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One of Dolphins’ oft-injured receivers returns to practice, but the other is not yet ready

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The Miami Dolphins are making progress on getting one of their injured wide receivers back, but the other is still not ready to return to the practice field after two months on injured reserve.

DeVante Parker, who was placed on IR on Nov. 5 due to a hamstring injury, returned for the Dolphins’ Wednesday practice. He was seen during the media viewing portion after coach Brian Flores said he would be back ahead of drills.

Will Fuller, on the other hand, will not be at practice this week, marking a ninth consecutive game he misses when he doesn’t suit up against the New York Giants (4-7) at Hard Rock Stadium in Sunday’s 1 p.m. kickoff.

Fuller was first placed on injured reserve on Oct. 6 after the Oct. 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts due to a fractured finger.

“He had a pretty significant fracture in the finger,” Flores said Wednesday. “A lot of broken bones in there, and still healing. Just not able to get out there yet.”

Fuller, after being signed to a one-year, $10.6 million deal in the offseason, has only played just one full game this season, Sept. 26 at the Las Vegas Raiders. He was injured in the first half of the following week’s game against the Colts.

Fuller has four receptions for 26 yards, plus a successful 2-point conversion, this season for Miami (5-7).

Parker ran a series of different routes during the media viewing portion of Wednesday’s practice that included hitches, slants and a few deeper patterns.

“It’s good to have DP back out there,” said quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. “He looked pretty good in practice [Wednesday]. To me, it didn’t look like he was limited in any of the reps, so that’s very encouraging to see.”

Parker has 25 receptions for 327 yards and a touchdown in five games this season. He hasn’t played since the Oct. 31 game at the Buffalo Bills.

“DeVante’s obviously an elite receiver in this league,” said tight end Mike Gesicki. “He can make plays downfield, make contested catches.”

Added fellow wideout Jaylen Waddle: “Everybody knows DeVante’s a great player, so it’s just another weapon. Makes the offense that much better. Just bring his vet style to the game.”

With center Michael Deiter going through a second week of practice and potentially returning from a foot injury that has cost him the past two months, the Dolphins also brought backup center Greg Mancz back to practice Wednesday.

Dolphins right tackle Jesse Davis was seen watching Wednesday’s drills in shorts and a hat with a compression sleeve on his right leg. The team’s injury report indicated it was a veteran rest day for Davis.

Trill Williams did not participate due to a hamstring injury. Fellow cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones had limited participation due to rest.

Also limited Wednesday were guard Robert Hunt (back), safety Brandon Jones (ankle/elbow), running back Phillip Lindsay (ankle), linebacker Jaelan Phillips (hip) and tight end Adam Shaheen (knee).

Dolphins preparing for Jones

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has been diagnosed with a neck strain, and it is unlikely he will be able to make the start on Sunday against the Dolphins, according to NFL Network.

Jones was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice, according to New York’s injury report, and he said on Wednesday he’s preparing this week as if he’s going to play.

If Jones is unable to go, Giants backup Mike Glennon would get the start at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins, however, are preparing for Jones.

“We’re preparing as if he’s going to be up,” Flores said. “We take a look at all of the quarterbacks. They have plenty of guys to prepare for.”

Added cornerback Byron Jones: “They are both good quarterbacks. They’ve both played in this league for a good amount of time. No matter who is out there, I think we’re going to get the Giants’ best. We’re preparing for both.”

The Giants have a series of players that didn’t participate in their Wednesday practice: Linebacker Trent Harris (ankle), fullback Cullen Gillaspia (calf), defensive back Adoree Jackson (quadriceps), wide receiver John Ross (illness), tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle), wide receiver Sterling Shepard (quadriceps), tight end Kaden Smith (knee) and receiver Kadarius Toney (oblique/quadriceps).

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Stillwater readies for international snow-sculpture competition

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Stillwater readies for international snow-sculpture competition

City crews generally truck snow out of downtown Stillwater during the winter months.

Not this year.

