an unspecified civil penalty, attorney's fees, court costs and other expenses.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[5 Super Story Lines Heading into Super Bowl XLIX]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 10:32:42 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/162*120/dapatsduo.jpg

The conference championship games are over, the debate over “Deflategate” is just heating up, and we’re still days away from the Seattle Seahawks' and New England Patriots' arrival in Arizona for the 49th Super Bowl, to be held Feb. 1.

Here's an early look at five of the biggest story lines going into the XLIXth super matchup.

1. Will the Patriots add another championship?

Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady already have won three Super Bowls, but they’re still one short of the four won by the tandems of head coach Bill Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana (49ers) and that of Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw (Steelers). In today’s era of free agency and salary caps, it’s been a much tougher proposition for the Patriots to stay on top this long, but they’ve managed. After winning three Super Bowls in his first five seasons in New England, Belichick has fallen short in two others. The Pats haven’t won the Lombardi Trophy since Feb. 6, 2005. Another victory would put both Belichick and Brady in a special category.

2. Can the Seahawks win back-to-back championships?

The defending Super Bowl champions from the Northwest can become the first team to win consecutive championships since… the Patriots after the 2003 and 2004 seasons. In fact, Seattle is the first team even to reach consecutive Super Bowls since the Patriots did it those years. After their first championship last season, many predicted the Seahawks were built for a long-term run – a dynasty? – because of their youth, defense, coaching and quarterback Russell Wilson, who just seems to know how to win. A victory versus the Pats would prove them right.

3. Can the Patriots stop Marshawn Lynch?

Much has been made through the years of Belichick’s ability to put the clamps on an opponent’s go-to offensive playmaker. The Patriots certainly did it in the AFC Championship Game by taking away Indianapolis wideout T.Y. Hilton, Andrew Luck’s favorite big-play target. But the Seahawks are a different beast. How does the New England defense stop Lynch? Well, the Pats did it quite well in their last meeting, a 24-23 Seattle victory in the 2012 regular season. In that one, Lynch gained just 41 yards on 15 carries, a 2.7 average. The Pats had other problems, though: Seattle rallied from a 23-10 deficit in the fourth quarter.

4. Do these teams hate each other?

Maybe, but probably not. They’re both just competitive, with Type A-personality, aggressive coaches and philosophies. But there certainly will be some questions asked of both teams at media day about their last meeting, when Pats QB Brady and Seahawks corner Richard Sherman got tangled up in some in-game trash talk, and then Sherman famously tweeted a picture of him with Brady after the game with the caption, “U Mad Bro?” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, when asked about that matchup this week, said of the trash-talking and matchup: “Tom Brady and somebody were yelling back and forth a little bit, those guys were having some fun. Everybody was into it. It was a huge game. It felt like a championship game against a great team.” On Feb. 1, it will be.

5. Who’s the world’s best cornerback?

Seattle’s Sherman believes he is. New England’s Darrelle Revis believes he is. They’ve gone back and forth on Twitter debating the point. Both corners are famous for shutting down receivers, and trying to shut each other up. Revis once tweeted of Sherman, “I never seen a man before run his mouth so much”; Sherman has tweeted that “sometimes the truth needs to be told” that he’s the best. We’ll see which one has the better day on the biggest stage.


Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps GM MacLellan Discusses Free Agency]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 14:13:05 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/185*120/461833484.jpg

During a nearly 20-minute conversation with reporters Tuesday, Brian MacLellan marveled at how quickly his first season as Washington Capitals general manager has flown by.

Months -- how many obviously depends on how the Capitals perform upon reconvening after this week's All-Star break -- remain before this season ends, but soon MacLellan will be confronted with shaping future rosters. 

The Capitals have 11 pending free agents on their roster. Four are restricted: forwards Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Nate Schmidt and goaltender Braden Holtby. The rest are unrestricted: forwards Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle and Aaron Volpatti and defensemen Mike Green, John Erskine and Jack Hillen. In the minor leagues, the contracts of goaltender Philipp Grubauer (RFA), defenseman Steve Oleksy (UFA) and forward Chris Brown (RFA), all of whom have NHL experience with the Capitals, are set to expire. 

