Shurmur: 'I'm not worried about saving my job'

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Shurmur: 'I'm not worried about saving my job'

BEREA, Ohio (AP) The Browns are still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff hunt. It's a long shot, but they haven't been eliminated with three games remaining.

And with every win, Pat Shurmur's odds of returning as Cleveland's coach improve.

With his team riding a three-game winning streak - the Browns' longest since 2009 - Shurmur feels good about the progress of his young team, which is finally showing an ability to finish games after so many close losses earlier this season.

But despite the good vibes emanating from one of the NFL's youngest teams, there remains uncertainty about the future.

Swirling around Shurmur are rumors and reports, one on the weekend involving Alabama coach Nick Saban, that the Browns intend to make a coaching change. The clock seems to be ticking on Shurmur, who insists he's not focused on anything but getting his team ready to play their next game.

``Listen, I'm not worried about any of that,'' Shurmur said Monday. ``I'm not worried about saving, I'm worried about doing my job and that's it. I just want to do my job.''

Shurmur will have at least three more games to strengthen his case to return, starting Sunday against the Washington Redskins, who won't know until later this week if they'll have rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. He sustained a mild sprain of a ligament in the right knee against Baltimore and it's too early to know if he'll be ready.

After starting 0-5, the Browns (5-8) have turned their season around, and Sunday's 30-7 blowout win over Kansas City was Cleveland's best all-around performance. The Browns gave up an 80-yard touchdown run to Jamaal Charles on the game's opening play, but responded by scoring 30 unanswered points and posted their most lopsided win since 2003.

It was another positive sign for Shurmur, who seems to be improving in his second season along with his roster of rookies, first- and second-year players. Shurmur was quick to point out during his news conference that Cleveland's rookies have combined to make 72 starts - a league high. Indianapolis is second with 44.

``That's good for the future because we're finally starting to find how to win football games with these young players,'' Shurmur said.

There's progress on both sides of the ball. Cleveland's offense is showing better balance behind rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who is learning to manage games and not force as many passes as he did earlier this season. The defense, anchored by a deep line, is showing signs of becoming a dominant unit and playing with a nasty attitude.

The Browns, who lost at least 11 games in each of the past four seasons, are beginning to blossom.

``I don't want to override my boundaries with, `We're the best team,' or say stuff like that, but we're putting something together here and it's going to be beautiful,'' said rookie running back Trent Richardson, who scored twice in Sunday's win to tie Hall of Famer Jim Brown's franchise rookie record with nine rushing touchdowns.

``We haven't arrived yet, but we're just trying to win to get to the next level and be an elite team.''

It remains to be seen if Shurmur will be around to coach the Browns once they move to a higher tier.

Owner Jimmy Haslam paid $1 billion to buy Cleveland's franchise, and he and new CEO Joe Banner may have already made up their minds to hire a new coach. If that's the case, the Browns' record over the final three games - home against Washington and road games at Denver and Pittsburgh - may not matter.

But if the Browns run the table, finish 8-8 and somehow make the playoffs, it would be difficult to explain not bringing Shurmur back for a third year.

Incredibly, the playoffs are still possible, but Shurmur said he has not raised any postseason possibilities with his team.

``I'm not going to focus on that,'' he said. ``Our energy, our efforts are all going to be directed toward the Redskins and that's where we need to be. It's a little bit easier to be shortsighted and narrow-minded with three games to play and I think we have to make sure we stay in the moment.

``We all know the math changes if you don't take care of business this weekend, so that needs to be our focus.''

In recent weeks, Shurmur has displayed more outward support toward his players. On Sunday, he kicked himself for pulling backup running back Montario Hardesty after he fumbled at the goal line. On Monday, Shurmur explained that he challenged a ruling that Josh Cribbs was down at the 1-yard-line because ``I wanted Josh to have a touchdown and I thought that was worth it.''

Shurmur is fighting for his players, and they're fighting for him - with every win.

It's all jelling for the Browns, and now it's a matter of whether it can stay that way.

``I've always been fond of our team,'' Shurmur said. ``What I like is they're tough, they play hard and when we ask them to do things they respond. They're a very coachable group. There's a mixture of young guys and older guys that have been around here a long time and when you see it all come together and they have success, that as a teacher or a coach, that's where you get your joy.''

NOTES: Shurmur was convinced RG3 would transform whatever team drafted him. He praised the Redskins for maximizing the QB's strengths. ``There was no doubt in my mind that he would be a success in this league,'' he said. ``No doubt. It doesn't surprise me the success, and I credit their coaching staff because they have incorporated things in their offense that utilize his skill and ability and that's smart.'' ... Weeden made an awkward slide on a scramble in the first quarter Sunday, ripping up a huge chunk of turf in the process. ``That was the hardest, roughest looking slide I've ever seen,'' Shurmur joked. ``I thought they were going to stop the game and bring out a dump truck.'' ...The Browns signed TE Brad Smelley from the practice squad to the active roster and waived DL Ronnie Cameron.

