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Football is back! Brees, Saints defeat Cardinals

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Football is back! Brees, Saints defeat Cardinals

From Comcast SportsNet
CANTON, Ohio (AP) -- Tour the Pro Football Hall of Fame and see all the bronze busts. Cheer tackle Willie Roaf's induction. Watch Drew Brees produce a touchdown on his only try. Pretty good weekend for the New Orleans Saints. And boy, did they need it. Brees didn't need much time to top off a good visit, smoothly leading a touchdown drive in his only series Sunday night during a 17-10 victory over Arizona in the Hall of Fame game. "Just to be up here and see all those guys get inducted and take a tour of the Hall of Fame, that was really special," said Mark Ingram, who scored the first touchdown on a 1-yard run. "For us to all be here, it puts a lot of things into perspective going into this football season." The game was canceled last year for the first time in 45 years, a casualty of the NFL's lockout of the players. Labor issues also came into play in Sunday night's game -- the seven officials were replacements. It showed. The referee announced the result of the coin flip incorrectly -- Craig Ochoa said the Saints won the toss and deferred, then caught his mistake and said the Cardinals had won the toss. There were some other communication problems as well for the first-time crew. The win completed a good trip for the Saints (No. 9 in the AP Pro32), who needed a few smiles after their offseason dominated by their bounty scandal. Suspended coach Sean Payton got the league's permission to attend a dinner for Roaf and the other five Hall of Fame inductees on Friday night. Payton isn't allowed to have any contact with the team this season as punishment for the team's bounty program. Players got to tour the hall and sat in the back three rows of the stadium for Roaf's induction on Saturday, wearing black t-shirts with his No. 77. It was a proud moment for a franchise that's been overshadowed by the bounty scandal all offseason. "The induction was great," interim coach Joe Vitt said. "Our young players went through the Hall of Fame yesterday and saw a lot of history of the NFL and really took it in. From that standpoint, it was a great weekend." Don't forget that opening drive. Brees was sharp on the 10-play drive, completing 4 of 5 passes for 41 yards with one off-target throw. Brees skipped offseason workouts and minicamp because he was unhappy getting the team's franchise tag. He later agreed to a five-year, 100 million deal. Nothing has changed. "Drew was Drew," Vitt said. "That's the first unit. There's high standards here." The Cardinals (No. 23) are using the preseason to pick a quarterback, with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton competing for the starting job. Kolb got to start the game but had a tough time, throwing an interception on his first pass and leaving after bruising his ribs on the third series. "He has a bruise in his chest and that makes it kind of tough to rotate, move," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I think he'll probably be practicing sometime this week." Skelton took over and completed 4 of 6 for 32 yards. "You never want to have an injury in the preseason, especially an early game like this, having to play that fifth preseason game," Skelton said. "But he will be OK." The Cardinals finished 8-8 last season, Kolb's first in Arizona. He started nine games and threw for nine touchdowns with eight interceptions while learning a new offense on the fly because of the lockout. Skelton filled in when Kolb was hurt and went 5-2 as a starter. After the opening series for each team, the backups got into the game and things got ragged. The fill-in officials had a few rough moments, too. Ochoa, who has eight years of experience with BCS leagues and 16 years at Division III, flipped the ceremonial coin and announced that New Orleans had won and deferred. As he started walking away, he caught his mistake. "Correction," he said. "Arizona won the coin toss." After New Orleans scored on its first possession, several Saints came in to block for the extra point and gestured to the officials to point out that they had reported for the play. Coming out of the 2-minute warning in the first half, Ochoa announced that the previous play was under review, then corrected himself and said it was not. The officials had trouble spotting the ball after a punt that involved a penalty, repeatedly moving the ball after consultations. The league has locked out its officials and hired replacements in case the labor dispute extends into the season. They've trained them for the last two months. The league used replacement officials for the opening week of the 2001 season before reaching agreement with the union. Notes: It was the Saints' fifth appearance in the Hall of Fame game, their first since 2007. The Cardinals made their fourth appearance, their first since 1986. ... Arizona's Dave Zastudil had a 79-yard punt, a record for the Hall of Fame game. ... Saints rookie Laron Scott had a 67-yard kickoff return. ... Arizona LB Paris Lenon limped off with an ankle injury after the opening series and didn't return.

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Wizards training camp: Dates, times, biggest questions

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards training camp: Dates, times, biggest questions

The Washington Wizards' 2017-18 training camp begins on Tuesday, Sept. 26 in Richmond, Va. Here is everything you need to know...

WASHINGTON WIZARDS 2017-18 TRAINING CAMP

When: Sept. 26-30

Where: VCU's Siegel Center in Richmond, Va.

Open practice: The Wizards will host an open practice on Friday, Sept. 29 for fans who RSVP on their website. It starts at 6 p.m. and goes to 7:30 p.m.

