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Browns crush Tampa Bay for first preseason win, 31-7

Aug 29, 2015 -- 9:51pm

By Tony Grossi |



Updated at 10:50 p.m.


The Browns were anxious to see the preseason debuts of receiver Dwayne Bowe, running back Duke Johnson and receiver Terrelle Pryor in their offense on Saturday night.

But those missing elements to the offense were non-factors in the Browns’ 31-7 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Browns’ first victory in three practice games belonged to quarterback Josh McCown, who engineered two, long touchdown drives in his return to the scene of his nightmare 2014 season; Travis Benjamin, who returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown and caught all four passes thrown to him; and a defensive lockdown on No. 1 draft pick Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback-to-be.

“There’s nothing like winning, and on the road,” said coach Mike Pettine. “The first quarter couldn’t have gone better. And coming out in the second half and scoring was an important drive, a good confidence-builder.”

As for Bowe, Johnson and Pryor – counted on to be integral players in 2015 -- it was a collective night to forget.

Bowe was 0-for-3 on passing targets with one drop. Johnson was knocked out of the game with a concussion on the second pass thrown to him. And Pryor was a late scratch after a pre-game deluge made playing with his hamstring issue more problematic.

Johnson started the game for the Browns but was receiving only sporadic reps. He carried one time for 4 yards and had one catch for 1 yard.

Then on the first possession of the second quarter, McCown put Johnson in harm’s way with a late pass on third down, and Johnson was annihilated by Tampa cornerback Mike Jenkins. The hit knocked Johnson’s mouth guard into St. Petersburg and Johnson into the locker room, where he was evaluated with a concussion.

“That would be the biggest downer of the night,” Pettine said.

That play underscored a bad second quarter for McCown, when he supervised three consecutive three-and-out possessions and was 5 of 10 for 29 yards.

Otherwise, McCown was 12 of 13 on touchdown drives of 80 and 78 yards, tossing TD passes of 3 yards to Brian Hartline and 7 yards to tight end Gary Barnidge.

McCown was relieved by Thad Lewis in the third quarter. For the game, McCown was 17 of 23 for 117 yards. He was sacked once.

McCown played with reckless abandon, perhaps too recklessly with backup quarterback Johnny Manziel idle with a sore elbow.

McCown was tackled hard after keeper runs of 9 and 8 yards converted third downs on the first possession, and was absolutely de-cleated by Tampa linebacker Kwon Alexander in the second quarter while escaping pressure and stopping to scan the field. McCown jumped right up after the hit, as if to show the braying Bucs crowd that he was alright.

Asked what the game showed about McCown’s toughness, Pettine deadpanned, “That he’s foolish.”

Pettine said that McCown’s competitive juices, playing against the team that released him last year, got the better of him.

“I had to grab him a couple times and say, ‘Use your head,’” Pettine said. The coach added that McCown would “definitely not play” in the preseason finale Thursday in Chicago, partly because “that’s another team he’s played for.”

“I’ve been talked to about taking those hits,” McCown said. “But I want to win. I want to do what it takes to keep the offense moving.”

McCown lamented the fact that he never was able to get much going with Bowe, Johnson and Pryor, but, “for the most part, the preseason has served us well. We closed it out the way we’d like to – with a drive and a touchdown.”

Lewis was good in relief, going 4 of 5 for 66 yards. He added a touchdown in the third quarter on a 7-yard keeper. Lewis set up the score with a 48-yard completion to receiver Josh Lenz, who broke behind the Tampa Bay secondary.

If the Browns could preserve one quarter of football as a blueprint of how they want to play the game it would be the first quarter in Raymond James Stadium.

The defense forced a three-and-out on the opening series.

Benjamin took Tampa Bay’s punt, broke to his right to avoid one gunner, then cut upfield and raced 53 yards untouched for the touchdown.

The defense forced another punt in four plays.

The offense ate up 9 ½ minutes on a 16-play drive, culminated by an outstanding boundary catch in the end zone by Hartline, who followed McCown’s stroll to the right sideline to buy time. Hartline’s catch was validated by a Pettine replay challenge that reversed the wrong call on the field.

The defense concluded the quarter with a Charles Gaines interception of Winston with linebacker Chris Kirksey storming in on the NFL’s No. 1 pick of the 2015 draft. Gaines later left the game with a hamstring injury.

“If we can bottle that up, we’ll make a lot of money,” McCown said of the first quarter.

Winston oversaw just one touchdown in eight full possessions. A rare 27-yard net punt by Andy Lee gave the Bucs possession at the Browns’ 45 in the second quarter. Winston connected with receiver Vincent Jackson for 26 yards, and then running back Doug Martin beat the Browns defensive right edge for a 19-yard TD run.

