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Athletes, stars lend hands in Super Bowl host city

Athletes, stars lend hands in Super Bowl host city

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Some athletes and celebrities headed to New Orleans for Super Bowl weekend are picking up hammers and packaging food for the homeless in the big game's host city.

The downtown area where most Super Bowl festivities will take place has arguably never looked better, with a renovated Superdome and resurfaced streets and sidewalks. But a closer look reveals homelessness, crime and outer-lying neighborhoods that still bear the scars of 2005, when levees collapsed during Hurricane Katrina and inundated more than 80 percent of the city with floodwater.

One of the city's biggest areas of need is housing. In some areas, flood-damaged houses remain untouched, gutted homes have been abandoned, and many lots are overgrown with weeds where houses once stood.

While in town, some athletes and celebrities are working with Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together to help the city's rebuilding effort. Others are working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Second Harvest, a New Orleans-based nonprofit community food bank.

``Every ounce of support helps,'' said Jon Luther, vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans, which has been working with the NFL Players Association for months to build homes in the city's Lower 9th Ward neighborhood, which saw some of the worst flooding after Katrina.

``For them to show such interest and generosity of their time to our city, we are so grateful,'' Luther said.

Through the NFL's Touchdown for Homes program, three homes have been built not far from actor Brad Pitt's Make It Right houses. A ribbon-cutting will be held Friday.

This week, more NFL players are getting to work on homes in other parts of the city. Some are working Thursday with Habitat for Humanity to build a new home for a New Orleans resident in the Central City area. On Friday, they'll work on another home in the same area for a local family.

But not all the goodwill is labor intensive.

On Friday, country music star Garth Brooks will join Saints players Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Curtis Lofton and Deuce McAllister to help the Starkey Hearing Foundation fit more than two dozen local children with hearing aids.

On Saturday, NFL players Larry Fitzgerald, Tommie Harris, Chris Doleman, Craig Stevens, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Brian de la Puente will help the Starkey foundation provide about 100 hearing aids to residents, including 12 local musicians.

``Because music is the heart of New Orleans' vibrant culture, and hearing is so vital to music, I can't think of a more perfect setting,'' said Brady Forseth, the foundation's executive director.

This is the fourth year in a row Starkey has conducted a mission in the Super Bowl host city. The group will fit residents at the Musicians Village, a rebuilding effort in the city's Upper 9th Ward headed by New Orleans native jazz musicians Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis.

Portions of proceeds from some of the big Super Bowl weekend concerts also will benefit locals.

The NFL's Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, headlined Friday night by Grammy-winning rhythm and blues singer Fantasia, was launched in 1999 and each year donates a portion of proceeds and hundreds of tickets to local and national charities.

This year's benefactors will include the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, founded by the New Orleans Saints player, and The Sharper Kids Foundation, founded by Darren Sharper - a former Saints player and brother to former Seattle Seahawks player Jamie Sharper.

Proceeds from the DIRECTV Super Saturday Night concert with Justin Timberlake and Ahmir ``Questlove'' Thompson of The Roots as DJ will benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children. It is co-hosted by Mark Cuban's AXS-TV.

``Giving back should be natural,'' said Questlove, who lives in New York but has played in New Orleans with The Roots for decades. ``It shouldn't be like a big event or a special thing. It should be natural.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler