The latest on the Dwight Howard situation

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The latest on the Dwight Howard situation

From Comcast SportsNet
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- New Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan has met face-to-face with Dwight Howard, but the team isn't commenting on what was discussed. Team spokesman Joel Glass confirmed a meeting between Hennigan and Howard, but declined to discuss any particulars from it. Howard is in California, rehabbing a late-season back surgery. Yahoo Sports and ESPN.com have reported that Howard reissued a preseason trade request in that meeting and listed the Brooklyn Nets as his preferred destination. Hennigan said last week he wanted to keep all discussions with Howard confidential, and ownership has told him only to do what is in the best interest of the organization concerning Howard. Howard gave up the opt-out clause in his contract last season and is under contract in Orlando through the 2012-13 season.

OTAs to-do list: How much work remains at safety?

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OTAs to-do list: How much work remains at safety?

Free agency is done. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview and the 90-man offseason roster has been filled out. Now comes the difficult part for Jay Gruden and his staff: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin today, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine top priorities on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the team for training camp in Richmond later this summer.

Up today …

Safeties to-do list

Tandler: In many areas what needs to be accomplished during OTAs is somewhat subtle, a tweak here and there. But at safety there are two glaringly obvious things that need to be done at safety this spring.

One is to get DeAngelo Hall fully acclimated at free safety. Last year veteran made an in-season change from cornerback, the position he played for his first 11 NFL seasons, to safety. Now he is starting the offseason program at the still somewhat unfamiliar position. It’s no longer an experiment and he needs to master the nuances of safety starting today.

The other item here is to figure out who will start at strong safety and what roles the reserves will play. Duke Ihenacho won the job last year but he lasted only a few snaps into the season before a wrist injury ended his season. David Bruton was mostly a reserve in seven seasons in Denver but he signed here with assurances that he would get to compete for the starting job. And while rookie Su’a Cravens is starting out as an inside linebacker it’s only a few steps back from there to an in-the-box strong safety spot. It will be interesting to watch who gets how much action at the position as they begin to sort it out.

El-Bashir: One of the more scrutinized positions in the coming weeks figures to be the safety spot next to DeAngelo Hall, whom I suspect can be safely penciled in as one starter.

As for everyone else? We’ll get our first look at the pecking order tomorrow, when the Redskins open practice to reporters for the first time this spring.

Here’s what I’ll be looking for:

  • Is there a rotation opposite Hall? Or is someone (David Bruton, Duke Ihenacho or 'other') clearly working as a first-teamer?
  • How is Will Blackmon deployed? Listed as a corner last season, the veteran was signed to a two-year contract extension and is now listed as a safety.
  • Su’a Cravens worked with the inside linebackers during rookie minicamp. But he’s listed as a safety. Does he get some work as a defensive back?
  • And what about special teams standout Deshazor Everett? Like Blackmon, he's also moved from corner to safety. Where, and with whom, does he work?

My sense is that there’s a lot of work to be done at this position. We’ll get our first glimpse of exactly how much work remains tomorrow afternoon.  

Bryce Harper continues to struggle with few pitches to hit

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Bryce Harper continues to struggle with few pitches to hit

Most of the players had left the Nationals' clubhouse. After a straight forward game where Gio Gonzalez' off night was the central storyline, the media needed another angle, someone else to talk to.

Manager Dusty Baker had gone into detail about the recent struggles of Bryce Harper, so he would do. And sure enough, in walked Bryce after an extended wait.

Harper, though, had not changed out of his uniform after the game, not after over 30 minutes had passed. He had batting gloves on and a bat in his hand. He was dripping sweat. It appeared that Harper had gone straight to the batting cage after the 7-1 loss to get in extra work after his second hitless game in a row, one that dropped his season batting average to .252. 

Harper gave no comment when asked about it as he took off his gloves, but spoke extensively about his approach and where he can go from here.

"Sometimes you get beat and it happens," Harper said. "I mean, I'm not going to change my approach for anybody. I go up there with the same approach every single day. If I get a pitch to drive, then I'm going to try to drive it."

Bartolo Colon was Harper's main adversary on this particular night. The Mets starter rebounded from his awful outing against the Nats the week before to go seven innings of one-run ball in Monday's 7-1 Nats loss. Against Colon, Harper flew out to left, lined out to the shortstop in the third and grounded out to second base in the sixth. He later grounded out in the eighth against Mets reliever Jerry Blevins.

"I thought I got good pitches to hit. I felt great up there, to tell you guys the truth. I don't feel like there's a problem at all. I just need to stay through the baseball. That's pretty much it," Harper surmised.

Harper is now 2-for-17 in his last four games and just 4-for-25 (.160) in his last eight. He's still getting about a walk per game, but few chances to swing at pitches in the strike zone.

Harper insists he's fine with how pitchers are treating him and prefers to focus on how he can adjust.

"I feel like I can walk 200 times this year if I wanted to, to tell you the truth," he said. "You have to understand that they're going to give me maybe one pitch a game or two pitches a game. If you don't do damage on it, then that's your fault. You try to go into every at-bat thinking they're going to throw a strike. If they don't, then try to take your walk and let the guys behind you do your job. I'm not doing the job of hitting that one pitch."

Harper currently leads the majors in walks and is on pace for 172 this season. Only Barry Bonds has eclipsed that mark in a single season before and he did it three times. Baker was Bonds' manager for two of those years and drew the comparison between Bonds and Harper again on Monday.

"You've got to remember. When I had Barry Bonds and walked 200 times, he was 32 years old. He was nine years older than Bryce. He learned to deal with it. How would Barry have dealt with it when he was 23 years old?"

"Barry had tremendous vision," Baker continued. "And Bryce has the same vision. Hank Aaron had the same vision. But let's not forget this guy is very young. He's a player that's still trying to master his skill."

Harper is being pitched differently than he was in 2015, but don't forget he was batting just .245 on May 6 before he took off and won the MVP with a .330 average. It won't be easy, but the 23-year-old has shown he can make adjustments to turn his season around.

Harbaugh zings Tomlin over handshakes, Jacoby Jones

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Harbaugh zings Tomlin over handshakes, Jacoby Jones

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin are normally adversaries, but they were on the same side last week. Both coaches were in attendance at a charity event on Thursday to support the There Goes my Hero Foundation, but even when it comes to a good cause it soon became clear that rivalries never take a break.

During his address to the crowd, Harbaugh took the opportunity to take a few jabs at his Steelers counterpart.

"For 3-and-a-half hours, we're battling each other," Harbaugh said. "And then for about 30 seconds on the walk across the field, sometimes we're still battling each another, right? This guy's got a great handshake."

Over the years, Harbaugh and Tomlin have shared some heated handshakes after some intense games. The comment brought some laughs from the crowd and Harbaugh still had another zinger ready.

"I suspect he's a pretty good tackler, too. We never exactly saw the tackle," Harbaugh said. He then turned has back in imitation of Tomlin before saying, "But he thought about it."

The joke was a reference to the infamous Jacoby Jones incident in 2013 in which Tomlin was caught standing on the field blocking the path of Jones on a kick return. Jones looked like he had a clear lane for a touchdown, but had to take a step back towards the middle of the field allowing a tackler to catch him from behind. Tomlin had his back to the play and tried to jump out of the way when Jones approached, but many Ravens fans, including Harbaugrh evidently, are not quite so sure Tomlin was as innocent as he claimed.

It's good to know rivalries never take the summer off.

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