Stillwater Public Works trucks traveled to Afton Alps in southern Washington County to bring snow into town this week. The pristine piles of white stuff were added to massive piles of snow created on site by a crew from Green Acres Tubing Park in Lake Elmo.

Welcome to the inaugural World Snow Sculpting Championship, which runs Wednesday through Saturday in Lowell Park.

The event, sanctioned by Finland-based Association Internationale de Sculpture sur Neige et Glase, is expected to bring an estimated 30,000 people to Stillwater.

German snow sculptor Franziska Agrawal created “FOLDED III” in 2019 for the Snowking Winter Festival in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Agrawal is competing in the January 2022 World Snow Sculpting Championship in downtown Stillwater. (Courtesy of Franziska Agrawal)

“It’s like we’re building a half-pipe in Lowell Park for snowboarding,” Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski said. “It’s a sight to behold. It’s like those big piles of snow in the parking lots that as a kid you always wanted to sled down and play ‘King of the Hill’ on, but this is all beautiful and perfectly white. It’s just magical.”

Three-member snow-sculpting teams from around the world, including Ecuador, Germany, Canada and Turkey, are competing for prize money and the title of “World Champions.” The teams will have 77 hours — from 9 a.m. Wednesday until 2 p.m. Saturday — to carve their sculptures out of 10-by-10-by-10-foot blocks of snow. But they will have only 68 working hours, because there’s a mandatory layoff each day between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.

“These things are massive. They’re 10 feet high,” Kozlowski said. “What’s really cool is they are going to be around for a while. It will be really fun to be here while they are doing the work and to be part of the competition, but if people can’t make it to the competition, they can come down on a Tuesday night and walk around these things and check them out. It’s going to be really neat.”

Prizes will be awarded to the top three teams. Spectators can watch the entire process, visit with the teams and vote for their favorite sculpture; the team with the most votes will win “The People’s Choice Award.”

Kozlowski said the event is the perfect pandemic activity.

“We’ve got tons of space, it’s outdoors, and it’s a great, safe event,” he said. “If you’re going to do something in a pandemic, this is kind of the thing to do.”

THE SNOW MAKER

The key to making snow, according to Rich Springborn, co-owner of Green Acres, is understanding “wet-bulb temperature.” That’s the lowest temperature to which air can be cooled by the evaporation of water into the air at a constant pressure. “Snowmaking does not go off of the air temperature,” he said. “When we start making snow, we go off the wet-bulb temperature, which shows how quick the air will take the heat out of the water when we introduce the water into the air.”

Springborn started making snow for the international competition on Jan. 6 — just to make sure he had enough time and the temperature was right.

“It turned out really good,” he said. “The first night, it got too cold — minus 25 degrees — so we had to shut it down. The sweet spot is between 10 and 15 degrees.”

Springborn, who uses a portable SMI Wizzard Snowmaker machine to make snow, learned the art of snow-making “through trial and error,” he said.

His father, Gaylen Springborn, and late grandfather, Howard Springborn, who started Green Acres Tubing Park in 1972 to diversify the income from the family farm, also passed down their knowledge, he said.

“Machine-made snow lasts almost twice as long as natural snow,” Springborn said. “The snow turns into a better snow if you let it cure for a couple of days. It dries out and all the moisture in it freezes, and you get a drier snow instead of a wet clumpy snow. It packs better in the forms, and then you won’t have a lot of air pockets in the blocks.”

The competition is great for downtown Stillwater, said Springborn, who also is providing snow for the snow sculptures of the St. Paul Winter Carnival at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

In addition to moving the snow that will be loaded into the 10-by-10-by-10-foot forms, Springborn is making a snow slide in Lowell Park.

“The whole event is great for the community,” he said. “It brings all the local businesses together in the winter instead of being cooped up.”

THE SNOW QUEEN

How did Stillwater land an international event like the World Snow Sculpting Championship? Officials from the city and the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce get the credit.

