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Marvin Lewis’ plan to fix Bengals? Bring back Hue Jackson – Cincinnati Bengals Blog


CINCINNATI — A reunion between Marvin Lewis and Hue Jackson seemed destined from almost the minute Jackson was fired in Cleveland on Oct. 29. The only surprise is that it took this long.

So why did it seem so obvious that this would happen?

Lewis and Jackson have an incredibly close relationship and talk on the phone almost every week. Lewis probably trusts Jackson as much as anyone he ever has had on staff, enough to bring him back to the fold three separate times. He’s going to need that now that he’s down a staff member.

Things changed quickly once Lewis fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and took over playcalling duties himself. There aren’t many coaches who actually take on both roles, which probably is why Lewis placed a call to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on the night of a disastrous 51-14 loss to the Saints, likely seeking advice.

That’s not to mention the fact Lewis hasn’t actually called the defensive plays on a regular basis since he was the Redskins’ defensive coordinator in 2002. The last time was in 2004, when he took over the playcalling from Leslie Frazier in a 34-17 loss to the Browns. He gave it back the next week, but Frazier ended up getting fired at the end of the season.

“It’s different [on defense], because on offense most of the decisions are made. Most of the things happen on offense,” Lewis said. “You don’t decide whether the offense is going for it on fourth down when you’re calling the offense, you already did. But the defense doesn’t decide whether the offense is going for it on fourth down and so forth. That’s why you see fewer on defense.”

Lewis admitted he quickly felt like he wasn’t able to be on top of everything against the Saints while he was trying to pull the defense out of its slump. Lewis usually leaves that sort of thing to his coordinators, but he went to the defensive players himself that day to try to snap them out of it. That meant he wasn’t seeing what was happening on offense.

“A lot of things happen when you’re on defense. I had my back turned yesterday to the offense a couple times, trying to bring the defense together. Things happen,” he said. “It could be whether or not we made a catch, and if we made a first down or not. If I’ve got my back turned, I have to make the decision if we’re going for it. Are we in four-down territory? I have to let Bill [Lazor] know and the quarterback know that they have three downs here. Those kind of things. If I have my back turned by making corrections or whatever, I can’t do that. I’m going to try to minimize that as much as possible. I feel strongly that I have to make the correction to coach the defense right now.”

When asked how he planned to handle both roles going forward, he grinned.

“I’ve got a plan,” he said. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

That plan apparently comes in the form of Jackson, although it’s unclear just what he’s going to do on game day. Lewis implied in a statement that Jackson would help on defense, when his entire coaching background is on offense. Jackson was a secondary assistant for the Bengals in 2012, but that was essentially a placeholder while the Bengals tried to find a spot for him after he had been fired as coach of the Raiders the previous year.

“I have a great comfort level with Hue and his ability to assist me with the day-to-day responsibilities on defense, including analyzing our opponents and helping me on game days with the players and defensive coaches,” Lewis said in a news release.

Because Austin was in the booth, Lewis will lose one staff member up there and said he doesn’t plan to move anyone around. That makes it likely Jackson will be down on the sideline, where he could help Lewis by being an extra eye on offense.

While Jackson didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard as head coach of the Raiders and Browns (11-44-1 coaching record), he has proved his capabilities as an assistant at every stop. The Bengals’ offense was extremely successful when he was coordinator in 2015, albeit with many different players than they have now. It makes sense to add him to get some additional help, and he could provide intel on the Browns, whom the Bengals haven’t played this season.

The only real downside is the potential to mess with the chemistry of the coaching staff or the feeling that Lazor could be looking over his shoulder with Jackson around.

But considering Lewis made it clear that everyone in the building, including himself, is on notice after their performances lately, hurt feelings are probably the least of his concern. Lewis, like everyone else, just wants some help.

“The guys want to help,” Lewis said on Monday. “‘Give me something.’ … ‘Help me through this.’ That’s the thing, I have to be the rock. That’s why I have to hide my feelings on the sideline and not choke anybody out or anything.”