Winston, who had a promising outing last Monday against the Cincinnati Bengals, finished the night 6 of 15 passing for 90 yards. He was sacked four times. The Browns’ defense forced five punts, one turnover and a missed field goal from 43 yards in Winston’s eight possessions.

Desmond Bryant overwhelmed Tampa Bay rookie guard Ali Marpet for 1 ½ sacks and a third quarterback hit.  

Besides Johnson, Browns cornerback Pierre Desir left the game in the second half with a concussion.

After early trouble, the Browns’ running game opened up a bit as the game wore on. Terrance West had 26 yards on seven carries, including one for 17. Isaiah Crowell had 27 on eight carries with a long of 10 yards. Crowell also had two receptions; West had one.

Lenz’s 48-yard reception from Lewis was the only pass play longer than 13 yards.

With Manziel already ruled out of the Chicago game, the Browns will conclude the preseason on Thursday with Lewis and newcomer Pat Devlin sharing the quarterback duties.

Pettine said he hopes to have Pryor available for that game. But we’ve heard that before.


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns Preseason Game 3 Preview: Dwayne Bowe, Duke Johnson and Terrelle Pryor make their Browns' debuts

Aug 29, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



What: Browns (0-2) v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1), 7 p.m., in Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL.

TV: WEWS Channel 5 with Mike Patrick, Solomon Wilcots and Andy Baskin.

The set-up: Although traditional training camp habits are changing, the third preseason game is still considered the dress rehearsal to the regular season. Thus, coach Mike Pettine intends to play his starters the first half. He said some may trickle into the third quarter. The original intent was to play backup quarterback Johnny Manziel with the first-teamers in the second quarter, but Manziel’s sore right elbow changed that. The QB duties will be split among starter Josh McCown and Thad Lewis. The last time these teams met in Tampa for a preseason game in 1999, the game was delayed because of lightning and thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are in the forecast again as Tropical Storm Erika stalks through the Bahamas and makes it way northwest to the Florida coast.

Did you know?: McCown was signed by Tampa Bay last year to be new coach Lovie Smith’s “bridge” quarterback. The experience for McCown was such a nightmare, he declined to reflect on the year. “I would rather not,” he said. “There is great people there. I have great relationships with the players and coaches there. For sure, we didn’t get done what we wanted to get done there, obviously. Kind of moved on from that standpoint. It is not like I was there for 10 years. I was there for a year. I am just focused on what we are doing and us trying to improve.” Midway through training camp, the Bucs lost offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford to illness. There was not an adequate replacement on staff and McCown did not respond well to the responsibility of holding together the offense. He started 11 games, and the Bucs lost 10 of them. McCown completed 56.3 percent of his passes, tossed 11 touchdowns v. 14 interceptions, was sacked 36 times and had a passer rating of 70.5. He was released by the Bucs on Feb. 11 and signed by the Browns on March 2 to a three-year contract for $14 million, including $6.25 million guaranteed.

Buccaneers update: The Bucs are counting on their franchise to be revived by quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 draft. He flashed his franchise QB potential in a 25-11 preseason win over Cincinnati on Monday night. Winston capped an 80-yard drive on the opening series with a 1-yard TD run. He departed with a 14-0 lead after cornerback Alterraun Verner’s Pick 6 of Andy Dalton. Winston was 8 of 13 for 90 yards. His success in his first year could hinge on the return to form of running back Doug Martin (52 yards, 4 carries). Winston doesn’t lack for weapons. His main targets will be receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The Bucs have a Pro Bowl-caliber player at each area on their defense – tackle Gerald McCoy, linebacker Lavonte David and Verner in the secondary. Former Browns draft pick Garrett Gilkey is the starting right guard.

Browns update: Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo might be the happiest man with the Browns as he welcomes to his lineup for the first time No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe, rookie running back Duke Johnson, rookie fullback Malcolm Johnson and possibly quarterback-turned-receiver Terrelle Pryor. Bowe and Duke Johnson have had good weeks of practice. DeFilippo is anxious to utilize Duke Johnson in a variety of formations and roles in the run and pass game. Pryor needs to get the game experience to keep his roster hopes alive. He practiced two days in a row and was expected to make his first NFL game appearance as a wideout. The defense is looking to string a few three-and-out series together after allowing a 9-minute possession to the Bills last week. The defense is bolstered by the return of Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden and Pro Bowl safety Tashaun Gipson.

Injury report: Buccaneers – Players not expected to play include: WR Mike Evans (hamstring), CB Leonard Johnson (ankle), RT Demar Dotson and C Evan Smith (groin). Browns – Players not expected to play include: CB Justin Gilbert (hip), OL Michael Bowie (shoulder), DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (groin), FB Luke Lundy (concussion), LB Barkevious Mingo (knee), DB Robert Nelson Jr. (hamstring), DB Jordan Poyer (concussion), QB Connor Shaw (right thumb), TE Randall Telfer (foot), DB K’Waun Williams (abdominal) and RB Glenn Winston (knee). 


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns need Terrelle Pryor, and he needs them

Aug 28, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Time to put up: Terrelle Pryor sounded dejected after Thursday’s practice.

Not defeated. Not discouraged. But dejected, as if the strain of this experiment at wide receiver, interrupted twice by hamstring strains, had taken an emotional toll on him.

He should have been happy because he had made it through a second practice in a row for only the second time in a month. Barring a setback on Friday, the converted quarterback is on course to make his NFL debut as a wide receiver Saturday night in Tampa.

"This injury has taken two things away from me,” Pryor said. “It's taken so many things away from me in terms of my love for the game. There are times I haven't seen my (1-year-old) son in three weeks.

“Not seeing my son, not being able to play football, a lot of people would go crazy. I’m balancing that out. I know it’s important, I know that, but at the same time, this injury, I’m dedicated to it and I’m dedicated to getting healthy as fast as possible so I can help the Browns. That’s really where we’re at.”

Pryor’s chances to make the team as a wide receiver could hinge on Saturday’s game. The 6-4, 223-pound freak athlete catches the football in practice drills as well as a natural receiver who’d been doing it all his life. He has to show he can do it in a game with a safety honing in on him.

“When you go out there against another team and really take those hits and go across the middle and see what you’re really about,” said cornerback Joe Haden. “I just can’t wait for him to go out there because he looks like Calvin Johnson, so if he goes out there and plays half like him he’d be solid.”

Not a finished product: Pryor’s conversion is ongoing. His phenomenal skill set offers intriguing possibilities as a specialty player on offense – a quarterback-friendly target in the red zone, a jet sweep runner, a threat to pass at any time, and a roster-saver as an emergency quarterback.

With Josh Gordon serving an indefinite suspension, no player on the Browns’ roster compares to Pryor’s physical attributes. His ceiling alone merits he be graded on a curve for a roster spot.

“We know he’s a project. We understand that,” coach Mike Pettine said. “We’re not expecting him to go out there and light it up and catch 10 balls for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Just continue to get better.

“At the beginning, to just make that decision and come into a training camp and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to switch my position,’ our expectations weren’t real high for him by the end of training camp to be a viable player at wideout. We understand it’s a process. It’s just been unfortunate with the injury, the setbacks, that we haven’t been able to get as good of an evaluation as we wanted.”

The Browns have to make a projection on Pryor. Maybe he won’t be the fifth- or sixth- or even seventh-best polished receiver when roster cuts are made. But would he be in October or November?

“Yeah, that’s a decision that we have to … his skillset, could he be?” Pettine said. “It’s hard to say, especially with the rules nowadays, even if he had stayed healthy and gotten every single snap, to go from a quarterback who has never played wideout a snap, to go through an NFL training camp when we have other players to get ready as well.

“To announce that ‘Hey, the project is complete. He can do this,’ I think that would’ve been unrealistic. It is a projection and the projection is we have less information to make that projection based on how training camp went for him.”

Confident, competitive and athletic: I believe the Browns need more blue-chip athletes on the field. Grinders are fine. GM Ray Farmer has collected a bunch of them.

But the offense, in particular, severely lacks pure physical talent – size, speed, explosion. That’s because Farmer has opted to devote higher draft picks to the grunts on the lines of scrimmage.

Pryor brings first-round physical skills to the Browns at minimum cost. He is a home run at a time the Browns have swung and missed in the first round more than Carlos Santana in a week’s worth of Tribe games.

One of the biggest questions about Pryor’s conversion was his passion to see it through. How many quarterbacks at the NFL level would swallow their pride, admit failure at their natural position and tackle a new one purely for the love of the game?

“I don’t think it’s a project,” Pryor said. “I think it’s a matter of getting reps and going out there and using my ability and trying to help the team however I can.

"My competitive spirit's at an all-time high. I see (my teammates) coming in, sweating. They have to get in the cool tub because they're tired. I've got to be in the cool tub because I'm hurt. But I have that burning desire to get out there.”

Do it, Terrelle. The Browns need you and you need them.



