QB Freeman wants slumping Bucs to finish strong

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QB Freeman wants slumping Bucs to finish strong

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Tampa Bay's postseason hopes have slipped away during a four-game losing streak that's also raised questions about whether Josh Freeman is the Buccaneers' quarterback of the future.

The fourth-year pro is closing in on becoming the first 4,000-yard passer in franchise history. Still, his inconsistency has created concerns about whether there is a limit to how good the Bucs can become with Freeman running an offense that sputtered again during a mistake-filled 41-0 loss to New Orleans.

The current skid ensures Tampa Bay (6-8) will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year, yet Freeman said Monday there's still plenty to play for in the final two games of the team's first season under coach Greg Schiano.

The Bucs host St. Louis on Sunday, then finish at Atlanta.

``After every game we talk about just sticking together as a team,'' said Freeman, who threw four interceptions and also lost a fumble in his worst performance of the year against the Saints.

``You hate to see it come down to a game like that, but I think this is going to be a great time for our team to come together. We had a rough one. We dropped the ball, but now how do we respond to adversity? ... It's times like these when you really forge the nucleus of your team.''

Before Sunday, the Bucs had not lost a game by more than eight points. Schiano gave players Monday off in hopes that an extra day away from the practice field will help them get refocused for the Rams.

``I think our team is disappointed in what we did,'' Schiano said, explaining the decision to give the players the day following a game off for the first time all year.

``Thirteen games, every one of them either we won or it came down to a one possession game where we could have won if we had a possession to do it. That's competitive football,'' the coach added. ``And then we go out and throw our first clunker. ... But the sky's not falling. We've got a lot of good young players. We have some experienced really good players. We threw a clunker. Now, we've got to get over it.''

Freeman, who has one season remaining on a five-year contract that will pay him $8.43 million in 2013, said the remaining two weeks are about getting better.

He vowed to clean up the mistakes he made against the Saints, miscues he attributed mostly to some ``miscommunication'' between him and his receivers.

``I've got to communicate better, I've got to make sure everybody's on the same page, make sure everybody's doing exactly what they need to do,'' Freeman said, adding that he's also committed to making sure the team's preparation and effort doesn't suffer now that Tampa Bay is out of playoff contention.

``As a quarterback that's what I do every day. Everybody has their own style of leadership, but to the best of my ability I try to convey the message of do your job, sacrifice for your brothers,'' Freeman said.

``Even late in the game, guys were still trying to do everything they could to get something going. It says a lot about the character of the guys on our team. Even when the game's out of hand and things aren't going great, guys are still giving effort,'' Freeman added. ``There's no quit in this team. As the quarterback, as the captain, as a leader, it's great to see that. It makes it that much easier to motivate guys and lead.''

Schiano reiterated that while Freeman can play better than he has the past month, he's not concerned about his young quarterback, who's completed just 54.8 percent of his passes for 3,471 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Two years ago, Freeman led the Bucs to 10 wins in his first full season as a starter, throwing for 25 TDs against six interceptions and narrowly missing the playoffs.

The 24-year-old took a step back in 2011, throwing for 16 TDs and 22 interceptions en route to a 4-12 record that included a 10-game losing streak to end the season.

``If Josh Freeman wasn't coming in and just spending all kinds of time, and I wasn't getting texts ... asking questions at 10 o'clock at night about coverages and things like that, then yeah I'd have reason to be concerned,'' Schiano said.

``But I know everybody goes through better times and lesser times. I also know that those who persevere, those who work and tend to their knitting, are going to be fine,'' the coach added. ``Josh is tending to his knitting, so we're going to be fine. Just collectively we've got to fight our way out.''

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Kris Letang suspended one game for Game 3 hit on Marcus Johansson

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Kris Letang suspended one game for Game 3 hit on Marcus Johansson

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang wills erve a one-game suspension for his late, high hit on Capitals' forward Marcus Johansson in the first period of Game 3, the NHL announced on Tuesday afternoon.

As Johansson attempted to push the puck toward the Penguins' net, three players closed in on him.

As the puck scooted toward the boards, Letang led with his shoulders, leaving his feet and drilling Johansson in the head.

Letang was sent to the penalty box and Johansson was taken to the locker room, where he was cleared for a return. Johasson was not however, a participant in Capitals' practice on Tuesday morning.

Following Brooks Orpik's hit on Olli Maatta in Game 2, which garnered a three-game suspension, there was much debate as to what punishment Letang would receive. But after a hearing with the NHL on Tuesday morning, it was determined that Letang's hit was only worth a one-game suspension.

Letang will miss Game 4, which takes place on Wednesday night at 8:15 p.m. ET in Pittsburgh.

Date officially announced for Maryland-Georgetown rematch in 2016

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Date officially announced for Maryland-Georgetown rematch in 2016

It was known before Maryland renewed its rivalry with Georgetown in 2015 that there would be a sequel the following season in Washington, D.C. Reports recently said the same. Now, it is officially confirmed and a date has been set. 

The Terrapins will face the Hoyas on Nov. 15 at Verizon Center in D.C. as part of the 2016 Gavitt Tipoff Games, which pits Big Ten teams against Big East teams in matchups across the country.

Maryland won the inaugural Gavitt matchup between the two teams, 75-71, on Nov. 17, 2015 at XFINITY Center in College Park.

Referees on Dion Waiters' inbounds shove: 'Never seen before'

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Referees on Dion Waiters' inbounds shove: 'Never seen before'

If you went to bed Monday night before the final frantic seconds of Oklahoma City's Game 2 win over San Antonio then you missed a play nobody has ever seen before. That's not hyperbole, but rather what just about everyone from analyst Chris Webber in real time to the "Inside the NBA" crew following the game to the referees well after the fact.

That the referees reacted then and the day after as if Dion Waiters shoving Manu Ginobili while attempting to throw the ball inbounds compared to a UFO sighting is remarkable.

You can watch the entire sequence below, but here's an isolated look at the shove that changed the world.

Now, here's what the refs on the scene told a pool reporter following the Thunder's 98-97 win which evened the best-of-7 series 1-1.

On Tuesday afternoon, the The National Basketball Referees Association tweeted out the following statement.

Look, we get it, this play was rare if not a true unicorn. How to handle such a sequence isn't taught in official official's classes, cool. 

That doesn't mean go into deer-in-the-headlights mode. Go back and view the first clip above and note where the ref is positioned. If that guy can't see something squirrely happened then not sure what we're all doing here. 

Even if the "we've never seen this before" angle on the shove led to freezing in the moment, how about what Waiters did right after? Channeling Kris Kross with a jump isn't kosher for an inbounds passer in this situation.

Now, was Ginobili, as some have asserted, technically too close to the passer as the defender? Maybe, but that wasn't called either. If the refs whistle the play dead, discuss and call some sort of do-over because both were at fault, maybe that flies, but probably not. We've seen Ginobili's move thousands of times without a call. Apparently nobody has ever seen Waiters' infraction before. 

Here's a suggestion to those teaching the NBA referees on what should be the primary takeaway from this rarest of rare plays. Forget the shove or even the jump. Teach your refs how to think on their feet.