Maybe Jackson can be that help. With seven games left, and the Browns up twice, surely the Bengals will take all the help they can get.



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Hue Jackson disagrees with Cleveland Browns owner over reason for firings


BEREA, Ohio — Hue Jackson did not agree with Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam’s statement that “internal discord” led to the firing of Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Monday.

“I don’t really think it was truly just about internal discord,” Jackson said Friday on ESPN’s First Take. “I think that’s a strong word. I think you have disagreements with coaches. With Todd, with [defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams, with Amos Jones, who’s also the special-teams coordinator. I don’t think that’s internal discord.”

To what, then, did Jackson attribute losing his job eight games into his third season with the Browns?

“I think when you stop and look at it, it’s truly, really about Baker Mayfield,” Jackson said. “I think they want to do everything they can to put him in the situation … I mean, you got the first pick in the draft — who I think is going to be a franchise quarterback, who’s going to be a sensational player — and he’s not playing as well.

“So again, here is the perfect storm to move forward and move on.”

The perfect storm was brought on by the record and Jackson’s belief that Mayfield would have been better served in a different style of offense.

Jackson was fired one day after a 33-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers dropped the Browns to 2-5-1. He was brought back for 2018 after going 1-15 and 0-16 his first two seasons because Haslam believed the personnel he was given in 2016 and ’17 impeded winning.

“Bottom line, let’s just be clear, we didn’t win enough,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, when you look at it, we didn’t win enough games. No matter how you cut it, regardless of what they said or how they said it, you gotta win enough games.

“You know, these jobs, there’s 32 of them and I was fortunate and blessed by Dee [Haslam] and Jimmy to have an opportunity to be one of 32. But at the end of the day, when you look at it, you gotta win enough games and we didn’t.”

Jackson said the one thing he would do differently is keep control of the offense going into this season.

“That’s what I got hired for,” Jackson said. “If you’re going to go out, you go out doing the things that you know and that you truly believe in.”

Jackson said he made the Haley hire and gave him control over the offense and playcalling.

But as he watched the season unfold, Jackson grew to believe that Mayfield should have been running an offense similar to the one he ran at Oklahoma, which was based on playing fast with quick throws — more slants, more outs, more fast passing and fewer seven-stop drops.

“I think you have to go back to Oklahoma and use all the concepts that made him be who he was, the first pick in the draft,” Jackson said. “I think you do everything you can to play the way he plays, and you build your offensive football team and your system to his liking. Because that’s going to help him be the best version of him.”

After saying a week earlier that he wanted to “help” with the offense, Jackson said he decided he was going to step in and take a more active role. He said after the most recent loss that he was going to talk to Haslam and general manager John Dorsey about taking over the offense.

Sources had said he was even going to see if he could fire Haley.

Instead, at the beginning of the meeting with Haslam and Dorsey, Jackson was told he was losing his job. Haley was fired about an hour later.

“I think we played a traditional style of football,” Jackson said. “And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that. But again, the question that was asked of me is, ‘What would you do with Baker?’

“I think that’s where I think the rubber meets the road. You have to do everything you can to make him successful. And if you’re going to do that, then you go back and do the things that made you draft him as the first pick in the draft.”

Asked why he didn’t just take control because he was the head coach, Jackson said the Browns’ system — as set up by Haslam — did not work that way.

“Because at the end of the day we’re still a collaborative group,” Jackson said. “I think the owner and the GM are also involved in that. Obviously that’s how we have our organization set up at the time, and that was the way we were going to go about it.

“Any decisions that I made that way, there is nothing that I wouldn’t have not run by Jimmy Haslam and John Dorsey.”

Jackson does not hide from his overall 11-44-1 record as a coach in Oakland and Cleveland.

“I hope the next opportunity for me is to go back and be a coordinator, first and foremost,” he said. “Go back and put my name back to where it should be, among some of the best playcallers in this league, and then to move forward from there. And whatever happens from there, obviously that’s going to be God’s decision as we move forward.”



