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Manning's choice added pressure in Denver

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Manning's choice added pressure in Denver

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Knowing as well as anyone that time is no longer his friend, Peyton Manning went looking for a team last summer.

He gambled on the Denver Broncos, and when he signed the contract, the players who were already in Denver got the message: Their new quarterback thought the pieces were in place to win the Super Bowl, and win one quickly.

``You had a guy like Peyton. He had the opportunity to go several places,'' cornerback Champ Bailey said. ``You know he wants to win and he goes to the place that can help him win. It raises your expectations.''

On a nine-game winning streak and positioned for a first-round bye in the playoffs, it's safe to say the Broncos (11-3) are living up to what Manning hoped they would be.

They are not a team headed for the playoffs based on smoke and mirrors, the way many critics felt last year's team was with Tim Tebow at the helm. That team finished the season ranked 23rd on offense and 20th on defense.

This year's team is dominating statistically.

-Manning's offense has scored 30 points in all but three games this season. It ranks fifth in the NFL with 387 yards a game, and the quarterback himself (4,016 yards, 31 touchdowns), is in reach of finishing with the second-most yards and passing touchdowns in his 15 seasons.

-The special teams picked up a special returner in Trindon Holliday, who has scored two touchdowns on returns.

-The defense, led by linebacker Von Miller and coached by coordinator Jack Del Rio, is ranked fourth in yards allowed, second in sacks and has allowed the fewest points in the AFC (274).

``They're very fundamental,'' Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of the Broncos defense his team will face Sunday. ``They do a good job against the run. They play well. And it kind of correlates on offense. They've scored 30 points in nine games this year, so you can be just a little bit more reckless when you know on the other side of the ball, you're going to score points.''

Manning, of course, was looking for a contender, not a project. His quote on the day he signed - ``This is a `now' situation. We're going to do whatever we can to win right now'' - said everything about both his mission and his time frame.

Much has been made of the instant bond he formed with John Elway, the former Broncos quarterback-turned-executive, and the working relationship he knew he'd be able to form with head coach John Fox and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

As meticulous as he is, though, Manning said he did not drill down deeply into the Broncos roster when he made his final decision.

``You can't know everything about a team when you're making a decision like that. I'd be lying if I said that I went through every single player on the roster,'' Manning said. ``I had some questions. I met with John (Fox) and met with Mike (McCoy) and met with Del Rio, met with all of them during my visit here and had some questions for them and got those answers and felt comfortable about those types of things.''

If Manning was concerned with any single position, it would have been receiver. He essentially brought his old buddy and teammate, Brandon Stokley, along with him. Meanwhile, the top two wideouts already on the roster heard Manning was coming and knew they'd have to up their game.

``We had a lot of good talent last year,'' Eric Decker said. ``The defense was playing well. Offensively, we were doing what we could to move the ball and score points. And to have him add a big piece to our offense has really helped the team in general. And just who he is as a person, who he is as a professional, the guy demands the best out of himself and that carries over to his teammates.''

Decker needs 77 more yards to reach 1,000 in receiving for the season, which would make him and Demaryius Thomas the first Broncos duo to reach 1,000 yards each since 2004.

``I never took it as pressure,'' Thomas said of Manning's arrival. ``At least not too much pressure. But he did choose to come here so you know you've got to mind your `P's and `Q's. If he comes here and you're a bust, he's saying, `Man, I could've gone somewhere else.' You don't want him saying that.''

NOTES: Broncos OL Zane Beadles was named the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination for his community service work. ``I definitely didn't expect it,'' the third-year player out of Utah said. ... With the field cleared of snow, Denver practiced outside Thursday. OL Chris Kuper (ankle) didn't participate, while FB Chris Gronkowski (hamstring) and DT Kevin Vickerson (groin) were limited. ... The Broncos will be facing their first rookie QB of the season in Brandon Weeden. ``He looks like he has the talent to get it done,'' perennial Pro Bowler Champ Bailey said. ``He can make you look back if you let him.'' ... LB Von Miller said he never sacked Weeden when Miller suited up for Texas A&M and Weeden at Oklahoma State. ``I got a roughing-the-passer call,'' Miller said. ``Hopefully, things can be different this season.''

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The biggest ‘what ifs’ in Capitals history: What if Lars Eller never scored the 2OT goal?

The biggest ‘what ifs’ in Capitals history: What if Lars Eller never scored the 2OT goal?

This week NBC Sports Washington is looking at some of the biggest “what ifs” for the Capitals. Last week, we looked at what ifs for the season. This week, we are looking at some of the bigger what ifs from franchise history.
 
Today’s what-if: What if Lars Eller had not delivered the game-winning goal in double overtime of Game 3 against the Columbus Blue Jackets?
 
Lars Eller scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights, but that arguably was not the most important goal he scored during that 2018 postseason.
 
Down 2-0 in the first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Eller scored the double-overtime winner to give Washington its first win. It was a fluky one that bounced off a number of body parts on its way into the net, but it still counted. But what if he had not scored that goal and the Caps had lost Game 3?
 
