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T.Y. Hilton making big impact for Colts

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T.Y. Hilton making big impact for Colts

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) As the NFL game slows down for him, T.Y. Hilton is playing faster. As opponents pay more attention to Reggie Wayne, he is emerging as a key contributor. And as the smallest player on the Colts' roster, Hilton is making a huge impact.

The 5-foot-9, 183-pound rookie couldn't dream of a better way to start a career.

``It's been a lot of fun,'' Hilton said Wednesday. ``I love changing games, bringing another dimension to the game. It's all fun.''

Hilton is no ordinary rookie and in no ordinary learning environment.

Interim coach Bruce Arians has a history of waiting patiently for new receivers to get acclimated to facing bigger, faster defenders before turning them loose and raising the expectations. See Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh.

Hilton also didn't come from a big school with a gaudy draft grade or the burden of living up to the reputation of other higher-profile receivers.

He was able to get a crash course in film study and practice habits from Pro Bowler Wayne, who spends his offseasons working out in Hilton's hometown of Miami. And with veterans such as Wayne and Donnie Avery already on board, Hilton didn't have to emerge as a go-to receiver immediately.

Instead, the fourth player selected in Indy's rookie class was able to blend in behind the first three picks - quarterback Andrew Luck and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen - and learn things on his own timetable.

Now the Colts (7-4) are reaping the rewards.

``You can just tell that he's playing faster every week, more comfortable,'' Luck said. ``I'm glad to start seeing it pay dividends and hopefully he'll continue to play fast and continue to do decent things.''

In this rookie class, record-breaking chases have become the norm.

Luck is on pace to break the NFL's rookie single-season marks for pass attempts, completions and yardage. With a win Sunday in Detroit, Luck also would break Sam Bradford's rookie record for wins by a No. 1 overall pick (seven).

Allen is closing in on the franchise's rookie receptions record for tight ends.

Hilton, too, is making history. He already shares the Colts' rookie record for 100-yard games (three) with Andre Rison, and last weekend, Hilton became the first player in franchise history to catch a touchdown pass and score on a punt return in the same game.

The second-best rookie in Indianapolis was so impressive against Buffalo, he was named this week's AFC special teams player of the week.

``He's extremely explosive. I think I'll go back to the Louisville game (last year) where he just blew off the tape catching balls down the middle, catching short passes, making guys miss,'' Arians said. ``Punt returns, kick returns, you knew that in the open field, he was extremely dangerous, not just top end speed but elusiveness to go with it, and he had solid hands. More than all those things, he's got a great work ethic and humility about him. He's going to be a great pro.''

Despite being the 13th receiver taken in April's draft, only two rookie receivers have topped Hilton's numbers (33 receptions, 488 yards). And Buffalo coach Chan Gailey acknowledged that it was Hilton - not the usual suspects like Luck or Wayne- who changed last Sunday's game.

It may only be the start.

``Thanksgiving to Christmas is when you want your young wide receivers to step in and have a major role,'' Arians said. ``LaVon (Brazill) has started to increase his productivity. T.Y. has had more opportunities and, obviously, now is becoming a major factor in our offense but also as a punt returner. We always thought it was there, but you've just got to watch him grow.''

And Hilton intends to deliver on that promise.

``I still have a lot of room to grow,'' Hilton said. ``This is the turning point of the season, where rookies normally hit that rookie wall. But I'm feeling good and the game is slowing down for me right now.''

NOTES: The Colts have placed defensive tackles Josh Chapman and Fili Moala on season-ending injured reserve with knee injuries. Indy signed safety Delano Howell off of Buffalo's practice squad and defensive tackle Kellen Heard to take their spots on the active roster. ... Arians expects to get two starters - Fleener and cornerback Vontae Davis - back on the field Sunday at Detroit. Both have missed the last four games with injuries. ... Arians said earlier this week that he didn't expect Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to be suspended this week and when asked Wednesday whether he considered Suh a dirty player, Arians responded: ``No I don't think he's a dirty player. I'd love to have him on my team. I like the way he plays, he plays aggressive, hard and fast and physical and I don't think there's anything wrong. I think that's why they call it football.''

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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USA Today Sports Images

Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

PODCAST: WIZARDS MAKE A FREE AGENT SIGNING

The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

RELATED: DURANT MAKES HUGE DONATION TO PG COUNTY SCHOOLS

Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Brooks Orpik

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

CAPITALS-SABRES OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.