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Injured LB Mauti preps Penn State for finale

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Injured LB Mauti preps Penn State for finale

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) The large digital timer with the bright red numbers counted down the final minutes of one of the final practices of Penn State's season. Linebacker Michael Mauti hobbled around nearby in sweats and a letterman jacket while his teammates stretched in front of him.

Mauti may not be able to play Saturday because of a left knee injury, but the star senior is still assuming an important role this week as the Nittany Lions get ready for an emotional season finale against Wisconsin.

``For guys that live and breathe the game like that, it's very difficult thing to deal with,'' first-year coach Bill O'Brien said before practice Tuesday.

Mauti doesn't want his injury to be front-and-center this week, not with the team playing its 12th and final ``bowl game'' of the year against the Badgers. Penn State would have been a lock for the postseason if not for the NCAA's four-year ban as part of the penalties for the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

Every game is precious then for O'Brien's Lions. Not surprisingly, Mauti will be helping his replacement, promising sophomore Mike Hull, get ready for Wisconsin's tough running game and star tailback Montee Ball.

``The thing about Mike (Mauti) is he's a winner in his heart. He's always going to be a winner,'' center and fellow senior Matt Stankiewitch said. ``Even if he can't play, he's still going to lead.''

Two previous seasons for Mauti have been cut short because of injuries - one to each knee - though the linebacker's college career may not necessarily be over.

Mauti hurt his right knee in the 2009 preseason; two years later he hurt his left knee four games into the season.

O'Brien was asked if a potential sixth year for Mauti, a redshirt senior, was under discussion.

``Yeah, fair question,'' O'Brien said, ``but just way too early for that right now.''

Staying true to form, O'Brien isn't focusing on anything past Saturday.

The Nittany Lions may have four losses, but the team has displayed grit and determination through nearly every second of this challenging season. Few prognosticators though Penn State could even finish this year with a winning record.

A senior class including Mauti and Stankiewitch helped O'Brien keep most of the team together after the sanctions were announced in July.

After keeping mostly an even-keel attitude this year, the emotions are more evident this week for the seniors.

``I just walked out that tunnel right just now,'' senior cornerback Stephon Morris said before speaking reporters inside Beaver Stadium. ``I was just thinking to myself that I have one more time walking out of that tunnel with my team, in front of the great student section, the crowd the alumni.''

Morris, one of the most improved players on the team this season, is out of eligibility after Saturday, so the native of the Washington, D.C., suburb of Greenbelt, Md., will miss Big Ten's newcomer Maryland's conference debut in a couple years.

``The Maryland program, if you go to the state of Maryland, you don't know it's there,'' Morris said. ``They pretty much needed a change, as far as I can say. The needed that ... that's good for the Terrapins.''

O'Brien, who was an assistant at Maryland, also welcomed the additions of Maryland and Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights officially made the jump on Tuesday.

Penn State heavily recruits in New Jersey and the Washington-Baltimore corridor.

``It's going to be competitive, but that's what college football is about, and I think you have to talk about your own program and the way you see that individual fitting into your program,'' O'Brien said. ``Hopefully it's the right fit and to me that's what recruiting is all about.''

But O'Brien can start devoting more attention to recruiting and future opponents in a week. For the next few days, it's all about sending Mauti and the rest of the seniors off with a win against Wisconsin.

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NOTES: Starting safety Malcolm Willis (knee) and backup DT James Terry (foot) were not in uniform and watched from the sideline during a 25-minute portion of practice open to media Tuesday. Both players also sat out last week's 45-22 win over Indiana ... Sophomore Allen Robinson is 106 yards shy of tying Bobby Engram's school record for most yards receiving in a season set in 1995 (1,084). Robinson is also two touchdowns short of tying Engram's single-season touchdown reception record of 13 set in 1993.

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Follow Genaro Armas athttp://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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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