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Bills don’t sound sold on Fitzpatrick’s future

Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

The Bills have a decision to make soon on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and they’re not ready to say he’s part of their future.

Bills president Russ Brandon declined comment when asked by Tim Graham of the Buffalo News if Fitzpatrick’s roster spot was safe, deferring to general manager Buddy Nix and coach Doug Marrone and the ever-popular “evaluation” period that seems so common among teams making uncomfortable decisions.

Fitzpatrick is due a $3 million roster bonus in March, but Brandon said the Bills have not approached him about restructuring.

“I think it’s too early to talk about that at this point,” Brandon said. “Fitz is on our roster, and that’s where he is right now.”

“Right now” is the operative phrase in that sentence, and hardly an endorsement.

“The main thing there is we’re continuing to evaluate, and that’s more in line with how Buddy and Doug come out on that,” Brandon said. “We’re looking at everything and evaluating every aspect of the organization.

“I’m evaluating the organization from top to bottom. Those guys are evaluating the roster. We’ll see where that goes.”

Cutting Fitzpatrick would drop a $10 million dead money bomb on the Bills’ salary cap, so restructuring the deal to spread out the hit would be an option, though it’s unclear if they want him around at all.

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Bears release Antrel Rolle

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 09:  Antrel Rolle #26 of the Chicago Bears warms up before a game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 9, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears took three defensive backs during the final day of the draft on Saturday and it appears those rookie additions to the roster were a precursor to a veteran deletion.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Bears have released Antrel Rolle and Rolle has tweeted a farewell to Chicago. Rolle signed a three-year contract with the team before last season and was set to make a base salary of $2.4 million in 2016.

None of that money is guaranteed, so the Bears wouldn’t be on the hook for any money if Rolle remained with the team into camp but his first year in Chicago was apparently enough to leave the Bears feeling confident about moving on. Rolle played in seven games and ended the year on injured reserve with a knee injury, neither of which is a good omen for a player turning 34 in December.

Rolle never missed a game in five previous seasons with the Giants, however, and played well enough when healthy that he could get a look elsewhere this offseason.

The Bears took Deon Bush and Deiondre’ Hall in the fourth round before adding DeAndre Houston-Carson in the sixth round. Bush and Houston-Carson are listed as safeties. Hall is listed as a corner, but some think his best shot at an NFL future will come with a position switch.

 

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Su’a Cravens listed as a safety

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 19:  Su'a Cravens #21 of the University of Southern California Trojans awaits the snap against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on October 19, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated USC 14-10.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

After Su’a Cravens was drafted by the Redskins in the second round of the draft, he said that the late Sean Taylor was his all-time favorite safety and hoped that he would “be half as good as” one of his predecessors in the organization.

Cravens’ link to Taylor will go beyond just sharing an employer. Cravens will wear No. 36 as a rookie, which was the same number that Taylor wore during his first season with the team. Taylor then switched to No. 21, which Cravens wore while at USC.

A player wearing the same number as Taylor might as well play the same position and the Redskins announced that they are listing Cravens as a safety. He was listed as a linebacker in college.

Whichever way the Redskins choose to list Cravens is fine as his role is expected to be a hybrid of the two spots that sees Cravens line up in a variety of positions and fulfilling a variety of responsibilities. It’s an approach that we’ve seen more and more of around the league and the Redskins hope it’s part of the plan for a better defense in 2016.

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Lions “followed through” on Bob Quinn’s goal of getting tougher up front

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  (L-R) Taylor Decker of Ohio State holds up a jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #16 overall by the Detroit Lions during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The last time the Lions took a total of five offensive and defensive linemen in a draft was in 1989, when the proceedings lasted for 12 rounds.

It’s a seven-round affair these days, but the Lions were able to match that figure because General Manager Bob Quinn made improving the group in the trenches a priority. The Lions took offensive tackle Taylor Decker in the first round, then followed with defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and center Graham Glasgow on the second day. Offensive lineman Joe Dahl and defensive end Anthony Zettel closed things out on Saturday.

The group — “the bigger, the better,” Quinn said of what he was looking for on both sides of the ball — left Quinn feeling satisfied about his efforts to give the team a more physical attitude up front.

“Absolutely, that was one of my goals going into the draft and I felt like there was a lot of players at different levels of the draft that we could do that,” Quinn said, via the Detroit News. “So, it was a goal of mine, it was a goal of coach [Jim] Caldwell’s, and I think we followed through on that.”

The Lions aren’t locking Decker into the left or right side, although he played left tackle at Ohio State and improving on Riley Rieff was seen as a goal for the Lions this offseason. Robinson will likely be part of the rotation on the interior of the defense right away and Quinn said Glasgow will compete with incumbent center Travis Swanson, so there should be plenty of chances to see how well Quinn did in adding fight up front.

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Bradford could blow starting job if he stays away too long

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Sam Bradford remains an Eagle. He also remains the team’s starting quarterback. One of those things could change in time — and not the one Bradford wants to change.

Comments from coach Doug Pederson make it clear that, at some point, Bradford’s absence will affect his status at the top of the depth chart.

“Anybody that’s not in any of the 32 offseason programs is losing valuable time at that club,” Pederson said, via Josh Paunil of PhillyMag.com. “So anybody that’s not in the offseason program, yes, would lose the time.”

Bradford reportedly isn’t taking calls from Pederson, and Pederson told reporters on Saturday that he hasn’t spoken to Bradford since Bradford commenced his quest for a trade.

It’s unclear how much time Bradford would have to miss before he’d slide on the depth chart. At some point, however, that will happen.

“I think it depends on how and when he does come back and how fast we can catch him up and put him back in that situation and see where he’s at at that time,” Pederson said, via Paunil. “Again, no one makes the team in April. We’re not making any roster adjustments and letting people go. It’s all about evaluation, and he’s in that evaluation process. But as I’ve said in the past, he was one, Chase [Daniel] is two and we’re moving on from there.”

The Eagles have insisted that they won’t trade Bradford, who apparently isn’t willing to compete after having playing time handed to him since 2010, thanks to the last windfall No. 1 overall contract.

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Jaguars sign nine undrafted free agents

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: Max Wittek #13 of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors throws the football in warm ups before the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars loaded up on defensive players in the draft by using six of their seven picks on that side of the ball.

They announced a group of undrafted free agent signings on Sunday that was more balanced. The team has signed nine undrafted rookies and five of them play on the offensive side of the ball.

One of those additions is quarterback Max Wittek of Hawaii, who signs with the team a day after they drafted Brandon Allen in the sixth round. With Chad Henne back for another year backing up Blake Bortles, there’s likely only going to be room for one of those two in Jacksonville once the summer comes to an end. Wittek spent one year in Hawaii after transferring from USC, where he was beaten out by Browns third-round pick Cody Kessler.

The Jaguars also signed South Alabama tight end Braedon Bowman, Southern Miss tackle Rashod Hill, Louisiana-Lafayette wide receiver Jamal Robinson and San Diego State tackle Pearce Slater on the offensive side of the ball. Minnesota cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Ole Miss cornerback Mike Hilton and Michigan safety Jarrod Wilson were added on defense and Texas kicker Jaden Oberkrom joins the specialists.

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Subscribe to the PFT Live podcast now, please (but now)

PFTLive

Every Sunday (when I remember), I point out to the ProFootballTalk.com audience that there are more ways to get PFT content. Specifically, the podcast for the PFT Live radio show can be downloaded for free.

The best way to download it is to subscribe to it. That way, you don’t have to remember to download it.

If you subscribe to the PFT Live podcast, you’ll have constant access to NFL news, analysis, debate, and interviews presented in a way intended to be humorous at times, and entertaining always. (Key word: Intended. Whether it’s actually humorous or entertaining is a different question.)

Judge for yourself whether there’s anything informative, humorous, and/or entertaining about the PFT Live podcast by checking it out at iTunes or audioBoom.

Last week’s shows featured visits from folks like Adam Gase, Howie Roseman, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, Connor Cook, Laquon TreadwellMatt Forte, DeMaurice Smith. This week’s shows will pack in plenty of conversations with General Managers who just stocked their rosters via the draft.

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DeAndre Hopkins looking forward to fewer double teams in 2016

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 28:   DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans reacts to a call during the second half of their game against the Buffalo Bills at NRG Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins played with four different starting quarterbacks and without a big threat at the other wideout spot, but still caught 111 passes for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns to help the Texans to the playoffs.

