Chiefs' Colquitt unsung star for losing team

Chiefs' Colquitt unsung star for losing team

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The job description alone should scare away all but the most confident of souls.

Must be able to kick an awkwardly shaped ball at least 50 yards. Must generate enough hang-time to enable proper coverage. Must do it all in the midst of thousands of screaming fans, with half a dozen defenders bringing pressure and the game's outcome hanging in the balance.

And the only time you'll receive any attention is when you make a mistake, when you mishandle a snap or shank a punt or hit one right into the end zone instead of spiking it at the 5.

Yes, it's a surprise anybody would be up for such a task.

Dustin Colquitt relishes it.

The veteran punter is arguably the Kansas City Chiefs' most unsung star. He's their inept offense's best friend for his ability to flip field position in a single snap, and their defense's secret weapon in pinning the opponent deep within its own territory.

``When you talk about field position, helping your team,'' Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, ``he definitely does that.''

Finally, he's starting to get some attention for it.

Colquitt was one of five Chiefs players voted to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday. He'll be joined in Hawaii but better-known stars such as running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and linebackers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson, all of whom have made it to the all-star game in the past.

This will be Colquitt's first trip, though.

He's certainly deserving of it.

In his seventh season out of Tennessee, the Chiefs' punter has had the finest season of his career. He's averaging 46.9 yards on 75 punts for a team that's 2-13, doing his job superbly even while those around him have struggled to do much with the prime field position he's created.

``That's my job,'' Colquitt said. ``That's my role and you have to be comfortable with that, regardless of what the offense or defense is doing. You have to be special.''

He's been special at a record-setting pace, too. Colquitt has put 42 punts inside the 20 this season, which trails only Arizona's Dave Zastudil (44) for the most in the NFL. It also matches the record going into this season, shared by Ben Graham, Andy Lee and Steve Weatherford.

But the Cardinals' Zastudil has punted 106 times to break the record, while Colquitt has put an astonishing 56 percent of his kicks inside the opponent's red zone.

``It's awesome,'' Colquitt said of perhaps setting the record for punts inside the 20. ``It was cool setting the Kansas City Chiefs record and tying the NFL record, and it would mean a lot to me. My dad always told me, `If you do anything in football, be the defensive coordinator's best friend.' That's how I've always looked at it.''

Colquitt's father, Craig, should know. He won a pair of Super Bowl rings while punting for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1978-84. His uncle, Jimmy Colquitt, also appeared in a couple of games as a punter for the Seattle Seahawks during the 1985 season.

On Sunday, the first family of punters will have another reunion in Denver.

Colquitt will be punting for the Chiefs in the thin air of Sports Authority Field, while his younger brother Britton Colquitt will be hammering punts for the Broncos, who have a chance to earn homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win and a little help.

``We kind of play it off and say it doesn't matter,'' Dustin Colquitt said of the sibling rivalry, ``but at the end of the day, you get on the plane or bus, it's like, `Hey, let me see that stat sheet real quick.'''

Colquitt is in the final year of an $8.5 million, five-year deal with Kansas City, which makes his future a bit uncertain. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel could be out of jobs by Monday, so the chances of Colquitt signing an extension are slim at best.

He's good enough that some wonder whether the Chiefs will take the rare step of franchising a punter. Otherwise, he could be a coveted special-teams player on the free-agent market.

Colquitt isn't worried about that just yet. He's played his entire career with the Chiefs, and would rather focus on finishing up another lost season with one more solid outing.

Even if few people ultimately notice.

``We want to win this game, leave a good taste in our mouth this offseason,'' he said. ``Denver's already kind of set up with its postseason shot, so we have to put our minds to it, have a good game plan and execute it.''


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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

It looks like Ryant Grant has found his new home, again.

After a failed physical with the Ravens, James Jones of NFL Network reports Grant plans to sign with the Colts.


Grant originally agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens, before the team pulled the offer citing an ankle injury that dated to the Redskins' final regular-season game, according to reports.

Baltimore eventually signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, while Grant had visits with the Colts and Raiders.

His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, says Grant has been working out, running routes, and his ankle had been cleared by Dr. Robert Anderson in a second opinion.

In 2017 with the Redskins, he appeared in all 16 games, with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.