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Todd Haley says he’s on ‘same page’ as Browns’ coach Hue Jackson


BEREA, Ohio — Todd Haley attributed coach Hue Jackson’s comments about becoming more involved in the Cleveland Browns‘ offense to the emotions that come after a loss.

“That’s what it sounded like,” Haley, the offensive coordinator, said Thursday. “And we talked about it. This is an emotional game. It is not for everyone. Coaching in the NFL, especially being in that spot, it’s not for everyone.

“It is a high pressure, high-stress job. We just got to keep doing what we know is right.”

Jackson initially said he had to jump in to try to fix the offense, and said he would do it because he’s “the head coach of the football team, period.” He backed off those comments Monday, and said he made a point to explain himself to Haley on Monday.

Haley said preparation for Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh has “been the same as it’s always been” and “we’re all on the same page.” He said he’s happy to take good ideas, no matter where they originate.

“I’ve a long time been in this league around a lot of personalities,” he said. “One thing I’ll never be is reactionary. I’m here for one purpose and that’s to help this offense, continue to grow this offense, continue to develop this offense.”

Haley said it was “all perception” when asked specifically about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger saying Haley wouldn’t like the comments from the Browns coach.

“I’m misunderstood a lot of time,” Haley said. “I’ve learned to accept it.”

Haley was hired by the Browns after the Steelers did not renew his contract. Haley, a Pittsburgh native whose father Richard worked for the Steelers, is in his 23rd season coaching in the NFL, but this will be his first trip to Heinz Field as a member of an opposing team.

“My first time coaching at Heinz Field was as part of their [Pittsburgh’s] coaching staff,” Haley said. “So this will be my first visit to Heinz Field as a visitor, and I grew up there. It’s a neat thing to me.”



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Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns coach, mourning deaths of mother, brother


BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson is mourning the deaths of his mother and brother in the last two weeks.

Betty Lee Jackson, 83, died Sunday in Los Angeles, the Browns confirmed Wednesday night. She had been ill for some time. John Jackson Jr., died unexpectedly two weeks ago.

“It’s been really tough on him,” Jackson’s agent John Thornton told Cleveland.com. “He’s just trying to let football help him out.”

Jackson will remain with the team until his mother’s funeral, which will take place after the Browns’ preseason opener in New York against the Giants on Aug. 9. Jackson had been flying to see his mother when he could.

“The people closest to him know what’s been going on, and they know he hasn’t been himself,” Thornton said. “Being busy with football has helped, but it’s still been extremely difficult.”



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Browns coach Hue Jackson raves about Baker Mayfield’s approach to game


BEREA, Ohio — On the fourth day of Cleveland Browns training camp, rookie Baker Mayfield gave his coach reason for praise.

“Baker Mayfield has been everything I thought a quarterback should be for our organization thus far,” coach Hue Jackson said Sunday after an impressive day of practice from the first overall pick in the draft. “He’s doing the things that we want him to do the way we want him to do it, and he’s exceeding those things. Because he’s putting in the time. He doesn’t have a pride or [arrogance] any kind of way.

“His thing is, ‘You guys tell me what you want me to do, and I’m going to do it.’ That’s what he’s done since he’s walked in the building. To me that’s exciting. That’s a player that’s eager to learn, and grow.”

Jackson has been known to gush at times about his players — he did some of the same a year ago with then-rookie QB DeShone Kizer — but Mayfield’s play justifies the words. He has earned the praise with his demeanor, approach and work operating as the backup behind Tyrod Taylor.

He’s shown he has picked up the offense quickly, and he has an understanding of the system. He has a strong arm, he’s been accurate and he gets rid of the ball quickly.

On one throw in team drills on Sunday, Mayfield threw behind the ear of a defender and into the hands of Rashard Higgins on a deep in. The ball was one of several placed perfectly in team drills.

“To me it was outstanding,” Jackson said. “Those kind of things that he’s doing along with staying in the pocket … I think he’s seeing the offense unfold a little better because I think he understands the system better.

“I think he’s making really good progress, which you want to see from a quarterback.”

