Alex Smith reacts to his demotion

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Alex Smith reacts to his demotion

From Comcast SportsNetSANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Alex Smith is trying to understand how he lost his job as starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers a month after being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.It's not an easy thing for the NFL's fifth-ranked quarterback to deal with this week, even though Smith already has experienced plenty of ups and downs in his tumultuous career since the 49ers made him the No. 1 overall selection of the 2005 draft.Smith spoke with the media Thursday for the first time since coach Jim Harbaugh made Colin Kaepernick the team's starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams, a rematch of the last game in which Smith appeared.Smith is now completely healthy from the concussion he suffered in that Nov. 11 game and has been medically cleared to play.But he'll be Kaepernick's backup for the second consecutive week. Smith is uncertain what Harbaugh's decision means for him the rest of this season."I feel like the only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion," Smith said.Smith was playing some of the best football of his career when he was injured and left early in the second quarter of the 24-24 tie with the Rams.He completed 7 of 8 passes with a passer rating of 143.8 against St. Louis, throwing for his 13th touchdown of the season on his final pass. The week before, Smith completed 18 of 19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns during a win over Arizona, setting an NFL record with a 94.7 completion percentage for a quarterback with a minimum of 15 attempts. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the first time two days later.Smith ranks fifth in the NFL with a passer rating of 104.1 and leads the league with a 70.0 completion percentage."You kind of state your case with your play and I felt like I've done that," Smith said. "It's tough. It stings the most just because I really felt there was something special going on here and you sacrifice and invest so much time. I felt like I was playing good football. I have no idea what's going to happen from here. All I can do now is just prepare and get ready."Smith was in limbo the past two weeks after suffering his concussion, practicing every day with the 49ers in a non-contact black jersey. The 49ers did not announce during either week who would be their starting quarterback until game day against Chicago on Nov. 19 and New Orleans last Sunday.There's no uncertainty this week. Kaepernick, San Francisco's second-round draft pick last year, took away the starting job from Smith with strong performances in decisive victories over the Bears and Saints.Smith has lost his starting job and dealt with injuries and adversity several times before with the 49ers. He was beaten out for the role in training camp in 2008 by journeyman J.T. O'Sullivan, then began the 2009 season behind veteran Shaun Hill before starting the final 10 games of that season.In 2010, Smith was replaced as the starter by former coach Mike Singletary with Troy Smith for a key December game that decided San Francisco's playoff fate that season. The next week, Alex Smith began a string of 28 consecutive starts for the 49ers that ended after his concussion.Smith had a 21-6-1 record in those games and played a significant role in San Francisco's rise back to prominence last year and continued success this season. Smith resurrected his career under Harbaugh, who took over as San Francisco's coach in 2011."Those (other seasons) are all in the past," Smith said. "For this one, you're in it right now. It's such a great team, such a great group of guys in this locker room. There's something special going on. It's a tough pill to swallow, for sure."Smith said he was prepared for Harbaugh's decision and knew it was a possibility "just based off the last couple of weeks the way things have gone." Smith got the news during a conversation with Harbaugh earlier this week, when the coach explained why he decided to go in a different direction.Harbaugh left open the possibility he could go back to Smith at any time."Alex is a class act all the way," Harbaugh said. "He'll prepare as if he is the starter. And that's what we would expect. And be ready to go in and play and contribute to this football team. We've got two quarterbacks that we feel great about as the starting quarterback. Anything's a possibility. I would assume nothing, or rule out anything."Smith said he felt no resentment toward Harbaugh, nor did he try to talk the coach out of the change at quarterback."At this point, what's talk going to do?" Smith said. "I feel like he made up his mind, and he's not a guy that didn't put thought into it already. I don't get to make those decisions. That's what he gets paid to do. I play football. So that's what I'm going to continue to do. Continue to get ready, and then make the most of my next opportunity."