During the fall of 2020, there was a call to action to help local businesses during the first quarter of 2021 because of COVID-19, said Robin Anthony, the chamber’s executive director.

A series of activities in downtown Stillwater, dubbed “Wintertime in Stillwater,” were organized and planned. The events centered on a massive downtown light display, including the lighting of the Stillwater Lift Bridge; an Ice Maze in the parking lot of the Zephyr Theatre; a free walk-through, color-changing LED light display on the Chestnut Street Plaza that is synchronized to music; lights up and down Main Street; and “Fire & Ice,” a hot-air balloon event and ice-cream social.

Map of events in Stillwater for the International snow sculpture competition.
A map of events for Stillwater’s upcoming World Snow Sculpting Championship. (Courtesy Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce)

At the same time, organizers learned about the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship in Lake Geneva, Wis. Chamber executives tried to lure the event to Stillwater, but “they didn’t want to move,” Anthony said.

Instead, Winter Fun LLC, the Milwaukee-based organizers of the national event, pitched a new competition — the World Championship — for Stillwater. “There have been competitions throughout the U.S. and around the world, but there has never been a World Championship,” Anthony said.

Stillwater has signed a contract agreeing to host the event for three years, with the first right of refusal after that for future years, Anthony said.

The global gathering will be celebrated this year with a weeklong festival of events, including an Opening Ceremony, the World’s Coolest Block Party on Jan. 22 and MinneSnowta Nice Day on Jan. 23.

Each team participating in the competition had to show proof that they were a “world-class competitor,” having won either an international or U.S. competition, Anthony said. Each sculptor coming to Stillwater will receive lodging, food and a $500 travel stipend, she said.

Plans called for 12 three-person teams to compete in the event, but a team from Germany and a team from Argentina had to drop out last week because of COVID, Anthony said.

“What’s keeping me up at night now is getting the teams tested to get them back into their countries,” she said. “That’s a whole other level of logistics.”

The other major stressor? “Mother Nature,” she said. “What we don’t need is a heat wave. Right now, the weather forecast looks perfect. We want cold weather and sunshine, and that’s what it looks like we’re going to get.”

THE SNOW SCULPTOR

“What is very interesting, in the context of my work, is the ephemerality and the context of time and of how to perceive time in an object or in an artwork,” said Franziska Agrawal, a snow sculptor from Munich, Germany, who will be arriving in Stillwater on Tuesday.

Franziska Agrawal, an industrial designer and artist from Munich, German, is competing in the January 2022 World Snow Sculpting Championship in downtown Stillwater. Agrawal specializes in
Franziska Agrawal of Germany is competing in the January 2022 World Snow Sculpting Championship in Stillwater. Agrawal specializes in “site-specific architectural installations with natural and ephemeral materials.” In 2019, she created “FOLDED III” during the Snowking Winter Festival in Canada. (Courtesy of Franziska Agrawal)

Agrawal, an industrial designer and artist, specializes in site-specific architectural installations with natural and ephemeral materials. Many of her snow sculptures are geometric shapes; the title of her Stillwater piece is “PRISMA VI.”

Agrawal said she doesn’t mind sculpting in a material that won’t last.

“What actually gives the value of a piece of art?” she said during a Zoom call from Germany last week. “Does it depend on its longevity? On the length of its lifetime? And then what is the length of a lifetime? Who determines that? Our human lifespan? Or is it in terms of the universe? Or in terms of an animal that lives just two years?

“You can experience an art piece with the experience you have when you look at it,” she said. “Because if you go to a museum, you would also maybe spend just five minutes with it, but you would have a lasting impression and you would have an experience which you would probably take in your memory.”

Agrawal documents her sculptures through photography and tries to record each piece at its “moment of perfection,” she said. “From that moment, that is what I keep. For me, the whole process of creation and destruction is part of nature. This is the life cycle.”

Agrawal often enlists locals to take photos of her snow sculptures as they melt.

