Quick Links

Richardson, Morris renew rivalry in NFL

trent-richardson.png

Richardson, Morris renew rivalry in NFL

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Trent Richardson remembers Redskins running back Alfred Morris with long hair and one of his teammates stupidly yanking on it before a game.

``He got so hot and everyone was so scared of him,'' Richardson said. ``Nobody would touch him. He was a big guy. He was the biggest dude out there.''

Morris, too, can picture Richardson a bigger-than-average kid, years before he started carrying the ball for the Browns.

``He had calves of a grown man,'' Morris said.

The two rookies, who began their football careers bashing their way to stardom on sandlots in their hometown of Pensacola, Fla., - a football talent hotbed - took dissimilar paths to the NFL. But they'll cross paths again and renew their rivalry Sunday when the Browns (5-8) host the Redskins (7-6).

Richardson was expected to have an immediate impact on the Browns, and despite playing for weeks with a rib injury that won't be fully healed until the offseason, the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft has lived up to projections. He's rushed for 869 yards and matched the team rookie record with nine rushing touchdowns, a mark he shares with Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who caused a controversy when he called Richardson ``ordinary'' after the Browns selected him.

Richardson has been special.

Morris has been even better for the Redskins.

The sixth-round pick (No. 173 overall) from Florida Atlantic enters this week's game with 1,228 yards and seven scores. Morris is fourth among the league's top rushers and he's the latest in a long line of young backs to thrive under Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who had four rookies top 1,000 yards rushing in Denver.

Shanahan's system has helped Morris, but the humble 24-year-old has earned every yard through hard work and dedication - values he developed in Pensacola, also the home of career rushing leader Emmitt Smith.

Morris arrived at Redskins camp driving a 1991 Mazda, and although he can now afford to replace the car with 125,000 miles on the odometer, Morris has no intention of splurging. And when he visits his parents' home, he usually stays on the couch.

``I actually like the couch,'' he said. ``It's pretty comfortable.''

He's equally relaxed in the same backfield with dynamic quarterback Robert Griffin III, giving the Redskins an offense that's become one of the league's most potent attacks.

Morris is outshining Richardson, but he's not gloating about any statistical advantage over his longtime peer.

``That's not a pride thing,'' he said. ``We're in two totally different situations, two different divisions. I don't take pride in having more rushing yards. I really don't even think about it. I'm just happy that he's doing good and that I'm doing good and just to make it this far coming from where we came from is just an accomplishment in itself.''

There are currently more than one dozen players from the Pensacola area on rosters throughout the league. Browns defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin attended the same high school as Richardson, who was raised by his mother and knew at an early age he wanted to provide for his family.

``People are just really hungry and want to better their lives and want better for their family,'' Richardson said. ``Growing up, I always wanted to make sure my mama didn't have to work again. My mama was working two or three jobs when I was growing up. Seeing my grandma work and care for us, it was nothing but more motivation for me. Pensacola, it's a place where you can feel like, `I'm glad I'm from here because it made me.'

``It pushed me to strive for much that I want in life.''

Morris' success may be surprising to those who didn't see him run over other players for years. Richardson has been watching the 5-foot-10, 218-pounder cause destruction inside the hash marks for most of his life.

``We've always been rivals,'' he said. ``He was the reason why I never made the (high school) playoffs. Then his little brother Shawn was the next reason. I've been playing against Alfred my whole life and him and his little brother have been on the same team. They were the reason why I didn't make it to the playoffs.''

That could happen again.

The Browns are a longshot to make the AFC playoffs, and need to win their final three games to have any chance at the postseason. Cleveland's defense will have to contain Griffin, assuming he plays, along with Morris, who needs 288 yards to surpass Clinton Portis' team single-season rushing record.

Morris didn't have records in mind when he was drafted. His only objective was to win a job with Washington.

``I wasn't guaranteed a spot on this team, so I had to bust my butt in camp,'' he said. ``My goal was to make the team. And, after that, the opportunity will come and when it does come make the most of it.''

