Peyton Manning loses one of his key weapons

866075.jpg

Peyton Manning loses one of his key weapons

From Comcast SportsNetENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- The lockers of the running backs who might take Willis McGahee's spot in the Broncos lineup are conveniently lined up, four in a row.Lance Ball. Knowshon Moreno. Jeremiah Johnson. Ronnie Hillman.Barring an unlikely free agent signing, some combination of those four will be asked to fill in for the foreseeable future for Denver's leading rusher, McGahee, who tore a ligament in his right knee and will be out for what's expected to be a six-to-eight week stint."We've all got to step up and do our part," Hillman said. "Anyone can be an option."Coach John Fox said McGahee's injury, suffered in the second quarter of Denver's 30-23 victory over San Diego on Sunday, will not require surgery and that the Broncos had no immediate plans to put the 10th-year veteran on injured reserve. Asked about reports that McGahee had also fractured his leg, Fox said, "I don't want to get into too much of the exacts, other than he will not be on IR."By not putting him on injured reserve, the Broncos, at 7-3 and with a three-game lead in the AFC West, could be thinking about a playoff-time return for their leading rusher, who has 731 yards this year and was having one of his best games of the season -- 55 yards on seven carries -- before the injury Sunday.In the meantime, they must find a fill-in for McGahee, who was more reliable than explosive and spearheaded a 19th-ranked running game that's averaging 105.3 per contest. Unlike last season, when Tim Tebow was at the helm, the running game is more complimentary than integral to an offense now run by Peyton Manning.McGahee has built his career on adjusting to circumstances.Back in 2003, he was finishing his college career at Miami and was considered among the very top prospects. But in the Fiesta Bowl, he tore all the ligaments in his left knee. After multiple surgeries, McGahee fell to 23rd in the draft, and even then, he sat out his first NFL season while rehabilitating the knee.From there, he opened his career with three 1,000-yard seasons over his first four years. He went on to surpass 8,000 yards over a sturdy decade at a position where careers are often cut short. The Broncos are his third NFL team and he is ranked first among active players with 33 100-yard games."His leadership. Power running. You talk about a guy who gets you the tough yards. Those are things we're definitely going to miss," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "But there's a good young group behind him."Listed behind McGahee on last week's depth chart was Hillman, the NFL's youngest player at 21 years, 2 months, 5 days old. He's a third-round draft pick out of San Diego State who ran for 1,711 yards for the Aztecs last season and has slowly been getting more playing time with the Broncos as he has picked up the intricacies of NFL pass protection.At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, he looks more like a so-called "change-of-pace" back, though offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said earlier this season that the Broncos hadn't slotted Hillman solely for that. Hillman said he could carry the ball 20 or more times if asked."If it happens, it happens. If not, I'll just come in and play my role," he said.The next candidate is Ball, a fourth-year veteran out of Maryland, who has been a dependable backup and special teams player but is still looking for his first NFL start. Shuttling in and out with Hillman after McGahee went down against the Chargers, Ball's biggest play of the day came when he slid over to block an oncoming Chargers linebacker, allowing Manning time to throw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker.Ball's biggest rushing game came last year at Kansas City -- where the Broncos play next -- when he ran 30 times for 96 yards after both McGahee and Moreno went out with injuries."I think we all have each other's back," Ball said. "If Ronnie needs to come out or if he feels like I need to step in for him, I think we keep it rolling. I think that's our mentality, is we keep the ball rolling."Moreno, the team's 2009 first-round draft pick, recovered from a torn knee ligament in that game at Kansas City last year and was expected to get playing time in 2012. He hasn't been on the active roster, however, since losing a fumble in Week 2 against Atlanta."That was weeks ago. I'm not thinking about that," Moreno said. "All I'm thinking about now is now, and doing the things I need to do to get on the field."Johnson, meanwhile, has been on Denver's practice squad all season -- a demotion of sorts after playing in eight games last season, rushing 14 times for 77 yards."That just gives you more of an attitude to go out there and work a little bit harder and show your teammates and the coaches that you're willing to do anything for that team," he said. "That's what I've been trying to display to my guys, and hopefully they've taken to it."Fox didn't rule out bringing running backs in for a look this week, though signing one would mean finding a roster spot for him. At least at this point, moving McGahee to IR didn't sound like a possibility."Right now, we feel really good about the guys we have," Fox said. "They've trained in our system. It's pretty extensive."Notes: Fox said CB Omar Bolden's (concussion) status would be evaluated day-to-day. ... LB D.J. Williams played 21 snaps in his return and made four tackles. "He had a couple of errors. Just like everybody, he's not perfect," Fox said. "I thought, all in all, he had a very good performance."

Spooner, Bruins nearly $2 million apart in arbitration figures

bruins_ryan_spooner_120216.jpg

Spooner, Bruins nearly $2 million apart in arbitration figures

The figures and briefs are in for the Bruins and Ryan Spooner for their arbitration hearing Wednesday, but both sides are still hoping that a deal can be reached prior to it. The Bruins have submitted a one-year contract offer for $2 million. Spooner’s camp countered with $3.85 million, creating a sizeable gap of almost $2 million between the two.

Spooner, 25, has averaged 12 goals and 44 points the past two seasons with the B’s, including 35 power-play points while working the half-wall for a Boston PP that’s been ranked seventh overall two seasons in a row.

MORE BRUINS

Spooner is coming off a two-year contract worth $1.95 million and his is a complicated situation for the Black and Gold. Spooner holds significant value as a trade piece and has been an important part of a very effective power play, but he also finished the playoffs as a healthy scratch after going quietly the past few months of the season.

Spooner was one of the major pieces discussed in trade talks with the Minnesota Wild around the draft prior to the Wild shipping Marco Scandella to the Buffalo Sabres and he's been involved in trade discussions with several teams the past couple of years.

The Bruins have prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson waiting in the wings if/when the B’s decided to spin Spooner to another team, but they also enjoy his speed and playmaking when he’s on his game. There’s clearly a scenario where the Bruins start the season with Spooner installed as their third-line center and perhaps explore more trade discussions while seeing if a full season under Bruce Cassidy can unlock his significant offensive potential.

If that's still in the plan, they’d be wise to come to an agreement and avoid the hearing Wednesday where they’d ostensibly be bad-mouthing a player they’d want back on their team. The Bruins have the right to walk away from Spooner should he be awarded the full $3.85 million by the arbiter. Still, it’s hard to believe they’d do that given that he’s a homegrown asset with trade value.

The feeling at this address is that there’s a deal to be made between the two sides for something around the $3 million mark. That’s something that would be worthwhile for the Bruins if they have any designs on continuing on with Spooner. 

Report: Kyrie Irving believes LeBron James leaked trade request news

Report: Kyrie Irving believes LeBron James leaked trade request news

Noting that LeBron James "wants the world to know that he had absolutely nothing to do with Kyrie Irving deciding that he wanted to be traded," Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN Monday that Irving believes King James may have been the one who leaked the news last week. 

It was reported Friday that Irving wanted out of Cleveland in what's been a tumultuous offseason for the Cavs. Smith said that the timing of the leak has many close to the situation suspicious.

"According to my sources, they believe LeBron James had everything to do with news getting out that Kyrie Irving wants to be traded. Because Kyrie Irving and his representation and others met with the Cavaliers a couple weeks ago, and not a word got out until recently," Smith said.

"They believe that LeBron James got word of it and was put off by it and leaked it. I’m not going to accuse LeBron of such a thing. I don’t know that to be true at all, but I know that’s what Kyrie Irving believes. 

Still just 25, Irving has three seasons left on a team-friendly five-year, $94.3 million deal.