Taylor remains the starter, though the Browns and Jackson have made it clear if Mayfield earns the job they will not hold him back. Taylor also had a good day throwing the ball on Sunday, and Mayfield’s next step will be playing against NFL competition in preseason games. That will be a quantum leap from practicing against teammates.

Jackson said Taylor and Mayfield have “an unbelievable bond.” The two spend long hours at the facility (along with veteran Drew Stanton), and their relationship seems solid based on the pair’s willingness to put in the time.

“I think there’s trust, I think there’s honesty and transparency among that group,” Jackson said. “They’ve done a great job. And when you’re the first pick in the draft and you walk in, normally like you [see] some guys walk in with their chest out and it’s me, me, me.

“[Mayfield’s] not about that.”



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Cleveland Browns’ head coach Hue Jackson gets ‘unwavering’ support from owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam


BEREA, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns‘ commitment to coach Hue Jackson remains “unwavering,” owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam said Saturday as the Browns held their third day of training camp.

Haslam said that Jackson will not be on any kind of leash – short or long – following 0-16 and 1-15 records in his first two seasons.

“We’re excited about Hue Jackson,” Jimmy Haslam said. “I think our commitment to him has been unwavering.

“It still is.”

Haslam retained Jackson after a winless 2017 season, but in December he hired John Dorsey as general manager and fired Sashi Brown. Dorsey overhauled the roster, bringing in 24 prominent new players (including draft picks) that could result in 10 new starters.

Dorsey built the team in a much more traditional way after Brown followed a plan that emphasized a multi-year rebuild around youth and amassing draft picks.

The rebuild has caught the eye of NFL analysts, and has the owners excited about seeing what Jackson will do with a team built the more traditional way.

“I think we’ll see the real Hue Jackson,” Jimmy Haslam said. “Because he’s got good quarterbacks. He’s got some skill players. He’s got a veteran offensive line now; we’ve got to figure out left tackle. Three really good (running) backs. Good defense.

“I think you’ve heard me say this several times: You got to give Hue credit for bringing in Todd Haley (as offensive coordinator), which I think will allow Hue to be the head coach.

“So I think this will be the first opportunity Hue’s had the opportunity to do what we know he can do as head coach, as a leader.”

Jimmy Haslam said he’s well aware of the talk that Jackson has to win a certain amount of games to keep his job, but he said as owners, they “don’t look at it (that way).” What can fans expect this season after one win the last two?

“I think you can realistically expect progress,” Dee Haslam said.



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Hue Jackson providing ‘safe place’ for human trafficking victims – Cleveland Browns Blog


CLEVELAND — Beau Hill strode through the hallway of the Cleveland Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Complex near downtown.

Hill, executive director of the Cleveland Salvation Army, was preparing to show a visitor a new facility built to take care of the victims of human trafficking. Asked what this 12-bed center meant to him, Hill was quick to respond: “It’s huuuuge.”

When Hill entered the facility, signs of recent work were evident. He stepped around scaffolding and through rooms that had recently had wallboards and spackling compounds added. He pointed to a living room, walked down the hall past a mini-kitchen and around a corner to three bedrooms where up to 12 women survivors of human trafficking could sleep.

The Hue Jackson Respite Services for Recovered Survivors of Human Trafficking will have its ribbon-cutting ceremony/grand opening July 17. Housed in the Cleveland Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Complex, it is largely funded by the Hue Jackson Foundation, which the Browns coach established with his wife Michelle a year ago.

“Michelle and I are very excited about the opportunity to assist survivors of human trafficking by helping to provide a place of respite,” Jackson said in a statement released through his foundation. “This ribbon cutting ceremony is more than a formality. It is a signal to the community we hope to help that there is a safe place to go and there are people who care.”

Kimberly Diemert, the foundation’s executive director, said the space will allow the women a chance to “go through their rebirth.”

“The goal is to give the women the control they need to regain their life and their sense of independence and self-worth,” Diemert said.

