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‘Nutcracker’ and helping homeless give Josh Norman a mental break – Washington Redskins Blog



ASHBURN, Va. — He won’t be dancing with any stars, but he will continue to dance. Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman will make a cameo appearance in a local production of “The Nutcracker” on Friday night.

It’s a way for Norman to raise a little money for his foundation; it’s also a way for him to stay mentally fresh during a turbulent time for the Redskins, losers of four games in a row.

That’s also why he spent Wednesday night handing out clothing items at several homeless shelters in Washington. He called that an early birthday gift. Norman said he decided to do this the previous night while sitting at home on his couch. Norman, who turns 31 Saturday, said he wanted to do this in lieu of doing something else for his birthday.

“What else is there for me to get?” he said.

The past several weeks have been filled with stories about devastating injuries and the waiver claim of linebacker Reuben Foster and players upset with one thing or another — their role, the coaches, teammates, fans. Wednesday provided perspective and respite.

“You always have to think positive,” Norman said. “I deal with it by helping other people out. It’s pretty cool when you can do that, give back to other people. Helps out a lot.”

Norman said the people he was handing out items to did not recognize him.

“They finally found out,” he said. “They were like, ‘Oh, shoot, you come down to see us?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, man, I came down to chop it up with you guys.’ Took a couple pictures, signed some autographs. It was just really cool and refreshing and rejuvenating. You ask why I come in and keep high spirits. It’s because I can do things such as that. It’s much bigger than football. It’s just cool.”

And “The Nutcracker” helps him out, too. The Loudoun Ballet Performing Arts Co. approached him earlier this year about performing as a special guest. His one and only appearance as the Arabian Prince is Friday night. Half the proceeds will go to his Starz24 Foundation. Norman was on “Dancing with the Stars” earlier this year. While training for the show, he met some of the dancers at the LBPA.

When he was on the ABC show, Norman flew across the country and would return in time for Redskins spring practices. For the ballet, he has practiced once a week (on his off day) for a little more than a month at a local high school, he said.

“It’s cool; it’s something to do,” he said. “I’ve got to be doing something.”

He also knows some fans will be upset that he has spent part of his off time in a non-football activity at a time when the Redskins are losing.

“How are we held to a higher standard than a doctor or a physician?” he said. “I do what I do anyway.”

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Cody Parkey challenge: Make 43-yard kick, win free beer – Chicago Bears Blog



Chicago Bears fans still mourning kicker Cody Parkey’s missed 43-yard field goal have a chance to drown their sorrows — that is, if they can make a field goal themselves.

Goose Island Brewery in Chicago is offering free beer for a year to anyone who can make a 43-yard kick.

After initially announcing the contest Monday on social media, the brewery posted rules on Tuesday.

Goose Island is getting a permit to close Fulton Street in front of the brewery for the event. Winners get a free case of beer per week for the year.

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Patrick Mahomes — at long last — gives Chiefs a playoff QB to be feared – Kansas City Chiefs Blog



KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Almost every time the Kansas City Chiefs readied themselves for a playoff game in the past 25 years, they had more reason to fear the rival quarterback than their opponents.

Their fears, it turned out, were not unfounded. The Chiefs have lost 11 of their past 12 postseason games, dating back to January 1994, in large part because their opponents almost always had the superior quarterback, often one of the game’s greats.

The Chiefs lost eight games to quarterbacks who are either in the Pro Football Hall of Fame or have a reasonable chance (or better) to get there eventually. They countered sometimes with good players like Alex Smith, Trent Green and an end-of-his-career Joe Montana, but also with journeymen such as Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac and Matt Cassel.

It’s no wonder the Chiefs at times felt intimidated before kickoff. This quarterback deficit wasn’t something the Chiefs talked about, but it hung over them like a dark cloud.

“That conversation never occurred,” said former offensive assistant coach Brad Childress, who was on the Chiefs’ staff for their five most recent playoff games. “Maybe that was because it was just understood, but it never got verbalized. We just didn’t go there.

“Offensively, we were more worried about what we had to do against their defense to be able to be successful. In some cases we were, and in other cases we weren’t.”

In Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs finally have the kind of quarterback who can cause major problems for opposing defenses. And Mahomes will make his playoff debut Saturday (4:35 p.m. ET, NBC) against the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium.

Mahomes, in his first season as a starter, had an answer for everything defenses threw at him. He’s only the second player in NFL history to throw 50 touchdown passes and for more than 5,000 yards.

“The way he’s started his career, it’s unlike any other in NFL history,” said Green, who was 0-2 in the postseason as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, with both losses coming against Peyton Manning and the Colts. “When you have that kind of quarterback, you never think you’re out of a game.”

Mahomes became the fourth quarterback selected by the Chiefs in the first round, and the first one in 34 years, when he was selected 10th overall in 2017. He is the first homegrown quarterback the Chiefs have ever committed to after spending most of their first 58 seasons with some other team’s castoff at the game’s most important position.

Drafting Mahomes was more about the playoffs than the regular season. The Chiefs were fine with what his predecessor, Smith, accomplished in the regular season. He was 50-26 and helped the Chiefs to two AFC West championships in five seasons.

But he was 1-4 in the playoffs. He did deliver the Chiefs’ only postseason victory in their past 12 games, a 30-0 win over the Houston Texans in January 2016.

The Chiefs had the superior quarterback in that game, for a change. Houston countered with a journeyman of its own, Brian Hoyer.

Mahomes said he is unconcerned with Kansas City’s playoff history, which includes losses in the Chiefs’ past six games at Arrowhead.

“I know the history and stuff like that, but at the same time, we’re a different generation,” Mahomes said. “I’m ready to go out there and win a football game at Arrowhead.”

His big debut season has the Chiefs thinking a new playoff era has arrived in Kansas City.

“He’s shown to be even more than we thought he would be during the draft process,” team chairman Clark Hunt said. “We knew he had the ability to make [unconventional] plays, but what we didn’t expect was that he would learn the offense as quickly as he has, learn how to read defenses, be able to operate coach [Andy] Reid’s offense, which is very complicated. In so many ways he’s exceeded our expectations.

“When you have a guy like Patrick under center, you have a chance to win every game.”

The Chiefs haven’t always felt this way about the quarterback matchup in the postseason. Green recalled rooting for lousy weather for the January 2004 game against the Colts at Arrowhead, hoping cold and perhaps freezing precipitation might slow Manning down.

“We thought we were going to get weather in the 20s and windy,” Green said. “We knew at the time, at that stage of his career, Peyton didn’t have a high success rate playing outside in the cold. We were excited about that.”

Instead, the day was an unseasonably warm one in Kansas City, 51 degrees at kickoff.

“I knew that day when I woke up it was going to have to be a shootout and we as an offense were going to have to hold up our end of the bargain because of the way it was,” Green said.

He was right. Manning threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns, and the Colts never had to punt. The Chiefs couldn’t keep up and lost 38-31.

“We’d always think we were in the right defense and then he’d make a check or an adjustment or he’d make a hand gesture that we thought meant a slant but it really meant a slant-and-go,” former Chiefs linebacker Shawn Barber said of Manning. “The second we thought we had him, it became like the Trojan horse. He used what we thought we knew against us to hit us for six. So then we stopped paying attention to all of that and he burned us with that.”

“It was a frustrating day, a frustrating game.”

The Chiefs have been similarly frustrated in most of their past 12 playoff games, two against Manning and one each against Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, John Elway, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, among others.

The Chiefs are finally going into a postseason contest with the expectation that their quarterback will be a problem like that for the other guys.

“He means a lot,” linebacker Justin Houston said of Mahomes. “His numbers speak for themselves. … Any quarterback that can come into the game and put up that many touchdowns, it gives the defense some breathing room and puts us in a position to do what we like to do as defensive linemen and outside linebackers. We like to rush the passer. Any time you are ahead going into the fourth quarter, you can pin your ears back and go.”

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Biggest injury questions for the eight remaining NFL playoff teams



NFL Nation reporters assess the biggest injuries across the league for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

Read through all eight teams, or skip ahead to a particular matchup by clicking on the logos here:

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