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Holliday makes fast impact for Broncos

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Holliday makes fast impact for Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The linebacker sprawled out and barely got a hand on Trindon Holliday.

Not enough of a hand.

Eight seconds later, Holliday was gone. The NFL's shortest - and quite possibly fastest - player says he has never been caught from behind and it didn't come close to happening last Sunday, either. The 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Cincinnati went down as the longest play in Broncos history.

``After I broke the first wave, and then I saw that one of my guys had made a block on the kicker, I just pushed it to the outside and that was it,'' Holliday said.

This was, actually, the fourth time the 5-foot-5 Holliday had returned a kick for a score this year. The first three came in the preseason with the Houston Texans, which is why the second-year player made the team.

But when the regular season started, Houston struggled in its return game. It is currently ranked last in the NFL in kickoff returns. Holliday's lack of versatility - at 5-5, he can't really be an effective receiver - didn't help his cause, and on Oct. 10, the Texans had to cut ties with their sixth-round draft pick from 2011.

``By no means is it a statement that what we thought of Trindon,'' Texans coach Gary Kubiak said on the day they cut him.

The Broncos, still in the hunt for a bona fide returner after losing Eddie Royal to free agency in the offseason, knew about Holliday because they had prepared to play the Texans in September. They decided to take a chance.

``When he became available, I think our personnel department did a great job of putting in a claim and we were fortunate enough to get him,'' coach John Fox said. ``I think he'll just continue to get better as we move forward, whether it's punts or kicks.''

Make no mistake, there is room for improvement.

The first time Holliday touched the ball for the Broncos, a teammate blocked an opponent into his line of vision and Holliday muffed a punt, which led to a field goal for San Diego. That was the game in which the Chargers took a 24-0 lead but the Broncos rallied for the win.

Only a few minutes after Holliday's big return against the Bengals last Sunday, he and Lance Ball got crossed up on a kickoff that bounced at the 3-yard line and checked up. The Broncos started that drive from their 1.

``It was poor judgment on that one,'' Holliday said.

Excusable, however, especially considering the way he can change a game.

``He's obviously got some explosive capabilities,'' Peyton Manning said.

As a college recruit, Holliday's 40 times were so fast - he once cracked 4.3 in high-top basketball shoes - that stories circulated of coaches recalibrating their stopwatches to make sure they were reading things right.

In 2007, Holliday finished second in the 100 meters to Tyson Gay at U.S. track and field championships. He could have gone to world championships, but instead chose to attend LSU, where he returned four kicks for touchdowns and won the NCAA title at 100 meters in 2009.

His winning time at NCAAs, 10 seconds flat, made him the fastest player to ever play college football - faster than Willie Gault, Herschel Walker and ``Bullet'' Bob Hayes, the receiver who gets much of the credit for forcing NFL defenses to start playing zone.

Players with that kind of speed almost always get a chance if they decide to go the football route, and instead of pursuing a track career, Holliday tried for the NFL.

Among the problems return specialists face these days, however, is a drastically reduced number of opportunities.

In an attempt to reduce injuries caused by players sprinting the full length of the field on special teams, the NFL moved kickoffs up five yards at the start of 2011.

That year, the number of kickoffs returned in the league fell from 2,033 to 1,375 - by 32 percent, according to STATS LLC. Halfway through 2012, the league in on pace for 1,292 returns.

Not surprisingly, the number of game-changing kickoff returns, and returners, has decreased dramatically, as well. There were 23 kickoff returns for touchdowns and 57 others into opponents' territory in 2010 but only nine TDs and 27 across the 50 in 2011. Holliday's was the seventh return for a touchdown in 2012, as the season reaches its halfway point.

The 105-yard sprint was Holliday's first NFL touchdown.

``I think it can come in bunches,'' he said.

The Carolina Panthers are next, Sunday in Charlotte.

``He's a guy we liked and looked at at one time, too,'' Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. ``But when he was on the waiver wire, we didn't have room and I think Denver did a nice job. He's shown he was explosive last week. And now I've got an upset stomach having to worry about him, as well.''

Notes: WR Eric Decker (thigh) was limited in practice. He joined WRs Brandon Stokley (knee) and Demaryius Thomas (knee) on the injury report, though Stokley and Thomas each participated fully. ... CB Tracy Porter missed practice for medical reasons related to seizures he had during the summer. ... LB Von Miller needs half a sack to tie DEs Elvis Dumervil and Rulon Jones for the most (21) by a Bronco over his first two seasons.

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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