“This is the first step in a journey, a journey in making a difference in the life of the survivors of human trafficking,” said Major Thomas Applin, divisional secretary of the Cleveland Salvation Army.

The remodeled space will include a refreshment area, an activity area and a living room — all designed to give a sense of home. Services within the Harbor Light Complex include counseling and 24-hour nursing care as well as medically supervised drug and alcohol detoxification and outpatient therapy.

Planning for the space stressed safety and security for residents while giving women the freedom that was taken from them, in a place they can call home for as long as they need to.

Jackson said he and Michelle chose human trafficking as the foundation’s focus because they have seen the problem and its effects “first-hand.”

The foundation provided $250,000 toward the renovations — which included money Jackson raised when he jumped into Lake Erie in June with about 150 other members of the Browns organization.

No requirements will be placed on residents, in part to allow them to gain a control of a life that was missing when they were being trafficked. Hill said most victims are referred through law enforcement or rape crisis centers.

In 2016, Ohio ranked fourth in the nation in human trafficking, Hill said. However, that number barely touches the scope of the issue because many women fear coming forward and many victims have not been identified. Diemert said in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, 89 victims have come forward to law enforcement this year, but that figure barely accounts for the total number of survivors and victims.

Hill said the respite center is “absolutely critical” for the women’s ability to continue their recovery.

Operational costs are provided by local donations, and Diemert said Jackson’s foundation has pledged its continued support. Future foundation efforts could involve community outreach or education about trafficking as well as raising funds to help the Salvation Army and other agencies working in human trafficking.

Because the respite center is staffed 24 hours day, those costs could be as much $400,000 to $500,000 annually, Hill said. In 2017 the Harbor Light Complex provided 147,472 nights of service to the needy (homeless, those dealing with substance abuse), and served 421,638 meals.

“Numbers are important to the community,” Applin said. “They want to know how many people you’re serving. But the reality is it’s one by one. One person is important.

“One person is worth doing the program if you’re going to save their life.”



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Cleveland Browns must earn helmet stripe, coach Hue Jackson says


BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns will have to earn their stripes this season.

Quite literally.

Coach Hue Jackson had the team’s equipment managers remove the brown and white stripes that go down the middle of the team’s helmets for practice. Players instead are wearing all orange.

“There is a certain way that the Cleveland Browns have to play, and we are going to earn our stripes,” Jackson said Tuesday at the team’s OTA practice open to the media. “The guys that put them on their helmets and get the chance to wear them, it is going to be because they demonstrate the characteristics that we are looking for in Cleveland Browns players.

“That is the way that they are going to play. That is how we are going to conduct ourselves and go out and win football games.”

Coaches routinely think up all kinds of odd motivational tools, and Jackson, who has one win combined over the past two seasons, has added “the stripe” to his repertoire. Earlier this offseason, he jumped into Lake Erie to make good on his vow that 2017 would not be worse than 2016.

“Hue is saying it’s a privilege to be on the team, and I think that’s something that’s good because guys are going to work extra hard to get them,” linebacker Chris Kirksey told 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland.

The Browns did not have a stripe on their helmets during their first two NFL seasons or in their four seasons in the All-America Football Conference. They wore white leather from 1946-49 and orange leather in 1950 and ’51. A single white stripe was added in 1952, and in 1960 brown stripes were added on either side of it.

How does a player earn his stripes in 2018?

He makes the team.

“Obviously, if you are on the team, you are going to have them,” Jackson said. “That is for sure. If you are not, you won’t. It is that simple. It is pretty simple. Kind of cut and dry.”



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Hue Jackson of Cleveland Browns — Baker Mayfield ‘on schedule’; QB differs


BEREA, Ohio — Head coach Hue Jackson and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield had differing assessments of the first overall draft pick’s progress as Cleveland Browns offseason practices hit Week 3.

“I think he’s right on schedule,” Jackson said Tuesday.

“The pace has been a little bit slower than I’ve really wanted,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield said that despite working with the second team during Tuesday’s practice, which was open to the media. Both Mayfield and Jackson downplayed that, saying it was just a chance for Mayfield to work with some different teammates.