The Texans have worked to remedy both of those issues this offseason. Brock Osweiler is the new quarterback and Houston spent two of its first three draft picks on wide receivers. After the Texans added first-round pick Will Fuller and third-round pick Braxton Miller, Hopkins shared his excitement on Twitter.

“Ain’t no more double teams baby!” Hopkins wrote.

Fuller and Miller both have the speed to stretch defenses and open up other parts of the field for Hopkins. Fuller needs to be more consistent catching the ball and Miller is still new to the position, leading coach Bill O’Brien to point out that teams are going to make the rookies prove they can do it while discussing the motivation for the moves.

“Trying to get it where he could be more one-on-one and things like that,” O’Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I think that’s what we’ve done with this offensive skill draft class. We’ve taken some guys that we think can really help us in space, help us at the receiver position and help us do a lot of different things, which in turn will help DeAndre and free him up a little bit more.”

Lamar Miller and fourth-round pick Tyler Ervin are new at running back, so there’s a lot of integration to be done before the season starts. If all comes together, everyone in Houston should be happier about the offensive situation than they were last year.

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Browns sign son of Bruce Matthews to UDFA deal

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 27:  Mike Matthews #56 of the Texas A&M Aggies celebrates with Josh Reynolds #11 of the Texas A&M Aggies after after Reynolds scored the game-tying touchdown against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the fourth quarter of the Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns signed former Texas AM center Mike Matthews after the conclusion of the draft. Matthews is the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the Browns gave Matthews a $7,500 signing bonus on a three-year contract and guaranteed $2,500 of his 2016 salary. Those are big numbers for an undrafted free agent, a sign that the Browns prioritized Matthews and knew they had competition for his services.

The Browns have an opening at center after Alex Mack signed with the Falcons. 2015 first-rounder Cameron Erving probably gets first crack at the job, but with a new staff and no one on the roster with significant NFL center experience, there could be a camp battle for the job.

Matthews was a three-year starter at Texas A&M like his brother, Jake, who now plays tackle for the Falcons. His uncle, Clay Matthews Jr., was a star linebacker with the Browns from 1978-93. His cousin, Clay Matthews III, is a star linebacker with the Packers.

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Vernon Adams to get tryout with Seahawks

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Former Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams played well in the East-West Shrine Game. Not well enough to get drafted. And not well enough to be included in the land rush of undrafted players who sign immediately after the draft. But well enough to earn a chance to attend a rookie minicamp and show what he can do in the hopes of getting a spot on the 90-man roster.

According to multiple reports, Adams will participate in Seattle’s rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. Technically, it means he could be signed by another team before then. As a practical matter, it means that his agents already have determined that there’s no one that currently wants to sign him.

Last week, Adams declared himself to be better than the guy who ended up being the No. 1 overall pick.

“Honestly, if I’m not as good as him I am better than him,” Adams told Dan Patrick regarding Rams quarterback Jared Goff. “I’m not going to sit here and say he’s better than me because there’s nothing that he’s doing that I can’t do.”

And it’s not just blind optimism. Adams conceded in the same interview that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, the No. 2 pick in the draft, is better than Adams.

“He’s the only quarterback in this draft that I can literally say he’s better than me,” Adams told Patrick regarding Wentz. “I’ve seen him at the Combine. . . . He made every single throw. I’ve been watching him since we were both freshmen. He’s a legit quarterback.”

Adams will get a chance to prove to the Seahawks soon that he’s at least good enough to be a camp arm. If/when Adams does that, he can prove that he’s good enough to be on the 53-man roster.

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Bengals’ line coach decries “witch hunt” against his center

GLENDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 22:  Center Russell Bodine #61 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Many in Cincinnati hoped the Bengals would draft a center to replace the current starter, Russell Bodine. The Bengals’ offensive line coach doesn’t appreciate that.

When reporters asked Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander whether fifth-round rookie guard Christian Westerman could move to center and earn the starting job, Alexander got angry.

“You guys are asking about the Bodine witch hunt, right?” Alexander said. “This is a young player who is playing in his third year with a bunch of veterans and very good offensive linemen and he’s the last one right now because he’s the youngest. But I don’t care what anyone else says I think Bodine is a hell of a player. That’s where I’m at on that.”

Alexander said a recent trip to the barbershop was ruined because all three barbers working there were complaining about Bodine.

“It pissed me off,” he said. “They got three Italian barbers there all yelling at each other, they are all brothers and they are getting on me about Bodine. I finally had to tell one to eff off. Jeez, I can’t even get my haircut in peace.”

It’s a shame that Gino and Enzo didn’t let Alexander get his hair cut in peace, but the questions aren’t going away. Especially if Westerman shows promise and Bodine continues to struggle.

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Family ties meant nothing to Belichick when picking Ted Karras

webster-35x240-getty-images Getty Images

As noted in the Sunday morning one-liners, the Patriots made Ted Karras one of their 2016 draft picks. Ted Karras is the great-nephew of former NFL great-turned-actor Alex Karras.

Did the family connection factor in to the decision? Said coach Bill Belichick when asked that question by reporters at a post-draft press conference: “No.” (Hey, at least Belichick uttered an actual word.)

As it turns out, the NFL connection to the Karras family extends well beyond Uncle Alex, who died in 2012.

“My whole family is football players and football coaches,” Ted Karras told reporters after becoming the 221st pick in the draft. “Every male in my family has played college football. I’ll be in the fifth in the NFL in my family and I’m very grateful to join that fraternity. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play in the NFL.”

While the connection may not have attracted the Patriots to Karras, it helped Karras get ready for his chosen profession.

“A lot of them have been giving me advice my whole life,” Karras said. “We’re a tough family. We’ve all played and everyone’s an interior lineman. That’s kind of been our M.O. throughout me growing up. I knew I was going to be a lineman early and they’ve been giving me tips throughout each stage of my career and I’ve been able to deliver so far.”

In addition to Alex Karras, who played for the Lions from 1958 through 1970, Ted’s other great uncle, Lou Karras, played from 1950 through 1952. Ted’s father, also Ted, played one game as a replacement player during the 1987 strike and his grandfather, also Ted, played from 1958 through 1966.

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Terron Beckham, Odell’s cousin, lands tryout with Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 06:  Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants misses the ball in overtime against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 6, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. He then kicked the ball and got a penalty for delay of game.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Terron Beckham didn’t play football in college, but the combination of an impressive physique, a strong workout and family ties to the Giants’ best wide receiver were enough to get him on the radar of NFL teams in the weeks leading up to the draft.

He wasn’t eligible to be drafted, but he will get a chance to earn a longer look from the team that shares a stadium with cousin Odell’s squad. Terron Beckham told the New York Daily News that he will attend the Jets’ rookie minicamp this week and that he’s excited about the chance to show off his skills.

“I’m shaking right now, boss,” Beckham said.

It’s a long shot that Beckham, who will be working as a running back, will wind up with a roster spot. He’s got a chance, though, and couldn’t have asked for much more given the route he’s trying to take to the NFL.

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Chargers announced undrafted free agent signings

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - OCTOBER 17: Quarterback Mike Bercovici #2 of the Arizona State Sun Devils drops back to pass during the third quarter of their 34-18 loss to the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers drafted eight players over the seven rounds of this year’s draft and they expanded their rookie class to 27 players by announcing they’ve reached agreement with 19 undrafted free agents.

Among the group is quarterback Mike Bercovici, who threw for 5,299 yards at Arizona State over the last two seasons. Kellen Clemens is the backup for Philip Rivers, which will likely leave Bercovici to battle with Bryn Renner for a developmental spot at the back of the depth chart or on the practice squad.

The Chargers also added a pair of teammates from Houston — running back Kenneth Farrow and safety Adrian McDonald — and a pair from West Virginia — cornerback Terrell Chestnut and linebacker Shaq Petteway — as they look for an undrafted player who can make their roster. The Chargers have had at least one in each of the last 18 seasons.

