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Peterson double winner of AP NFL awards

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Peterson double winner of AP NFL awards

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Adrian Peterson called it a blessing in disguise.

Strange way to describe career-threatening major knee surgery.

The Minnesota Vikings' star came back better than ever, just missing Eric Dickerson's longstanding rushing record and closing out the season with two of the top NFL awards from The Associated Press: Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year.

As sort of an added bonus, he beat Peyton Manning for both of them Saturday night.

``My career could have easily been over, just like that,'' the sensational running back said. ``Oh man. The things I've been through throughout my lifetime has made me mentally tough.

`` I'm kind of speechless. This is amazing, '' he said in accepting his awards, along with five others at the ``2nd Annual NFL Honors'' show on CBS saluting the NFL's best players, performances and plays from the 2012 season. The awards are based on balloting from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL.

Manning's own sensational recovery, from four neck surgeries, earned him Comeback Player honors.

``This injury was unlike any other,'' said the only four-time league MVP. ``There really was no bar or standard, there were no notes to copy. We were coming up with a rehab plan as we went.''

Before sitting out 2011, Manning had never missed a start in his first 13 seasons with Indianapolis. But he was released by the Colts last winter because of his neck issues, signed with Denver and guided the Broncos to the AFC's best record, 13-3.

``Certainly you have double variables of coming off injury, not playing for over year and joining a new team. That certainly added a lot to my plate, so it was hard to really know what to expect,'' Manning said. ``I can't tell you how grateful and thankful I am. I can't tell you how happy I am to be playing the game of football we all love so much.''

Also honored were:

-Washington's Robert Griffin III, who beat out a strong crop of quarterbacks for the top offensive rookie award.

- Houston end J.J. Watt, who took Defensive Player of the Year, getting 49 of 50 votes.

- Bruce Arians, the first interim coach to win Coach of the Year after leading Indianapolis to a 9-3 record while head man Chuck Pagano was being treated for leukemia. Arians became Arizona's head coach last month.

-Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, the league's leader in tackles with 164, who won the top defensive rookie award.

Peterson returned better than ever from the left knee surgery, rushing for 2,097 yards, 9 short of breaking Dickerson's record. He also sparked the Vikings' turnaround from 3-13 to 10-6 and a wild-card playoff berth.

He received 30 1-2 votes to 19 1-2 for Manning.

``I played my heart out, every opportunity I had,'' Peterson said. ``The result of that is not what I wanted, which is being in the Super Bowl game. But I have a couple of good pieces of hardware to bring back and (put) in my statue area. So it feels good.''

Was the knee injury the toughest thing he'd ever overcome?

``Losing my brother at 7, seeing him get hit by a car right in front of me, that was the toughest,'' he said. ``But as far as injuries, yes.''

New England QB Tom Brady was the last winner of MVP and Offensive Player in 2010.

``Trying to get two or three like Peyton, trying to get to your level,'' Peterson said of his first MVP award. ``But I won't be there to accept it because I'll be winning with my coach, the most important award, the team award, the Super Bowl.''

Dickerson predicted Peterson could get back to 2,000 yards.

``I hope he does have a chance to do it again,'' Dickerson said, adding with a laugh, ``but do I want him to break it? No, I do not.''

Wearing a burgundy and gold tie in honor of his Redskins, Griffin said his goal is to be ready for the season opener.

``It's truly a blessing to be up there - to be able to stand, first and foremost,'' said Griffin, who underwent knee surgery last month. He added that next season ``you'll see a better Robert Griffin.''

Arians moved up from offensive coordinator and helped Indianapolis make the playoffs at 10-6, making him an easy winner in the balloting.

``It's hard to put into words the feelings of this past year,'' he said. ``This was kind of the cherry on the top, whipped cream and everything else you put on top.''

Watt swatted the competition as Denver's Von Miller got the only other vote in the most lopsided balloting of all the awards.

``It sets the bar for me,'' Watt said. He led the NFL with 20 1-2 sacks and also blocked an astounding 16 passes. ``I want to go out and do even better. I want to do even bigger things.''

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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

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USA TODAY Sports

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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