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Johnny Manziel won't play rest of preseason

Aug 27, 2015 -- 4:57pm

By Tony Grossi |



Johnny Shutdown: The elbow injury to quarterback Johnny Manziel is serious enough to shut him down for the remainder of the preseason. He will not appear in the final two games, coach Mike Pettine said Thursday.

Pettine said that prior to the flare-up of elbow soreness, the plan was to play Manziel in the second quarter in Tampa with the Browns’ first-team offense, and then come back with him for two quarters in the final game five days later in Chicago.

“Can’t get those reps back. He’ll lose out on all that real game experience,” Pettine said. “But we’re very pleased with where he is currently. We truly felt he needs to get out there and get those reps if this was something he could work through.

“But we just felt, heading into the season, it’s a long year. Let’s go ahead and shut him down and rest it and make sure it is 100 percent once we head to New York.”

Pettine said that Manziel is “upset he’s not out there. But I think he’s smart enough to realize it’s the smart thing to do.”

Pryor poised: For the first time in over three weeks, Terrelle Pryor made it through two practices in a row. Barring a setback, he will make his first appearance in the NFL as a wide receiver Saturday in Tampa.

“Not seeing my son (in Pittsburgh) and not being able to play football, a lot of people would go crazy,” Pryor said. “I’m dedicated to getting healthy as fast as possible to help the Browns. That’s where I’m at. I would love to play. I felt real good today, caught 4-5 balls. It really depends on our trainer. To me, I want to go.

"My competitive spirit's at an all-time high."

New arm in town: Newly signed quarterback Pat Devlin drove overnight from Downingtown, PA, near Philadelphia, to arrive in time for a full practice with the Browns. He said he was helping out as a high school coach when the call from the Browns came.

The link to the Browns was quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell. He and Devlin shared the 2011 in Miami as teammates.

Pettine said he wants to get Devlin up to speed to play in the fourth game Thursday in Chicago.

“It’s just going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of focus and learning from the guys here,” Devlin said. “I’ve bounced around a little bit, so I’ve seen a lot of offenses. You can relate to a little bit of everything.”


Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




All aboard: Browns Quarterback Carousel turning earlier than usual

Aug 27, 2015 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi |



The Morning Kickoff …

Here we go again: Even for the Browns, late August is rather early for their Quarterback Carousel to be spinning.

As GM Ray Farmer might say, “At the end of the day, it is what it is.”

At the end of the day on Wednesday, these developments were happening on the Browns’ quarterback front:

* Unemployed passer Pat Devlin was on his way to Cleveland for a workout.

Devlin, 27, had two prolific seasons at Delaware after transferring from Penn State but was undrafted in 2011. He spent three years with the Miami Dolphins, never appearing in a game, joined the Minnesota Vikings practice squad in 2014, then signed with the Chicago Bears and was released by them in June.

Devlin was summoned by the Browns because …

* The team has decided to shut down sore-elbowed Johnny Manziel until further notice.

After two days of inactivity, Manziel was unable to shake the soreness in his right throwing elbow that first afflicted him on Aug. 11 and again on Aug. 23. An MRI showed no structural damage, coach Mike Pettine said. Pettine disclosed on Wednesday that Manziel has dealt with elbow soreness since high school.

Manziel, firmly the Browns’ No. 2 QB behind starter Josh McCown, will not play in the third preseason game Saturday night in Tampa. Pettine said the game reps would be shared by McCown and Thad Lewis.

If all goes well, the Browns would get Devlin up to speed to share mop-up duties with Lewis in the preseason finale in Chicago on Sept. 3 because McCown most likely would not play.

McCown, who never has started more than 13 games in a season in his 12-year NFL career, injured the ring finger on his right throwing hand in the second preseason game, but played through it and did not miss a day of practice this week.

All of which improves the chances of Lewis making the final roster because …

* Pettine indicated the Browns are not considering returning receiver-in-training Terrelle Pryor to his natural quarterback position. “No,” Pettine said.

Pryor’s conversion to receiver resumed on Wednesday when he returned to practice after his most recent eight-day absence due to recurrent hamstring issues.

Pryor’s roster chances depend heavily on him being able to practice on Thursday and play in Tampa on Saturday.

If he shows the Browns anything in the game as a receiver, Pryor’s freakish athletic ability and versatility as an offensive “slash” weapon, which includes serving as an emergency game-day third quarterback, could earn him a spot on the final 53.

