By DERON SNYDER
The initials that indicate football positions are well known. QB for quarterback and LB for linebacker. DE for defensive end and WR for wide receiver. P for punter and K for kicker. But if you want a good way to stump some folks, ask them what LS stands for.
And if you want a good way to irritate some youth players, ask them to fill the overlooked position.
“Typically, the long snapper isn’t something anyone aspires to be,” says the Atlanta Falcons’ Josh Harris (Auburn). “I have no idea why my Pop Warner coach picked me. Frankly, I wasn’t thrilled when he said I was going to be the long snapper. He demonstrated it one time and I got down into that stance and tried to throw the best spiral I could.
“Now I’m very thankful he put me in that position.” Harris has much to be grateful for. Perfecting the art of snapping footballs up to 15 yards through his legs allowed him to experience two childhood dreams. That’s two more than he imagined possible as he left high school for college.
Harris was a three-sport athlete, a wrestler who played football and baseball in Carrollton, Ga., about 45 minutes west of Atlanta. He didn’t garner much interest as a linebacker and defensive end. But one of his assistant coaches realized Harris had a gift for snapping and suggested that he walk on at a major college.
Choosing the school was easy because he grew up as a huge Auburn fan. A slew of relatives had attended, including his grandfather James Morrow, a member of Auburn’s 1957 national championship team. Still, Harris wasn’t crazy about the idea.
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By HOWARD MANN
GLENN DALE – Attorney Benjamin Crump, nationally renowned for his work in social justice cases involving Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown Jr., and Tamir Rice, among others, had a warning Saturday for his audience at Glenn Dale Golf Club.
“My heart tells me if we don’t do all we can to get Mike Lyles elected as the State’s Attorney for Prince George’s County, the next day after the election and every day after that we will regret it,” Crump said at a Team Lyles event. “We’ll look in the mirror and say we wish we had done more. We don’t want to live in regret.”
He expressed his belief that Lyles is the best person for the job. The two worked together in the past, within the National Bar Association and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Crump said he didn’t mind forgoing sleep Friday and catching a pre-dawn flight in order to arrive on time.
“We really need people like Mike for due process of the law and fair administration of justice,” he said.
Crump said his experience on high-profile cases with massive media coverage illustrate the importance of the State’s Attorney Office. Having the right person serve as a jurisdiction’s top prosecutor is vitally important to ensure justice isn’t denied. Crump has seen that happen too many times, whether it’s guilty parties getting off or minor offenders being hammered.
“We’re here for Mike because we know he won’t treat your children any differently than he would treat anybody else’s child, no matter what race, ethnicity, class or status,” Crump said. “Mike is a person who understands civil rights because that’s what he’s been doing as director of the Prince George’s County’s Human Rights Commission. He knows what it means to fight for civil rights.”
Lyles, a former two-term Bowie City Council member with more than 20 years of law practice in and out of government, also serves as co-chair of the Prince George’s County Human Trafficking Task Force. In that capacity, he played a vital role in the county securing a $1.3 million grant last month from the Department of Justice.
“I don’t want you to elect me because you know me as a friend,” Lyles told the audience. “I want you to elect me because I have a track record of doing what I say and making things work the way they should work.”
By DERON SNYDER
Hate is a strong word, used only figuratively in this space because the emotion means something else in a sports sense. It’s not true, genuine animosity toward certain athletes or teams; it’s a fun, almost-healthy feeling that makes watching sports more engaging.
With that said: I hate Grayson Allen and Duke.
I never embraced that before, but it feels good to say it out loud.
Allen follows a long line of Duke basketball players who earned distinction among the nation’s most-loathed hoopsters. There was Christian Laettner – the granddaddy of them all – plus J.J. Redick, Greg Paulus, Steve Wojciechowski, Gerald Henderson, Shane Battier and the list goes on.
It’s a wonder Tyler Hansbrough didn’t suit up for the Blue Devils.
My enmity toward the program is based on its impression as a smug and conceited group that suffers from an acute superiority complex. They probably contracted the virus from coach Mike Krzyzewski, though it’s understandable how five national titles might have that effect on a person.
By DERON SNYDER
“Upon further review …”
We’re accustomed to hearing those words when NFL referees turn on their microphones and announce what they’ve concluded from replay. Calls are confirmed, calls are reversed, and sometimes calls simply stand, when there’s not enough evidence to be more definitive.
During the Minnesota Vikings’ 38-30 victory Sunday at FedEx Field, one “further review” situation wasn’t announced on the field, just in the press box.
Washington wide receiver Ryan Grant was off to a good start in the first quarter. He was targeted three times and caught all three passes for a total of 25 yards. But on his third reception, he was smacked down by Linval Joseph, the Vikings’ 6-foot-4, 330-pound nose tackle who wreaks havoc while flying around like a linebacker.
Grant remained down briefly and left the field. The team announced he was being evaluated for a possible concussion and his return was questionable.
An update was provided 10 minutes later: Grant was cleared and expected to return. But not so fast. Something changed over the next five minutes, because the Skins announced their training staff was conducting further evaluation.
Finally, about a half-hour after his bell was rung, Grant was ruled out for the remainder of the game. Coach Jay Gruden announced afterward that the four-year pro was in concussion protocol.
By DERON SNYDER
LANDOVER, Md. – On any given Sunday, an injury-ravaged team can fly across the country with less than a full game-day roster and defeat a presumptive Super Bowl contender in one of the league’s most inhospitable venues.
On any given Sunday, a team can virtually dominate a visitor for most of the first half and lead with four minutes before intermission, yet find itself trailing by 18 points before fans have returned from the concourse and settled in their seats.