He's done that.

There were skeptics who doubted Morris could play at the game's highest level. They looked at his size and college and wondered.

They should have talked to Richardson.

``He didn't get that much recognition because of the school he was at,'' Richardson said. ``They didn't get seen a lot. But Alfred has always been a baller to me and he's always had a nose for the end zone.

``He's always been a baller to me.''

---

NOTES: Browns coach Pat Shurmur believes Shanahan will commit to one quarterback Sunday and won't rotate Griffin with rookie Kirk Cousins, who came off the bench last week when Griffin sprained his right knee. ... Sunny skies and temperatures in the 40s allowed the Browns to practice outside for the second straight day. ... Richardson wasn't upset he only averaged 2.3 yards in last week's win over Kansas City. ``It doesn't bug me because we won,'' he said. ``If we didn't win, it would bug the mess out of me.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

usatsi_8746030_141983962_lowres.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. (AP) -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Quick Links

DeSean Jackson throws out first pitch at Sunday's Nationals game

DeSean Jackson throws out first pitch at Sunday's Nationals game

You know, if this whole football thing doesn't work out for DeSean Jackson, maybe he could give baseball a shot.

The Redskins wide receiver was on hand Sunday at Nationals Park to throw out the first pitch and did a pretty good job.

Photo credit @byersjackson gas that 1st pitch ⚾️💨💨

A video posted by Desean Jackson (@0ne0fone) on

Jackson throws it from the mound and gets it to home plate, though just a bit outside. The throw was certainly good enough to keep Jackson off the list of other professional athletes with horrible first pitches (see John Wall).

RELATED: DON'T FORGET ABOUT NILES PAUL

Quick Links

Redskins have many options at tight end, but don't count out Niles Paul

Redskins have many options at tight end, but don't count out Niles Paul

The Redskins are loaded at tight end - Jordan Reed is the emerging star and Vernon Davis the veteran with a stellar track record. But don't forget about Niles Paul. Lost last season to a broken ankle, Paul looked strong throughout Washington's offseason work, and with the team heading to Richmond this week to begin training camp, the former Nebraska receiver has been clear he plans to compete for playing time despite his loaded position group. 

"If you’re not out there competing to be the No. 1, I don’t know why you’re in the league," Paul said on ESPN980 earlier this summer.

Paul's mindset is admirable, but Reed is locked in as the No. 1 tight end. There's no debate there. And GM Scot McCloughan did not bring Vernon Davis to Washington without plans of playing him. 

But here's the thing with Paul - he can be very good.

In the first four games of the 2014 season, Paul caught 21 balls for 313 yards and a touchdown. He was averaging nearly 80 yards receiving per game in that stretch, the best of his career. It's no surprise that Paul put up those numbers when Reed was out, as he was injured Week 1 and did not suit back up until Week 6 of that season. 

RELATED: VERNON DAVIS PLANS TO COMPETE FOR TOP SPOT 

Paul has proved himself a strong backup to Reed, and in Reed's three-year career, he has missed 14 games. Last year Reed stayed mostly healthy - he missed two games - but it would hardly be a surprise if the Redskins have to go one or more games without their new $50 million tight end. Davis will be expected to step up should that happen, but the team might lean on Paul more in that situation, in addition to a major role on special teams as well. There were also a few snaps this summer where Paul worked as a fullback - a role the tight end might have to take on with the departure of Darrel Young. 

Jay Gruden acknowledged Paul's hard work during minicamp.

"He’s done an unbelievable job in rehab to get himself to this point," Gruden said. "We didn’t expect him back until training camp."

A 5th-round pick in 2011, Paul has already surpassed expectations with a five-year NFL career. That he outpaced his rehab schedule should not come as a shock.

Should he significantly contribute this fall, even considering Reed and Davis will be the first and second targets at tight end respectively, would not be a surprise either.