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Chiefs' Hillis reacts tersely to Browns' Thomas

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Chiefs' Hillis reacts tersely to Browns' Thomas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Peyton Hillis lashed back at former teammate Joe Thomas on Thursday, comparing the Browns' offensive tackle to a ``crazy ex-girlfriend'' after he made disparaging comments about the Kansas City Chiefs running back.

Thomas told reporters in Cleveland on Wednesday that Hillis didn't always play hard during his time with the Browns. He also accused Hillis of creating a ``toxic'' environment in the locker room by putting his contract situation ahead of the team.

``Joe Thomas, he can have his opinions all he wants,'' Hillis said Thursday. ``It's kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend, you know? It's been over a year. Get over it. But I don't know. I guess when you get paid over $100 million by one team, it's kind of easy to point the finger at another guy and hate on him for trying to get another contract.''

The salty words are sure to add another layer of intrigue to Sunday's game in Cleveland between the Chiefs and Browns. Besides Hillis, other former Browns making their return include quarterback Brady Quinn, coach Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

``I'm not talking bad about anybody,'' Hillis said. ``I'm just trying to go on with my life, like anybody else, and just play. You know, try to make a living.''

Hillis was a breakout star with the Browns in 2011, rushing for 1,177 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns. His hard-nosed playing style made him a fan favorite, and he was even selected to grace the cover of that year's edition of the Madden video game.

He openly campaigned for a long-term contract with the Browns, and according to Thomas, that proved to be the start of the problems.

``He was everything people knew about him - hard-working, blue-collar, tough, would do anything for anybody on the team,'' Thomas said. ``All he cared about was winning, and then all of a sudden the next year, all he cared about was trying to get his new contract.''

Hillis sat out a game with strep throat on the advice of his agent, Kennard McGuire. He missed several others with a hamstring injury, and while he was rehabbing one week, left the team and missed a treatment to get married in Arkansas.

``It was kind of one weird thing after another more than anything,'' Thomas said. ``We have guys getting married during the season and it's not a big deal. When you're injured and you should be getting treatment, to go do your own thing repeatedly was just disrespectful more than anything to his teammates.''

Thomas was one of several veterans who encouraged Hillis to clean up his act.

``People who thought they were very close friends with him, he wouldn't listen to anybody,'' Thomas said. ``He thought he knew the right way to do it and it ended up not being the right way and hurting everybody. Not just himself. It was a tough situation.''

Hillis never received a long-term deal from the Browns and ultimately became a free agent. He signed a one-year deal with Kansas City in the offseason, but has failed to provide the kind of hard-nosed alternative to speedy running back Jamaal Charles that the Chiefs had hoped. He's run for only 193 yards and scored his lone touchdown last week.

``I don't have any bitterness or resentment or regrets. I did what I did,'' Hillis said. ``There are always regrets in every process, or things you wish you did better, but now is now, and I have to do what's best for me now.''

Hillis missed several weeks this season with what was described as a high ankle sprain, but Crennel said he never had reason to question the seriousness of the injury. Crennel also said that Hillis has done everything that's been asked of him.

``He's been good ever since he's been here. I've had no problems with him,'' Crennel said. ``He's been productive on the field other than when he was injured, when he wasn't able to be on the field.''

Hillis said he harbors no ill will toward fans in Cleveland, and he's looking forward to the opportunity to play in front of them on Sunday, regardless of the reception he may receive.

``It's going to be a good experience,'' he said. ``I really enjoyed the fans there and I think the whole atmosphere there, I really liked it, and it'll be good to go back.''

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AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Berea, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted the line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home in Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s also signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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