These contingency plans were being made merely to get the Browns through the 2015 season. At the same time, the personnel department was amping up efforts to scout the 2016 quarterback draft class beginning with …

* Michigan State’s Connor Cook, a native of Hinckley, OH. national college football writer Jon Solomon reported that a representative of the Browns recently visited with Gerry Rardin, Cook’s former coach at Walsh Jesuit High School who recently retired.

"They feel like Connor is going to be one of the more important guys in the draft, for sure," Rardin said to Solomon.

It’s natural for the quarterbacks in the draft to be on the minds of the Browns and their fans. But first the team has to get through 2015.

Given the history of McCown, Manziel’s recent bout with soreness and his ongoing recovery from an undisclosed substance addiction treatment, and Connor Shaw’s probable season-ending surgery to repair a ligament in his right throwing thumb, it’s possible the Browns will be on the lookout to add yet another quarterback when NFL rosters are pared to the 53 limit on Sept. 5.

And remember that Farmer begins serving a four-week suspension on Sept. 7, so the GM could be out of the loop when a quarterback is added after roster cuts.

And so it goes.



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




Browns shutting down quarterback Johnny Manziel because of recurrent elbow soreness

Aug 26, 2015 -- 5:10pm

By Tony Grossi |



Updated at 10:48 p.m.

That little sore elbow experienced by Johnny Manziel that the Browns were not concerned about? Might be time to get a little concerned.

Manziel’s soreness did not disappear after two days rest and now the Browns probably will shut down their No. 2 quarterback and keep him out of the third preseason game in Tampa on Saturday.

With No. 3 Connor Shaw already lost probably for the season after thumb surgery, the Browns are actively looking to bring in another quarterback to get them through the preseason, coach Mike Pettine said.

An MRI done on Manziel’s elbow showed “no structural damage,” Pettine said, which the team considered a positive. But the coach revealed for the first time that Manziel’s sore elbow “is something he’s been dealing with since high school.”

“I just see it as a minor setback,” Pettine said. “If this was something he’d never experienced before and the MRI showed something, I’d be a lot more concerned. But this being something he’s dealt with before, I’m confident if he’s shut down for just a little bit longer, that it’ll all come back.”

Manziel first experienced a sore elbow and was held out of throwing on Aug. 11. Manziel returned to play in the first and second preseason games.

Near the end of practice on Aug. 23, Manziel pointed to his elbow after a deep throw. He was removed from the practice and did not throw over the next two days.

Originally, Manziel was supposed to practice on Wednesday to prepare for the final season dress rehearsal in Tampa on Saturday. But those plans appear scrapped.

Pettine is still saying he’s not concerned, even though there is now a history of a sore problem going back to high school.

“Because I think he’s managed it,” Pettine said. “He just went a little too far with it. Could he play if he had to? More than likely he could, but why do that in preseason? If this was the regular season, it might be a different story.”

Pettine was asked what he meant that Manziel “went a little too far.”

“I’m not sure whether there was one throw. I doubt it,” Pettine said. “As (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) talked about, sometimes when a guy drops the elbow and has that three-quarter release, sometimes it’s going to put a little bit more pressure on the elbow than on the shoulder.

“I asked (Manziel) the other day whether he felt he threw more at this camp than a year ago and he said it felt the same. It’s something that just flared up.”

According to numbers compiled by ESPN Cleveland’s Jason Gibbs during training camp practices open to media, Manziel actually has thrown 44 percent fewer passes this summer.

Gibbs’ final throwing tally this year had Manziel completing 109 of 170 passes in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team drills. The figures a year ago: 159 completions in 305 passes.

Both tallies do not include preseason games.

“We just want to be cautious and not have it develop into something that would continue to bother him throughout the year,” Pettine said. “His reps will go down, depending on how we construct the roster. Just the volume of throws he’ll get in the season will go down from training camp.

“It’s something where if it’s managed properly managed from a training standpoint,  from a strength and conditioning standpoint, he’s aware of it and the coaches are aware of it, as long as there’s nothing structural, we don’t see it as anything that is going to be long term.”

Pettine said that starter Josh McCown and Lewis would split play time in Tampa on Saturday. The Browns have a quick turnaround for their final preseason game five days later in Chicago. The team hopes to have another quarterback on hand to mop up in that game because it’s likely that McCown won’t play.

Meanwhile, the experiment from quarterback to receiver of Terrelle Pryor resumed on Wednesday when he returned to practice after missing the past eight days with a sore hamstring. Pryor was held to a pitch count, Pettine said, and his game availability will depend on Pryor responding well to Wednesday's practice.

Asked if there is any conversation about Pryor returning to quarterback, Pettine said, "No."



Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Use the hashtag #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi




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