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HOUSTON (AP) — There was plenty of intensity on Wednesday when the Houston
Texans and San Francisco 49ers met in the first of two joint practices before
this weekend’s preseason game.

A little too much in fact ,
with Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins and 49ers safety Jimmie Ward being kicked
out of practice after getting into a scuffle on the first play of receiver

Ward got under the helmet of Hopkins and knocked it off as he was covering
him before Hopkins made the catch on a pass thrown by Deshaun Watson.

The two then began pushing each other and some punches were thrown, though
none of them landed, and the pair was soon on the ground surrounded by
teammates, including Richard Sherman, appearing to try and break things up.
Order was quickly restored and both players left the practice field.

The incident came after both coaches told their players that such behavior in
these practices would have consequences.

“We made it very clear that if anyone throws punches or you do anything that
would get you ejected in the game, you’ll be done with practice,” San Francisco
defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said.

Houston coach Bill O’Brien wasn’t as keen on talking about the fracas as
Saleh, but did have a terse response to what he thought about it.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “Just have to move on.”

O’Brien wasn’t the only one that didn’t have much to say about it.

“Just competition,” Watson said. “That’s all I’m really going to speak on

Saleh was disappointed that it happened for a variety of reasons.

“It’s a missed opportunity on a bunch of levels,” he said. “One, you don’t
get to face a guy like Hopkins. But it’s a trickle-down effect because now other
people have to pick up Jimmie’s reps and I’m sure on their side receivers had to
pick up for Hopkins. So Jack
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, it’s something that they’ve got to be aware of.
It’s a real thing. If you get ejected in the game, it’s a trickle-down effect
all the way through.”

Despite losing his top receiver before he could get much work done, Watson
thought practicing against another team was valuable for him as he makes his
return after missing the last half of last season with a knee injury.

“Just find some new ways to get better,” he said. “Seeing different looks,
going against different competition, different guys that are showing different
techniques and just try to improve as an offense and build our chemistry going
against other guys.”

O’Brien said he didn’t want to evaluate Watson’s work on Wednesday before
reviewing the film, but did say that he’s been impressed with how he’s worked
every day during camp.

“Training camp’s really hard,” O’Brien said. “You don’t know what you’re
going to see. You have to apply your rules play-in and play-out. I think he does
a great job of that. He thinks about the game, does a really good job at the
line of scrimmage. I’m really happy he’s our quarterback.”

Also, on Wednesday, 49ers rookie receiver Dante Pettis had a special guest as
his dad and Houston Astros third base coach Gary Pettis watched practice before
heading downtown for his team’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

The elder Pettis said he was excited to watch his son work, but disappointed
that he’d be out of town with the Astros for his game against the Texans on
Saturday night.

The visit came a day after his son donned some Astros gear and took batting
practice at Minute Maid Park before Tuesday night’s game.

Though Dante ,
who was a second-round pick in this year’s draft, is now a professional football
player, he showed plenty of baseball skill on Tuesday when he hit multiple
homers during batting practice.

“Put on a little bit of a show,” he said with a smile.

Injuries left the
Avalanche playing their backup to the backup goaltender while needing a victory
to stave off elimination.

The goalie nicknamed the ”Hamburglar” came through.

Andrew Hammond made a career-high 44 saves for his first postseason victory,
and Colorado rallied to beat the Nashville Predators 2-1 on Friday night and
sent the first-round series back to Denver for Game 6.

”Obviously, it was a lot of fun,” said Hammond, who was mobbed in the locker
room. ”We’re excited to have another game. We didn’t want this to be the last
one of the season, and I think to a man, we all did whatever we could to make
sure that wasn’t the case.”

This is the third time the Avalanche had trailed 3-1 in a series since moving
to Colorado. They lost the first two but have a chance Sunday to push the
defending Western Conference champs to a seventh game after rallying with two
goals in the final 4:11.

They also became the first to win a playoff game in regulation when trailing
in the final 5:00 of the third since Chicago won at Boston in Game 6 of the 2013
Stanley Cup Final.

Gabriel Landeskog started the rally with his goal into an empty net with
Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne caught outside the crease with his own teammate
Ryan Ellis in his lap. Then Sven Andrighetto gave the Avs the lead off a rebound
of a shot by J.T. Compher with 1:28 left that stunned a sold-out Nashville crowd
that had expected to celebrate advancing to the second round.

”We’ve got a series again going home, and it’s going to be exciting,”
Landeskog said. ”As we talked about before tonight ,
just to win one. We don’t have to win three in one night.”

This was not only Hammond’s first playoff victory, it was his first
postseason start since April 17, 2015, with Ottawa and just the third of his
career. He started only one game during the regular season after being traded to
Colorado in November.

”You never know when you’re going to get a second chance,” Hammond said.
”I’ve played two games basically since the start of January – at times it felt
as though that day would never come again when you’re going to play again. You
keep battling in practice, you stick to the process, when you get your chance,
you’re ready.”

Colorado coach Jared Bednar said he loved Hammond’s demeanor since learning
he would be starting.

”He’s waited a long time this year for this opportunity, and he’s making the
most of it,” Bednar said.

The series winner will face Winnipeg in the second round.

Nick Bonino scored for Nashville.

This game was scoreless until Bonino’s goal with 9:42 left, a big change for
a series that had been the highest-scoring of the first round averaging 7.25
goals per game coming into Game 5.

The Predators peppered Hammond, and the only time Nashville beat him was when
Mattias Ekholm’s shot bounced off his left pad and went in off Bonino’s right
skate. The official on the spot immediately waved it off. Officials
huddled ,
then reviewed the play.

During the review, fans sang ”Let It Be” while holding up their cellphones
with the flash on. Referee Kevin Pollock announced the call on the ice had been
overturned , starting a long-awaited celebration.

The lead didn’t last long as the Avs rallied.

”It’s not like we didn’t have opportunities,” Nashville coach Peter
Laviolette said. ”They did a pretty good job in front of him. We had lots of
looks, lots of opportunities. We couldn’t get in.”

The Avalanche came into the postseason with goalie Semyon Varlamov and
defenseman Erik Johnson sidelined by knee injuries, then defenseman Samuel
Girard missed three games with his own upper-body injury before Jonathan
Bernier, Varlamov’s backup, suffered his own lower-body injury. That pushed the
Hamburglar into the net.

The Predators started and ended the second period on the power play but
couldn’t beat Hammond. Their best scoring chance came with a 4-on-2, but Hammond
stopped Roman Josi’s shot and then handled Calle Jarnkrok’s attempt off the
rebound at 12:36. Hammond also made a big pad save on Ellis’ slap shot and then
stopped another Josi shot late in the period.

NOTES: The Avalanche snapped a seven-game skid in Nashville with the win.
They ended a 12-game skid to the Preds overall in Game 3. … Nashville had been
perfect last postseason with a chance to clinch a series on its own ice, winning
all three series to reach the Stanley Cup Final. … Predators forward Ryan
Hartman sat out his suspension for a hit on Carl Soderberg in Game 4.


Game 6 in Denver on Sunday night.

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