MacLellan would not and probably will not comment on specific contract negotiations, but said that he has begun to identify with whom those conversations would begin.

"I think we’ve got guys that have played well," MacLellan said. "The second 40 [games] here is going to determine a lot, too. We’re evaluating, we’re talking theoretically, but I think we need to be successful as a team moving forward too to cement what our thoughts would be going forward.”

“A lot of our guys, all of our guys have played better this year. I think the system, the structure, the coaching staff have all had a good influence on the performance of our players. To a man, I think they’ve improved.”

For those without the benefit of clairvoyance, it is impossible to predict exactly how MacLellan will proceed, though some of his upcoming decisions seem apparent. 

All four RFAs should return, with Holtby assuredly receiving a significant raise from his current two-year, $3.7 million contract after setting a franchise record with 27 straight appearances. Erskine (who underwent neck surgery in October), Volpatti (who has yet to play this season) and Hillen (who recently reentered the lineup after Schmidt fractured his shoulder blade) seem unlikely.

“Obviously, with an RFA, you’ve got a little more leverage in theory," MacLellan said. "And with a UFA, you don’t. I think it’s all situational. If we’re going to be successful and they’re a big part of our success, you don’t mind opening up negotiations early. Depending on the player and the agent, depending on their philosophy, if they like the situation, I think they're more open to negotiating before the end of the year."

Green presents the most intriguing case. He has thrived in his less strenuous role, resembling his former dynamic self. Yet it would be difficult to justify paying a third-pairing defenseman anywhere near Green's current $6.25 million salary, especially with $15.21 million of salary-cap space tied to Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and John Carlson.

Green has expressed his desire to stay and MacLellan was complimentary of his season to date. 

“I think he’s been good. I think he’s been really good," MacLellan said. "I think he’s had a good attitude. I think all our defensemen have had good attitudes. We have guys that are playing roughly 20 minutes a night, the five guys. Some teams have guys playing 30 minutes a night or close to 30 minutes a night. I think it’s benefitted our group as a whole to distribute the ice time more evenly. If we’re down a goal, Mike Green’s playing a little bit more. If we’re up a goal, he’s not playing as much.

"I think if you look at it as a group, it’s been a good experience for everybody. We don’t have anybody complaining about ice time."

While functioning as the Capitals' assistant general manager prior to his promotion in May, MacLellan had experience interacting with player agents, particularly in regards to free-agent contracts. Now, he has to field calls that may be a "little more confrontational" if an agent, for example, voices his client's displeasure about his particular role. 

Former general manager George McPhee's "adversarial relationship" with agents reportedly hindered Washington's ability to find long-term solutions. MacLellan, as he has since becoming general manager, stressed open lines of communication. 

"I'm easy to get along with," MacLellan said, chuckling. "I try to go about it as being as honest as I can. This is what your player is doing, here's where I see him, here's where he needs to improve and this is what the coaches see."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Mama Durant Talks: An Interview with Wanda Pratt]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 18:49:11 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009204683_1200x675_386796611979.jpg Wanda Pratt, mother of the NBA's Kevin Durant, discusses her son, his emotional MVP speech -- and whether her son might ever come to the Wizards.]]> <![CDATA[Pro Golfer Brooke Pancake Signs Deal With Waffle House]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 16:22:44 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP113897309254.jpg

A pancake will be seen in Waffle House restaurants across the nation.

Pro golfer Brooke Pancake announced Tuesday that she has partnered with the restaurant chain. Pancake will be visiting Waffle Houses across America as part of the arrangement.

The LPGA player will also be posting photos of her visits on social media.

“This will be the first time that the Waffle Nation will be cheering for a Pancake,” president and CEO Walt Ehmer said in a release.

Pancake was happy to endorse the chain despite her last name.

"Growing up in Chattanooga, I've always been a Waffle House fan,” Pancake said. "And to be quite honest, I prefer waffles over pancakes anyway."