NFL Draft picks No. 17-24: Texans, 'Skins, Vikings make run on WRs

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NFL Draft picks No. 17-24: Texans, 'Skins, Vikings make run on WRs

No access at Gillette? No first-round pick unless the Patriots make a swap into the latter stages of the round? No problem. We're all over it from the palatial offices here in Burlington. We go pick-by-pick through the first round.

Lions: Taylor Decker, OT, OSU

Former Patriots personnel man Bob Quinn plucks a 6-foot-7, 310-pound mass of humanity and bad humor. The skinny on Decker is that he’s a Sebastian Vollmer-type according to NFL.com. He can play either tackle spot, strength, size and toughness are not an issue so it’s a low-risk selection which is a bright way to begin one’s GMing tenure.

Falcons: Keanu Neal, S, Florida

Following on the heels of Quinn, the Scott Pioli-Thomas Dimitroff grabbed a big-hitting safety who can play up in the box in run-support and also cover the tight ends and backs. Regarded as one of the best hitters in the draft.

Colts: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

Ryan Grigson could screw up a one-car funeral when it comes to the draft. But, knowing he couldn’t butcher yet another first-round pick, he must have had someone put in the sensible selection for him. Kelly won’t mess anything up. And he could be devastating if the Colts ever run that long-snapper and Griff Whelan play again. (I know. Whelan is a Dolphin now…)

Bills: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

The Bills add a 6-3, 269-pound edge rusher whose forte is ripping into backfields and will be a big personality for the Bills. Alongside Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes, Lawson steps right in to the vacancy left by the disinterested Mario Williams. Lawson is more of a strength rusher like Jabaal Sheard than a long angular guy like Chandler Jones.

Jets: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State

Kind on an undersized linebacker but a tremendous athlete who can cover at the second level with his 4.47 speed. Also had the best vertical and broad jump at the Combine. He’s 6-1, 232 pounds and will probably need some help from his scheme to get the best out of him. The Jets outstanding defensive front could afford head coach Todd Bowles with the bodies to do that for Lee.

Texans: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

Very fast, outstanding athlete, has hands like feet. Anyone that watched the BC-Notre Dame game at Fenway Park witnessed just how bad Fuller’s hands are. Taking him with LaQuon Treadwell on the board still seems a monumental misstep by head coach Bill O’Brien and GM Rick Smith.

Redskins: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Washington somewhat reluctantly gave quarterback Kirk Cousins the franchise tag because they had no other options and wanted to see what he could do before anteing up huge for a long-term deal. At least he’s got a real good young weapon at his disposal to help him make his dough. A 6-1, 202-pounder with excellent hands and the ability to go and get the ball in the red zone, smart pick.

Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

A 6-2, 221-pounder who slid because of his 4.64 40 but is a physically dominant player because of the size, strength, smarts combo. Just a really, really strong player who works hard, blocks fiercely and goes to a good NFC team on the rise. You look at all the burners who get drafted in the 20s and flame out, taking a player like Treadwell who may be a half-step slow but can use his body to win is a smart play.

Bengals: William Jackson III, CB, Houston

Long corner who has very good ball skills and makeup speed. He’s not exceptionally strong so while he’s willing to be physical he gets jostled a little bit. In the AFC North, he’ll be fine against everyone but the Steelers who will give him all he can handle. The Senator says, “He’s better than Eli Apple, as far as I’m concerned.”

Celtics season comes to an end after 104-92 loss to Hawks

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Celtics season comes to an end after 104-92 loss to Hawks

BOSTON – For so many games, the Boston played without any thought to the scoreboard.

No matter how big the deficit, no matter how deep into the game things got and they had to play from behind, there was never any question about their ability to fight back and compete and on many occasions, emerge victorious.

You saw that same fight and grit from the Celtics in the fourth quarter of Game 6, after having fallen behind by 28 points only to be within 95-83 with 3:16 remaining after a 3-point play by Isaiah Thomas.

Boston came within 10 points (96-86) with 1:48 to play, but quickly gave up a 3-point play at the other end that pretty much put the game away for the Hawks.

Throughout this series, the Atlanta Hawks proved themselves to be a different kind of opponent for Boston, a team that played a similar brand of basketball as the Celtics … only better and more experienced at it.

