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Utah ties abound on playoff rosters

Published: Friday, Jan. 7 2011 9:33 p.m. MST

Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets gets sacked by Haloti Ngata #92 of the Baltimore Ravens during their home opener at the New Meadowlands Stadium on September 13, 2010.

Andrew Burton, Getty Images

Of the 12 teams to qualify for the NFL playoffs, seven have at least one player with local ties on their active roster.

The Chiefs joined the club during the week when they signed free agent receiver Kevin Curtis. The former standout at Bingham High, Snow College and Utah State joined his second team of the season when the Chiefs were looking for additional help for their offense.

Curtis, who was out of football while dealing with testicular cancer, played for the Miami Dolphins for two games this season before getting released. He was off for a week before the Chiefs, who host the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC Wild Card game on Sunday, snatched him up.

"I'll be brought up to speed and I'm preparing to play," Curtis told the Kansas City Star earlier in the week. "I'm ready to do whatever I'm asked, whatever that may be. I'm not here to just come in and enjoy the show. I'm here to learn the playbook and if called upon, I'll be ready to go. I've got a pretty easy job. I'll put everything into catching up and learning where I'm supposed to be."

Curtis was signed by the Chiefs when the team had injury concerns about top wideout Dwayne Bowe. There is no guarantee he'll play against the Ravens on Sunday, but his presence wouldn't hurt. Kansas City was manhandled in a 31-10 loss to the Raiders last week.

Curtis and the Chiefs' opponent — the Ravens — feature the most local players of any team playing this weekend. Baltimore has four players that local football fans may want to root for in Highland High's Haloti Ngata, Utah's Paul Kruger and David Reed, and BYU's Dennis Pitta.

Ngata is one of the NFL's top defensive players. Earlier this week, he was named the Ravens' MVP by the local media. Ngata had 65 tackles and 5.5 sacks during the regular season.

"That's pretty cool. Thank you, guys," Ngata told the Baltimore media. "I felt like this year has been different with my pass rush. I feel I got a little better there, and hopefully I can continue to improve in that game and just get better. Hopefully I can be around Baltimore because I love being here."

Kruger battled injuries early in the year and missed five games. Reed has become the Ravens' kickoff returner, and Pitta plays mostly on special teams.

Fans who watch pro football to follow local players can skip the first playoff game of the weekend, featuring New Orleans and Seattle, and not just because the 7-9 Seahawks are involved. Neither team has any local players on its active roster.

The Jets and Colts, playing in the second wild card game today, each have one local player on the active roster. The Jets feature starting defensive tackle Sione Pouha, from East High and the University of Utah. BYU's Aaron Francisco starts at safety for the Colts.

Indianapolis is without receiver Austin Collie after the BYU product suffered two scary concussions during the season.

The Packers and Eagles play the final playoff game of the weekend on Sunday following the Ravens-Chiefs contest. Green Bay features a former Utah State player in Jarrett Bush, who plays mostly on special teams and some on defense. Stewart Bradley, Philadelphia's starting middle linebacker, is uncertain to play after grotesquely dislocating his elbow four weeks ago.

The Packers have one player with local ties on injured reserve in former BYU linebacker Brady Poppinga.

Of the four teams to earn a first-round bye, only the Pittsburgh Steelers have players with local ties on their roster. They are Chris Hoke (BYU), Brett Keisel (BYU), Chris Kemoeatu (Utah) and Stevenson Sylvester (Utah).

e-mail: aaragon@desnews.com

NFL Wild Card Weekend

Saturday

Saints at Seahawks, 2:30 p.m., NBC

Colts at Jets, 6 p.m., NBC

Sunday

Ravens at Chiefs, 1 p.m., CBS

Packers at Eagles, 2:30 p.m., FOXActive local players on NFL playoff teams

Chiefs: WR Kevin Curtis (Bingham High/Snow College/Utah State)

Jets: DT Sione Pouha (East High/Utah)

Colts: DB Aaron Francisco (BYU)

Ravens: LB Paul Kruger (Utah), DT Haloti Ngata (Highland High), TE Dennis Pitta (BYU), WR/KR David Reed (Utah)

Eagles: LB Stewart Bradley (Highland High)

Packers: DB Jarrett Bush (Utah State)

Steelers: DT Chris Hoke (BYU), DE Brett Keisel (BYU), OL Chris Kemoeatu (Utah), LB Stevenson Sylvester (Utah)NFL Wild Card Weekend

Saturday

Saints at Seahawks,

2:30 p.m., NBC

Colts at Jets,

6 p.m., NBC

Sunday

Ravens at Chiefs,

1 p.m., CBS

Packers at Eagles,

2:30 p.m., FOXActive local players on NFL playoff teams

Chiefs: WR Kevin Curtis (Bingham High

Snow College/Utah State)

Jets: DT Sione Pouha (East High

Utah)

Colts: DB Aaron Francisco (BYU)

Ravens: LB Paul Kruger (Utah), DT Haloti Ngata (Highland High), TE Dennis Pitta (BYU), WR

KR David Reed (Utah)

Eagles: LB Stewart Bradley (Highland High)

Packers: DB Jarrett Bush (Utah State)

Steelers: DT Chris Hoke (BYU), DE Brett Keisel (BYU), OL Chris Kemoeatu (Utah), LB Stevenson Sylvester (Utah)

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