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Markieff Morris okay with NBA players resting, says game has changed

Markieff Morris okay with NBA players resting, says game has changed

Wizards forward Markieff Morris has weighed both sides of the debate around resting players in the NBA and does not believe it should be a big deal for guys to take a night off every once in a while.

Strong opinions have been shared from both sides, including from Morris' teammate John Wall, who told CSN recently that he thinks the game has gotten "softer." Morris, though, can see why taking a night off might make sense every once in a while.

"For me, it just depends on what your body tells you, man. It's a long and brutal season," Morris said. "For us, last week we had like three back-to-backs or something like that with a day in between to rest. It gets tough. For a player like LeBron [James], I can understand that. You've played more minutes than [Michael] Jordan and all those guys. It's like one game here and there, it won't hurt."

Morris is right that LeBron has logged more minutes than Jordan. Despite being 32 and likely with a few more years left in the NBA, LeBron has already played 49,341 minutes in 1,252 games including the playoffs across 14 seasons. Jordan played 48,485 minutes in 1,251 games across 15 seasons. That means, coincidentally, that on Saturday night against the Wizards LeBron officially passed Jordan in games played. 

Jordan, according to Steve Clifford, the coach he employs as owner of the Charlotte Hornets, does not believe in resting players. And he is not alone, as other legends from his generation like Charles Barkley and Karl Malone have weighed in with strong opinions on the matter.

Morris thinks those guys need to chill out and understand that this isn't the 1980s and 90s.

"That's the old school, man. At the end of the day I've got the utmost respect for those guys. They paved the way for us, but it's different now, man. The league is different. A lot of things have changed since back in the day. You've gotta adjust with that. It just is what it is."

Morris was referring to advancements in sports science and training methods. The decision to rest a player is often made with the consultation of a team's medical staff and, as Gregg Popovich has argued, they are trying to preserve players and extend their careers.

Though Morris picks that side in the argument, he doesn't advocate for players to rest often. He knows doesn't think players should abuse the practice.

"You get your chance to play. When you ain't on the court, it's tough. This is our livelihood. This is what we do. You can never take the game for granted," he said.

[RELATED: Wizards coach Scott Brooks has little sympathy for NBA players who rest just to rest]

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3 key takeaways from Bruce Allen interview: McCloughan, Cousins, D-line improvement

3 key takeaways from Bruce Allen interview: McCloughan, Cousins, D-line improvement

Bruce Allen opened up about all things Redskins on Sunday. He was forthright in spots and diplomatic in others, but like many powerful people, there is much to decipher from Allen's first on camera interview since the firing of general manager Scot McCloughan. 

Kirk Cousins' future 

  • It's no secret the 'Skins seem unable to reach a long-term deal with their quarterback. Bruce Allen said that he is still "hopeful and confident" the team could reach a multi-year contract before the July 15th deadline. Listening to Allen, however, it seemed the Redskins organization already views their current setup as a multi-year deal. Cousins signed his franchise tag for 2017, so he is under contract, and Allen specifically said the team has an option for 2018. That means another tag could absolutely be in play between Washington and Cousins. It's hard to imagine the franchise would lay out the cash for a third-straight franchise tag, but the transition tag remains an option. That would mean around a $28 million one-year deal for Cousins in 2018, but perhaps most importantly, it would let the 'Skins match any offer the QB receives from elsewhere around the league.
  • Takeaway: Even without a long-term deal, Cousins could be staying in Washington for the foreseeable future.

Scot McCloughan's future

  • The demise of McCloughan's tenure as Redskins GM was beyond sloppy. It played out publicly and poorly, and there is blame to be spread all around in how things unfolded. On the football side of things, Allen's revelation that McCloughan was free to go work anywhere else in the NFL struck a chord. Most NFL front offices are hunkered down in draft preparations, but in about six weeks that will be done. When, or if, McCloughan lands with another NFL team will be a telling moment.
  • Takeaway: McCloughan's ouster in D.C. had many complex layers, but if the talented personnel evaluator does not join another front office, the picture becomes more clear.

Defensive improvement?

  • The Redskins lost their best defensive lineman in free agency when Chris Baker signed with Tampa. Then the team cut Ricky Jean-François, arguably their second best D-lineman. To offset those losses, Washington signed Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee. Neither player has a particularly impressive resume, and it's hard to distinctly state that the 'Skins defensive front has improved by the change in personnel. Allen explained that McGee and McClain were specifically targeted to play for new D-line coach Jim Tomsula. Considering that, perhaps the moves make more sense. 
  • Takeaway: The Redskins think having Tomsula coach the D-line, and the type of players he wants on the line, will lead to rapid improvement. 

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