Those were just some of the factors that played a pivotal role in the Celtics never mustering up enough positive plays in a series that is now a thing of the past after Atlanta’s 104-92 Game 6 victory at the TD Garden.

Atlanta now moves on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.  

Meanwhile the Celtics will have several months to ponder the usual “what if …” that teams whose season ends sooner than expected, think about.

What if Avery Bradley were healthy for more than three-plus quarters?

What if Kelly Olynyk’s sore right shoulder injury not flare up again in the series?

What if the Celtics had been pared against Miami or Charlotte instead of Atlanta following their four teams finishing in a tie?

For Boston, it was a night that in many ways symbolized what kind of series this has been for them.

Atlanta had a collective, across-the-board effort to keep the ball out of Isaiah Thomas’ hands as much as possible.

And more games than not, it worked.

He finished with 25 points on 9-for-24 shooting.

It meant other Celtics had to step up and contribute, something the Celtics did very little of throughout the series.

On Thursday, the Celtics got a nice lift from Jonas Jerebko who scored Boston’s first five points and helped Boston jump out to a 9-5 lead. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting.

But that would be as good as it got for the Celtics who eventually fell behind by nearly 30 points in what was the most important game of their season.

Every time the Celtics would make a play that got the crowd involved, Atlanta would counter with a basket of their own.

And when it came to the 50/50 hustle plays, Atlanta won that game as well.

As much as the series will be remembered for what the Hawks did defensively against Thomas, it will also be remembered for Boston’s inability to make the most basic basketball play – an open jumper.

But the Celtics made things mildly interesting in the third quarter when they cut Atlanta’s lead to 73-59 following a 3-point play by Marcus Smart.

The Hawks went on to score the final seven points of the third which included a buzzer-beating jumper by Al Horford that gave the Hawks a 21-point lead going into the fourth.

From there, the Hawks did just enough to get the win while sending the Celtics home for the season with a first round exit for the second year in a row. 

First impressions: Another tough outing for Buchholz

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First impressions: Another tough outing for Buchholz

First impressions from the Red Sox' 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves

 

Another night, another less-than-satisfactory start for Clay Buchholz. Since the end of their last homestand, the Red Sox are 6-2. Both of those losses were hung on Buchholz.

Buchholz wasn't horrendous - he did manage to pitch into the seventh inning and five runs in 6 1/3 isn't a shellacking.

But five runs to this Braves lineup is nothing to shout about, either, and Buchholz made matters worse by walking the No. 7 hitter -- Jace Peterson, who came into the game with a .205 average -- three times. Twice, Peterson came around to score.

In fact, the bottom third of the order was 3-for-7 with three walks.

 

Hanley Ramirez showed some progress at the plate.

Before the game, John Farrell noted that Ramirez had been expanding the zone of late, and working to correct the issue with hitting instructors Chili Davis and Victor Rodriguez.

Something apparently clicked, as Ramirez was 3-for-3 in his first three at-bats with two RBI.

The one thing that's been lacking for Ramirez: power. He came into the game with just one homer and a paltry .373 slugging percentage.

 

It wasn't much of a night for former Red Sox players.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski was 0-for-4, and for the second straight night, failed to catch a routine foul pop-up.

Meanwhile, reliever Alexi Ogando came in for the seventh inning and promptly allowed a leadoff single and a walk to the first two hitters he faced before recording two more outs and getting lifted for lefty Hunter Cervenka.

 

Turnabout is fair play for Chris Young.

Young got the start in left field over Brock Holt, despite the fact that Atlanta started a righthander (Jhoulys Chacin).

Young was 1-for-3 with a double, though that one hit came off lefty reliever Eric O'Flaherty.

Then, in the eighth inning with righthander Jim Johnson on the mound for the Braves, John Farrell sent Holt up to pinch-hit for Young.

That marked the first time that Holt hit for Young; to the great consternation of many, Young had been sent up to hit for Holt three times in the first week or so of the season.

By the way: Holt grounded out to end the inning.