Pancake was America’s top college player during her All-American career at Alabama, according to The Golf Channel. She turned pro in 2012.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Young Forwards Will Dictate Caps' Deadline Approach]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 19:01:05 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/172*120/459729512.jpg

Having steamrolled through December and most of January prior to last weekend's winless road trip, the Washington Capitals are firmly entrenched in the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoff race. It would seem likely, barring a monumental bout of inconsistency, that Washington will qualify for the postseason after a one-year hiatus. 

The Capitals' dearth of postseason success has been widely recounted, the franchise without a conference final appearance since 1998. Coach Barry Trotz was asked Monday if he thought he oversaw a "playoff team that can win" and overcome that nearly two-decade hurdle. He said yes, adding that he felt the Capitals "still need a piece or two." 

"We have some guys that are, at this level, pretty good contributing players, but the playoffs are another level, and I don't know if some of our guys are ready for that," Trotz continued. "We'll see. We've still got another 40 games to go, but some guys looked like they weren't going to be ready for the first part and they got it turned around. I think we have enough pieces to be a real good threat, but our depth hasn't been really tested to the point that we need to do that."

Trotz lauded the organization's defensive depth, strengthened by the pricey offseason additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Forward-wise, he thought Washington "could use a little more." 

"That’s just waiting for guys to develop," he said. "Guys like [Andre] Burakovsky are coming, guys like [Tom] Wilson and [Evgeny] Kuznetsov and people like that.”

In addressing reporters Tuesday, general manager Brian MacLellan reiterated Trotz's stance, with the play of the Capitals' crop of young forwards influencing how he will approach the March 2 trade deadline. 

“We have four young forwards that we’re developing: Burakovsky, Wilson, Kuznetsov and [Michael] Latta," MacLellan said. "They’ve all been good at times and they’ve been inconsistent at times. I think we’re going to evaluate them over the next month. I think the play is going to get turned up a notch, it’s going to be a little tighter, a little more intense game.

"We’ll see how they respond to that. Most of our decisions will be made off the performance of those four guys.”  

MacLellan met with Trotz Monday, with MacLellan presenting what and who could realistically be available in the trade market, which includes "higher-profile players" that teams may be willing to part with in-season. MacLellan, though, said that the team's priority remains developing the aforementioned youngsters.

"I don't think we're going to be too assertive or too aggressive with moving any of them out or changing the chemistry of our team," he said.

The Capitals, MacLellan acknowledged, are in need of solidity on their first line, where seven different skaters have started games alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Burakovsky has assumed that position for the past eight games after Trotz recently admitted that he may have been too ambitious in attempting to convert Burakovsky and Kuznetsov to center simultaneously. 

Not many applicable players have been discussed in trade rumors. Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly and Arizona Coyotes forward Antoine Vermette have frequently been mentioned throughout the league, but neither necessarily meets that need. Kuznetsov has gradually adapted to the demands of second-line center, which has long been characterized by upheaval in Washington.

If the Capitals were to make a trade, a corresponding move to clear salary-cap space would likely be necessary. According to the now-defunct CapGeek, Washington has roughly $1.6 million available. 

"We're going to field the best team we can here," MacLellan said. "We want to win. We want to do some damage in the playoffs. I think our decision is going to be how much we want to expose our young guys down the road and can they handle it. You don't want to put them in a position where they're not ready for it. I think that's our big decision."

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Redskins Hire Barry as Defensive Coordinator]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 15:19:23 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/75385848.jpg

The Washington Redskins hired Joe Barry as their new defensive coordinator, News4's Dianna Russini confirmed.

Barry, who coached the San Diego Chargers' linebackers since 2011, replaces Jim Haslett, who mutually agreed to part ways with the Redskins at the end of the season. 

He has been a defensive coordinator before, for the Detroit Lions in 2007 and 2008.

