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Briggs says Bears' focus on Detroit, not changes

Briggs says Bears' focus on Detroit, not changes

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Bears linebacker Lance Briggs insisted all he's thinking about is Chicago beating the Detroit Lions and reaching the playoffs.

The idea that this could be the last go-around with his coaches and some teammates?

The seven-time Pro Bowler said he's not thinking about what might happen if the Bears (9-6) lose Sunday at Detroit. They're in danger of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, and even if they beat the Lions, they would need help from rival Green Bay.

If they don't reach the postseason, there is speculation that coach Lovie Smith could be gone. Brian Urlacher has an expiring contract and might be on his way out, too, but Briggs wasn't thinking about those possibilities.

``My job right now is to focus on beating the Detroit Lions,'' he said Thursday. ``I think that's what all of our jobs are right now. That's what we need to focus on - trying to get ourselves into the postseason.''

These are awkward times for the Bears. They're in a situation they never would have envisioned after a 7-1 start, trying to slip into the playoffs and in need of a big assist even if they do their part against the Lions. They would also need Green Bay to beat or tie Minnesota. Chicago could also get in with a tie if the Packers beat the Vikings, but if they don't make it, there's a feeling that an era could be ending.

If management is ready to pull the plug on Smith, special teams coordinator Dave Toub urged them to reconsider.

``Lovie's a great coach,'' he said. ``He needs to stay here.''

If the speculation is bothering Smith, Toub doesn't see it.

``He's been steady,'' Toub said. ``We've been very lucky - the Chicago Bears are very lucky - to have Lovie Smith. You better realize that. Everybody better realize that.''

It's not just Smith's job possibly on the line. The rest of the staff could be gone, too, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said he's not worrying about that. He sees a game coming up that the Bears can't afford to lose. He sees a once-promising season coming down to this - one final chance - and sees no time to worry about the what-ifs.

``To me, it's not difficult at all,'' he said. ``You've got a job at hand, do your job. Do what men are supposed to do.''

But what about human nature?

``You take human nature, I take a man's responsibility,'' Marinelli said.

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice seems to be taking more of a Zen-like approach. If he's feeling more pressure, he's keeping it to himself.

``That would be bad because then the guys would think I'm uptight,'' he said. ``So I don't want to be uptight. That's the worst thing that I can be is uptight.''

He paused, smiled and added: ``I have to come up with some new material.''

Briggs put in a plug for Smith and said the players want to win this one for him. More than that, though, he doesn't want to see the wrecking ball hit the Bears.

``More than just Lovie,'' he said. ``You want to win it for us. Win it for us. If you've enjoyed your time here in Chicago and the way that Lovie has treated you and us together and this camaraderie that we have then win for that. If Lovie is not here, that goes - that goes with him. I've enjoyed every moment of being here, here in Chicago. And I don't intend on that changing. So it's time to go out and beat Detroit, and then we'll pull for the Packers.''

Notes: RB Matt Forte went through a limited practice on Thursday after sitting out the previous day. He left last week's win over Arizona after injuring his right ankle for the third time this season, and the Bears hope to have him against the Lions. ``We're hopeful for him, which we thought all along,'' Smith said. ``I know he's been pretty optimistic about the plan. So hopefully that will be the case.'' ... The Bears continued to hold LB Brian Urlacher out of practice because of his hamstring injury, along with LB Blake Costanzo (calf), S Chris Conte (hamstring) and backup RB Armando Allen (knee). DT Henry Melton (chest) was limited again after missing the past two games.

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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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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