Jacksonville State linebacker Chris Landrum, Georgia Tech linebacker Tyler Marcordes, Oregon State cornerback Larry Scott, Penn State cornerback Trevor Williams, Duke defensive end Carlos Wray, Marshall guard Sebastian Johansson, Oregon tackle Tyler Johnstone, Montana wide receiver Jamaal Jones, Ohio guard Mike McQueen, Colorado Mesa tackle Zeth Ramsay, Marshall wide receiver Deandre Reaves, Vanderbilt center Spencer Pulley, Navy running back Chris Swain and Washington State wide receiver Dominique Williams round out the group.

UPDATE 12:46 p.m. ET: The Chargers announced Georgia tight end Jay Rome was part of the group as well, which conflicted with the Steelers announcing that Rome was part of their own crop of undrafted additions. Rome says he’s a Steeler, so we’ve removed him from the Chargers’ list.

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Panthers G.M. admits drafting to need, but says he didn’t reach

Dave Gettleman AP

Every General Manager in the NFL loves to talk about taking the best player available, and not falling victim to reaching for certain players to fill specific needs.

So it’s natural that Panthers G.M. Dave Gettleman felt he had to explain himself, after drafting three cornerbacks among his five picks this weekend.

After drafting to one of his team’s deepest positions with defensive tackle Vernon Butler in the first, the Panthers then chose Samford cornerback James Bradberry in the second round, traded up to take West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley in the third round and then took Oklahoma cornerback Zack Sanchez in the fifth.

Gettleman was forced to admit that after taking the franchise tag off cornerback Josh Norman, the Panthers had to adapt their philosophy to make sure they had a depth chart.

“It did. It has to,” he said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “You have to prevent position disasters.”

With Norman gone and fellow starter Bene Benwikere still recovering from last year’s broken leg, the Panthers didn’t have much to work with. They did go get nickel Brandon Boykin this offseason, but needed to add corners in bulk.

Gettleman said that after a second-round run on corners — Xavien Howard, Mackensie Alexander, Sean Davis and Cyrus Jones — that Bradberry and Worley were the next two on their board.

“We are very pleased, to say the least. They’re both big, they’re both long, they both can run, they’re both physical and they both have really good ball skills,” Gettleman said. “The best part of this thing, I promise you, I’m not lying, we did not reach. . . .

“Very honestly, if you told me two nights ago we were going to come out with Vernon Butler and these two corners, I would’ve been very happy. Again, I don’t feel like we reached, I know we didn’t reach. We didn’t. And I’m excited about it.”

It’s hard to tell whether Gettleman’s trying to convince us or himself, but the Panthers added the needed reinforcements in the secondary. And with the luxury of walking into the draft with so few holes on a talented roster, it was something he could afford to do to fix a shallow position, much in the same way he doubled up on defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short in 2013.

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Taylor Lewan: I know that I’m a left tackle

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 09:  Taylor Lewan #77 of the Tennessee Titans blocks against of the Green Bay Packers at LP Field on August 9, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Titans owned the first overall pick in the draft, there was a lot of speculation that they’d use that pick on tackle Laremy Tunsil with designs on making him their left tackle of the future.

That didn’t happen as the Titans traded the pick to the Rams and then passed on Tunsil in favor of tackle Jack Conklin after moving back up to the eighth pick in the first round in another trade with the Browns. That decision may have been impacted by the infamous gas mask video that surfaced just before the start of the draft, but last year’s left tackle Taylor Lewan thinks it was because the team believes he’s the right man for the job.

“To me, honestly, I never thought anything of it because I know I’m not a right tackle,” Lewan said, via the Tennessean. “I’m a left tackle. I knew I was the left tackle for this team and I knew once I had the opportunity to talk to Mr. [Jon] Robinson and Coach [Mike] Mularkey that they would hear my piece and where I was from. And I respect them to the Nth degree. They’re unbelievable. An unbelievable G.M., an unbelievable coach, and I would do a lot for this team. But I know I came in here, I know my worth as a player, and I know that I’m a left tackle. So I think it’s my job now to prove that I can be more consistent this year and do those things. But as far as worrying about it and stuff like that, I never did, because I know the kind of player that I am.”

The Titans haven’t said how they’ll line up, but Conklin looks like a good fit right off the bat as the right tackle for Mularkey’s desired “exotic smashmouth” offense. The Titans picked up running back Derrick Henry and guard Sebastian Tretola to help on that front as well as they hope to build an offense that offers better support and protection for Marcus Mariota in his second season.

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