In addition to Barry, the Redskins interviewed San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach Ed Donatell; former Bills, Broncos and Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips; former Jets and Browns head coach Eric Mangini; Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris; and former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who agreed Monday to a deal with the Chicago Bears.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Usain Bolt Shares His Favorite "Bolt Babies" Photos]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 21:59:03 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/bolt_babies_usain_arian_owen.jpg

Everybody loves a cute baby. 

Well, these babies have a double-dose of cuteness. They are known as "Bolt Babies" because of their uncanny resemblance to Olympic champion Usain Bolt. 

With one air raised in the air, Arian Owen struck the "lightning bolt" pose while getting weighed at his doctor's office at just 7-weeks-old in Essex, England.  

The "Bolt Babies" were photographed -- most unintentionally -- doing the "lightning bolt," Bolt's signature celebratory pose. After receiving tweets with the hashtag #BoltBabies, Bolt tweeted some of his favorite hand raising victory poses on Monday.

He also gave some good advice.

"Almost there.. little more practice.. Lol," Bolt tweeted to Jon Mulkeen along with a photo of his smiling daughter Amelie in a London 2012 Olympics jumper. Amelie was just 3-months old when this photo was taken and is now approaching her third birthday. 

"She'll take the feedback on board and will be sure to master it by the time of the 2036 Olympics when she wins gold," said Mulkeen.

Claire Malton tweeted a photo of her nephew George stretching and doing the "lightning bolt" at just 4-weeks-old. Bolt called him a future star.

A native of Jamaica, Bolt has been called the fastest person who's ever lived after he ran the 100-meter dash in 9.58 seconds in 2009 in Berlin. He is the first man to win six Olympic gold medals in sprinting. 

"It was quite surreal to see that Usain Bolt had replied and tweeted out the picture. I never imagined anything would come of it, but it seems little George has become an Internet sensation overnight," said Malton. 

Check out more of the "Bolt Babies" below. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Claire Owen
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<![CDATA[Seahawks Apologize for "Poor Judgment" in MLK Day Tweet ]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 10:40:16 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/seahawks-flag-461738242.jpg

Less than 24 hours after clinching a spot in the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks found themselves issuing an apology for a social media fumble.

The tweet in question, meant to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day, featured a photo of an emotional team quarterback Russell Wilson with a quote attributed the civil rights leader and the text "We shall overcome. #MLKDay" according to published reports and screenshots captured by other users.

The tweet, which has since been deleted, sparked a social media backlash, as users slammed the team for insensitively comparing their come-from-behind victory over the Green Bay Packers to the civil rights movement.

The team, which will face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, apologized for its "poor judgment" in a subsequent tweet, saying they "did not did not intend to compare football to the civil rights legacy of Dr. King."

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Durant's High School Coach Remembers]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 16:23:38 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009191866_1200x675_386266179985.jpg RAW VIDEO: Legendary high school basketball coach Stu Vetter talks about coaching Kevin Durant -- and all his great players over the years. Here's a longer version the interview by News4's Jason Pugh.]]> <![CDATA[Patriot Pulls Woman From Flipped Car After Making Super Bowl]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 16:09:13 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Vince+Wilford+overturned+car+1200.png

After helping the New England Patriots secure the win that is sending the team to the Super Bowl, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork helped save a woman from an overturned car. And, according to Massachusetts State Police, he only needed one hand to lift the woman from the wreck.

When Massachusetts State Police responded to a rollover on Route 1 in Foxboro at 12:45 a.m., they were surprised to see Wilfork, who was heading home from the championship game. He was already beside the 2015 Jeep Wrangler and checking on the driver, who police identified as a 38-year-old Hanson, Massachusetts woman.

The woman could not get out of the vehicle, so Massachusetts State Trooper Kenneth Proulx held the driver’s side door open and Wilfork reached in and helped lift the woman out of the vehicle --- with one hand, according to state police.

Wilfork left the scene after making sure the troopers didn’t need any further help, police said.

Police arrested the woman and charged her with operating under the influence of alcohol and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Photo Credit: Massachusetts State Police
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<![CDATA[Winners and Losers From NFL Conference Championship Games]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:58:50 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/461740468.jpg

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>