And on any given Sunday, a defense that specializes in bending without breaking, coming off impressive effort the prior week in a season-saving game, can be gashed and gouged by purple-clad opponents with a quarterback whose name sounds like an “American Top 40” radio host.
Minnesota’s Case Keenum didn’t play any tunes on the FedEx Field sound system Sunday, but he played the home team like a drum in the Vikings’ 38-30 victory. The journeyman QB completed 21-of-29 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns, connecting on four deep balls that alone went for 176 yards.
Washington coach Jay Gruden said he wasn’t surprised by showing, though he mistakenly referred to deceased disc jockey Casey Kasem instead of the very-much-alive Vikings passer.
By DERON SNYDER
The arms are the first thing we notice. When NFL players are concussed and prone on the field, sometimes an arm remains upright, frozen in suspended animation as if attached to a string.
In the case of Washington tight end Niles Paul, we noticed his helmet pop off in Week 8, after a goal-line collision with Dallas linebacker Sean Lee. Paul was down for several minutes and didn’t return to the game. On Wednesday, after missing the Seattle contest, he returned to practice for the first time.
“I don’t remember anything,” Paul told The Washington Post. “I don’t remember walking off the field. I barely remember walking out of the stadium. I’ve never been concussed like that, so it was a bit scary for me.”
He said he stayed home during the team’s trip to Seattle, with the intention to relax and “let my brain settle down.”
But we wonder how successful such respites might be, especially considering Thursday’s news about another tight end.
By DERON SNYDER
Instructive occasions and teachable moments abound in life. But they’re worthless unless we’re smart enough to recognize them and wise enough to glean the lessons.
Take, for instance, the Washington Wizards.
They have lost three of their last four games entering Thursday, when the Los Angeles Lakers come to town. Two of those defeats were at home against Dallas and Phoenix, teams that have no business winning road games in Washington.
The Mavericks had one victory against 11 losses before a wire-to-wire victory Tuesday at Capital One Arena. The Suns, who beat the Wizards last week, were 4-7 and on a three-game losing streak entering Wednesday’s game against Miami.
No self-respecting team that proclaims to be the Eastern Conference’s best can be wiped on its home floor by dregs from the West. That’s the biggest takeaway from the Wizards’ inconsistent, 5-5 season so far, but only because the other bit of education should be a no-brainer at this point:
Don’t let your mouth write checks that your body can’t cash.
By DERON SNYDER
Before Washington took the field against Seattle, the verdict was in on coach Jay Gruden’s team. It was gritty and resilient, filled with toughness and strong character.
There were no signs of surrender like the New York Giants exhibited earlier Sunday in a 51-17 drubbing against the Los Angeles Rams. You almost couldn’t blame the Skins if they felt defeated during the opening kickoff. They were so banged up entering the game at CenturyLink Field, they didn’t fill the allotment (46) for active players, falling three shy.
Washington could’ve fielded a 7-on-7 team with the injured starters who were inactive
But they fought anyway. Not like the skirmishes that marred other games around the league, but in the classic sense. The team song implores them to “fight for old D.C.” and that’s exactly what Washington did for 60 minutes against one of the league’s best squads.
To be clear, the Seahawks were a reliable kicker away from winning. Washington gained just 244 yards while yielding 437. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked six times and the rushing attacked mustered a meager 2.2 yards per carry.
This wasn’t a beautiful, stylistic fight. But it was a sweet and savory victory, primarily produced by the less-sexy side of the ball.
By DERON SNYDER
Outfielder Bryce Harper, the 25-year-old phenom with Rookie of the Year and MVP trophies already on his shelf, could sign the largest contract in MLB history next year if he enters free agency and leaves Washington.
But Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo could be a more significant loss if he puts D.C. in his rearview mirror.
It’s safe to say another team would be World Series champions today if the Houston Astros hadn’t hired Jeff Luhnow in December 2011. The team was coming off a 106-loss season. They proceed to lose 107 games in 2012 and 111 in 2013.
Before the 2010 season began, Baseball America ranked Houston’s minor league system as the game’s worst. By 2014 – when Sports Illustrated ran a cover story predicting the Astros would win the 2017 World Series – Houston had one of baseball’s deepest farm systems.
Luhnow built it and he used the resources – either on the field or in trades – to fulfill SI’s prophecy.
Rizzo’s handiwork with the Nats has been equally impressive, minus the ring. Consequently, several franchises would love a chance to bring him aboard.
They might get a shot.
By DERON SNYDER
The Washington Nationals aren’t asking much of their new skipper, no, not at all. Dave Martinez has never been a manager but he has a simple edict in his new job:
Win the World Series.
He has been forewarned that 95-wins and a division title won’t suffice.
Martinez certainly has a capable team to tackle the task. He will doodle on cards with one of baseball’s deepest lineups. He can open a series with two of the sport’s top starting pitchers. He has an array of solid bullpen components to use however he sees fit.
The Nationals will be among MLB’s best teams entering 2018. They enjoyed the same distinction this season and last, as well as 2012 and 2014. But they have nothing to show except four NL East flags and a poor reputation in the postseason.
You’d think Martinez could claim a measure of success if he gets Washington over the first-round hump. No other Nationals skipper has done that. Not Dusty Baker (14th on baseball’s all-time wins list); not Davey Johnson (Manager of the Year in both leagues plus a World Series ring); and not Matt Williams (Manager of the Year as a rookie).
But winning the NLDS isn’t the same as winning a world championship, the Nats’ stated goal when they parted with Baker. Even winning the NLCS would leave Martinez short of the mark. If he advances only to lose the Fall Classic – which exceptional teams can do (see Houston or Los Angeles) – he’s a failure according to the Nats’ expectations.
No pressure there, huh?