The varied evaluations come from point of view. Jackson said Mayfield is learning the NFL game while Tyrod Taylor, the starter, gets all the first-team reps.

“The game’s not too big for [Mayfield],” Jackson said. “He demonstrates the ability to throw the ball and make decisions with the ball in his hands and [in] learning our system. I think he’s on schedule.

“But is he a finished product? No. He’s not supposed to be, either.”

In that regard, Jackson emphasized that he likes what he sees of Taylor and that the team feels good knowing he is the starter. But the coach did say that Mayfield has improved noticeably taking snaps under center, something he did not have to do a lot in college.

Mayfield’s self-assessment came from a competitor, someone who wants to play as soon as he can.

“There’s always a learning curve,” he said. “There’s always bumps in the road. It’s not going to be perfect, that’s for sure. When you learn a new offense and you’re going up against the best competition possible, yeah, there’s going to be a learning curve.”

He emphasized incremental improvement, saying “you’re not going to complete the whole puzzle at once.”

In Tuesday’s work, Mayfield’s best throw was a quick one down the seam to tight end Darren Fells in a two-minute situation. He also dropped a nice pass into David Njoku‘s hands at the goal line, only to see Njoku not hold on.

Jackson said the decision to give Mayfield second-team reps this week was to give him a different look with different players.

“I want to keep tinkering with it a little bit and I made the decision this week with the staff to make him second and get some reps there,” Jackson said. “Nobody should read anything into it.”

The Browns traded for Taylor in the offseason to start. In previous practices open to the media, free-agent signee Drew Stanton was the backup. Mayfield will be given the chance to earn his spot, but Stanton would no doubt be No. 2 if the Browns were playing a game. Jackson said Mayfield got the same number of practice reps at third team that he did at second.

“I have to be ready for whenever that opportunity comes, if that’s this year, next year or in five years,” Mayfield said. “I have to be ready as soon as that comes, and right now, getting better every day. That’s all I can do.”



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Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns head coach, jumps in Lake Erie, dubs it ‘The Cleanse’


BAY VILLAGE, Ohio — Hue Jackson took the plunge on Friday — for cleansing and for charity.

Jackson chose a 70-degree afternoon with water temperatures in the high 50s to jump into Lake Erie with about 140 other members of the Cleveland Browns organization, all wearing “The Cleanse” T-shirts.

“It was, uh, refreshing,” Jackson said as he stood on Huntington Beach, just out of the water. “It was refreshing, but it was cold, no doubt about that.”

While some waded into the water, Jackson and his wife, Michelle, both dived in headfirst and submerged themselves. After it was over, the group, which included owner Dee Haslam, turned the event into a splash party while NFL Films and a local TV helicopter documented it.

Prior to taking the dive, the head coach spoke to the members of the organization and to the media.

“I honestly believe we’re going to turn the page on the last two years and move forward,” said Jackson, who had to wait to make the jump until June because he has a stent and doctors told him to wait for the water to warm up.

He had dubbed it a cleanse because he said it would cleanse the entire team of the misery of 2016 and ’17. Those two years have seen the Browns finish 1-15 and 0-16, the two worst seasons in team history.

After winning one game in 2016, Jackson said fans would find him swimming in the lake if they won one game in 2017. The Browns won none, and Jackson said he would live up to his vow. He turned the event into a fundraiser for The Hue Jackson Foundation, which fights human trafficking. Jackson promised to donate $100 for every member of the organization who joined him, and owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam promised to match every dollar. Jackson later stood with an oversized check for $30,000 that will go to the foundation.

“I know our fans have been very disappointed,” Jackson said. “I get it. But that page is closed. Hopefully they’ll give us a chance to earn back their respect, their trust, their affection for our football team and the city. Because we plan on doing something special.

“We’re not gonna talk about it — we’re just gonna work.”

He quipped that there would be “no more promises.”

“I’m not doing that any more,” he said.



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