Biggest questions:

1. How will they fill the void left by Morris?

With Markieff Morris set to miss six to eight weeks, that means the Wizards will be without their starting power forward for as much as a month of the regular season. Head coach Scott Brooks will use this training camp and the preseason to figure out how to replace him. That could mean going small-ball more often with Otto Porter, Jr. and Kelly Oubre, Jr. on the court at the same time. It could mean more of Jason Smith and/or Mike Scott. Brooks will ultimately find some combination of those guys that he's comfortable with before Morris returns, but it will probably take some tinkering to get there.

2. What will they do with Oubre and McCullough's contract options?

Speaking of Oubre, the Wizards have an upcoming decision to make on he and Chris McCullough, a third year forward they acquired at the trade deadline this past February in a deal with the Nets. Both have contract options for the 2018-19 season with a deadline of Oct. 16 for the Wizards to make the call. Oubre is an easy decision. McCullough is not quite as easy, but remains an intriguing prospect.

[RELATED: GORTAT HAS NEW HAIR, OUBRE'S PLANNING A FASHION LINE]

3. New year, new Mahinmi?

Center Ian Mahinmi was the Wizards' biggest free agent acquisition a year ago. He signed a four-year deal worth $64 million, a massive investment for a team that already had a solid starting frontcourt. Mahinmi was supposed to be their best rim protector and the anchor of their second unit, but various injuries forced him to miss 51 games. Now he is back and noticably slimmer. Can he stay on the court this season? Can he co-exist with Marcin Gortat, who plays a similar style? We shall see.

4. Will Robinson or Young make some noise?

The Wizards have two players signed to two-way contracts, guys that weren't selected in the 2017 NBA Draft but have joined the Wizards as prospects. Both played in the Summer League with mixed results, but this preseason will give them a chance against better competition. Young is a smart, fundamentally sound forward while Robinson is a straight athletic freak. He's raw, but a Wizards executive recently compared him to a lottery ticket. They believe he's worth taking a chance on.

[RELATED: WIZARDS WILL DISCUSS ANTHEM RESPONSE]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE WIZARDS STORIES

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Wizards training camp: Dates, times, biggest questions

usatsi_10042739.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Wizards training camp: Dates, times, biggest questions

The Washington Wizards' 2017-18 training camp begins on Tuesday, Sept. 26 in Richmond, Va. Here is everything you need to know...

WASHINGTON WIZARDS 2017-18 TRAINING CAMP

When: Sept. 26-30

Where: VCU's Siegel Center in Richmond, Va.

Time: The Wizards will end practice around 1 p.m. each day, so expect updates from the media around then.

Open practice: The Wizards will host an open practice on Friday, Sept. 29 for fans who RSVP on their website. It starts at 6 p.m. and goes to 7:30 p.m.

Biggest questions:

1. How will they fill the void left by Morris?

With Markieff Morris set to miss six to eight weeks, that means the Wizards will be without their starting power forward for as much as a month of the regular season. Head coach Scott Brooks will use this training camp and the preseason to figure out how to replace him. That could mean going small-ball more often with Otto Porter, Jr. and Kelly Oubre, Jr. on the court at the same time. It could mean more of Jason Smith and/or Mike Scott. Brooks will ultimately find some combination of those guys that he's comfortable with before Morris returns, but it will probably take some tinkering to get there.

2. What will they do with Oubre and McCullough's contract options?

Speaking of Oubre, the Wizards have an upcoming decision to make on he and Chris McCullough, a third year forward they acquired at the trade deadline this past February in a deal with the Nets. Both have contract options for the 2018-19 season with a deadline of Oct. 16 for the Wizards to make the call. Oubre is an easy decision. McCullough is not quite as easy, but remains an intriguing prospect.

[RELATED: GORTAT HAS NEW HAIR, OUBRE'S PLANNING A FASHION LINE]

3. New year, new Mahinmi?

Center Ian Mahinmi was the Wizards' biggest free agent acquisition a year ago. He signed a four-year deal worth $64 million, a massive investment for a team that already had a solid starting frontcourt. Mahinmi was supposed to be their best rim protector and the anchor of their second unit, but various injuries forced him to miss 51 games. Now he is back and noticably slimmer. Can he stay on the court this season? Can he co-exist with Marcin Gortat, who plays a similar style? We shall see.

4. Will Robinson or Young make some noise?

The Wizards have two players signed to two-way contracts, guys that weren't selected in the 2017 NBA Draft but have joined the Wizards as prospects. Both played in the Summer League with mixed results, but this preseason will give them a chance against better competition. Mike Young is a smart, fundamentally sound forward while Devin Robinson is a straight athletic freak. He's raw, but a Wizards executive recently compared him to a lottery ticket. They believe he's worth taking a chance on.

[RELATED: WIZARDS WILL DISCUSS ANTHEM RESPONSE]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE WIZARDS STORIES