While Washington was able to erase a 2-0 deficit to win four straight against Columbus and win the series, it’s hard to believe they could have done the same thing if down 3-0. At that time, despair would have started to sink in. 

RELATED: WHAT IF THE CAPS HADN'T WON THE 2004 NHL DRAFT LOTTERY?
 
In terms of moves head coach Barry Trotz could have made, he would have had to get creative because the standard panic move of a goalie change would not cut it. Philipp Grubauer started Games 1 and 2 and was replaced by Braden Holtby in Game 3. Going back to Grubauer was not a realistic option at that point. Chances are, Washington would have suffered a first-round exit.
 
Considering Trotz left after winning a Stanley Cup, it is hard to imagine him staying after a first-round exit. So with another year of falling short of expectations in the postseason and in need of a new head coach, this is the point where I believe Brian MacLellan would have had to seriously consider dismantling the team. 
 
I don’t think there was ever a scenario where Alex Ovechkin would be traded considering what he means to the franchise, but I think everyone else would have been on the table. After all, by 2018 what reason would the team have to believe the core was good enough to make a deep playoff run? It had not done it after four seasons with Trotz and about as loaded a lineup as a team can have.
 
It would not have meant the end of the Ovechkin era as he would have stayed, but it probably would have meant the end in terms of the Ovechkin-led Caps pursuing a Cup. By that time, it would have been clear it was time to start over and it would have meant a very long 2018 offseason.

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Elena Delle Donne put in tough spot by WNBA, reveals health struggles with Lyme disease in open letter

Elena Delle Donne put in tough spot by WNBA, reveals health struggles with Lyme disease in open letter

For anyone that has covered Elena Delle Donne in her professional career, there is one thing that you know: the two-time WNBA MVP battles Lyme disease which directly affects her ordinary way of life. 

She's been open about it and does not shy away from questions regarding her symptoms. Her openness and status in the league were so prominent that when the WNBA said it would allow players with preexisting conditions - and potential vulnerabilities to the coronavirus - to sit out and receive pay, it was assumed she fit. 

But yet the WNBA denied her request, leaving her in "disbelief" and her best response coming in a tell-all Player's Tribune article

I take 64 pills a day, and I feel like it’s slowly killing me. Or if it’s not killing me, directly, then I at least know one thing for sure: It’s really bad for me. Longterm, taking that much medicine on that regular of a regimen is just straight-up bad for you. It’s literally an elaborate trick that you play on yourself — a lie that you tell your body so it keeps thinking everything is fine. 

It’s a never-ending, exhausting, miserable cycle.

But I do it anyway.

Much of what she says is nothing new. By battling “Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome," more commonly known as Chronic Lyme Disease, her life has been uprooted. Delle Donne has to take 64 supplements a day. She is immunocompromised where a common cold sends her immune system into a frenzy and a flu shot does more harm than good.

RELATED: CLOUD RIPS THE WNBA'S DECISION TO DECLINE EED'S REQUEST

She's been battling it since 2008 and now her league, that she represents on the highest stage, turned its back on her. She is more at risk of developing serious complications due to the coronavirus because of her compromised immune system. Her own doctor said that it's not safe for her to risk traveling to a state where cases are skyrocketing all to play basketball. 

Lyme disease is not one without controversy. For most affected, treatment is easy and simple (about a month of steroids and you're back to normal). However, symptoms get more serious the longer it is not treated and for Delle Donne it took multiple doctors to figure out what was going on. 

Many brush off the disease, mostly because there is so much even the medical community does not know. 

Yet, the league isn't giving her a fair option.

Instead of giving her a choice to remain safe, at home, the WNBA's panel of doctors said that she is not high-risk for the virus. 

I’m now left with two choices: I can either risk my life….. or forfeit my paycheck.

Honestly? That hurts.

It hurts a lot. And maybe being hurt just makes me naive. And I know that, as athletes, we’re not really supposed to talk about our feelings. But feelings are pretty much all I have left right now. I don’t have NBA player money. I don’t have the desire to go to war with the league on this. And I can’t appeal.

So really all I’m left with is how much this hurts. How much it hurts that the W — a place that’s been my one big dream in life for as long as I can remember, and that I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears to for seven going on eight seasons — has basically told me that I’m wrong about what’s happening in my own body. What I hear in their decision is that I’m a fool for believing my doctor. That I’m faking a disability. That I’m trying to “get out” of work and still collect a paycheck.

Her disease and symptoms didn't come out of nowhere. And of all people in the league to be 'faking' a disease, it's not her. She played the WNBA Finals last season with three herniated discs, a face mask and a knee brace from injuries she suffered on the court. 

Her decision to play is still forthcoming - a decision that she should never have to make. Delle Donne admits that her choice is no different than what many Americans have had to weigh during the pandemic and many are in worse financial shape than she is. But if this situation taught her anything, it's to admit when someone doesn't know something.

"Probably the best lesson I’ve learned through my experience with Lyme disease — is this: There’s so much in the world that we don’t know," Delle Donne said.

And right now there is so much the WNBA doesn't know about Lyme disease. 

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