Agrawal, a “recurring artist” at the famed Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, is competing in a snow-sculpting contest in the Dolomites in Italy this weekend. After she leaves Stillwater, she will compete in contests in Breckenridge, Colo., and Ely, Minn., she said.

After two decades of competitive snow sculpting, Agrawal has learned some important lessons: Bring plenty of warm clothes and a level.

“I have one suitcase that I always bring with me, and one compartment is filled with tools, and the other compartment is clothes,” she said. “I bring Sharpies to draw on the snow because I do these geometric straight lines. I have Chinese laser-cut tools to remove snow — they’re really sharp.”

Each team is given scaffolding, a ladder, a shovel and a hand tamper. They are allowed to bring their own carving tools, but no power tools are allowed.

Agrawal said the coldest temperature she’s ever worked in was minus 47 degrees in Kiruna, Sweden.

The best temperature to work in snow and ice is around 15 to 20 degrees, according to Agrawal. “If it’s colder, then the material also gets very hard or the crystals get very, very brittle or very, very hard to work with. Also, of course, if you stop moving your body, then you freeze maybe within a couple of minutes.”

It’s good to have the option of working at night in case the temperatures are too warm during the day, but Agrawal said she tries to keep late-night hours to a minimum.

“Usually, I’ve learned over these many years to calculate the workload over the hours,” she said. “I have a good feeling for how long things take. I consider the relaxing and the sleeping to be very important.”

IF YOU GO

Stillwater’s new international event, the World Snow Sculpting Championship, starts Tuesday and runs through Jan. 23. The competition takes place in Lowell Park along the St. Croix River. All events are free and open to the public. There will be a sliding hill, ice sculptures, food trucks, an ice skating rink, a warming tent with cocoa and coffee, a beer tent and music. For a complete schedule, visit worldsnowsculptingstillwatermn.com. Highlights include:

Tuesday, Jan. 18

  • 9 a.m., Exhibition by Jon Baller, local snow sculptor

Wednesday, Jan. 19

  • 9 a.m., Snow sculpting begins
  • 5 p.m., Opening Ceremony, JX Event Center

Thursday, Jan. 20

Friday, Jan. 21

Saturday, Jan. 22

  • 2 p.m., Snow sculpting competition ends
  • 4 p.m., Closing Ceremony, where teams receive awards
  • 6-9 p.m. World’s Coolest Block Party, including a DJ and fire performers

Sunday, Jan. 23

  • 9 a.m.-5 p.m., MinneSnowta Nice Day, including polka dancing, bingo and wild-rice cook-off
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Patriots captain Matthew Slater addresses whether he’ll retire this offseason

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Patriots captain Matthew Slater on Colts loss: ‘This is a good wake-up call for us’

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — For the past three offseasons, Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater has contemplated retirement.

He’ll soon make it four.

Slater, 36, briefly addressed his uncertain future after the Pats’ stunning 47-17 Wild Card loss at Buffalo on Saturday, saying he’ll take time to make a decision.

“I don’t want to disrespect the team and what we just went through and talk about my personal situation. Obviously, I’m closer to the end. We all know that,” he said. “I’ll pray about it and make a final decision and have some conversations. But tonight, I just want to make sure I express gratitude to people that I owe it to and take time to be reflective, not only for the experience this year, but the entirety of my career.”

Drafted in 2008, Slater is the team’s longest-tenured player and captain. He was voted a captain for an 11th straight season back in September. During the year, Slater was selected to an NFL-record 10th Pro Bowl as a special teams player.

Slater finished the regular season with 11 tackles and added two more in Saturday’s playoff loss.

Having signed a 2-year contract back in March 2020, he is now scheduled to become a free agent. Slater inked his last contract before hitting unrestricted free agency, something he could pursue again if he chooses to play another season.

Fellow captain Devin McCourty is also set to become a free agent, though he was not asked about his future after Saturday’s game.

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Josh Allen, Bills downplay significance of destroying Patriots in historic Wild Card win

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Josh Allen, Bills downplay significance of destroying Patriots in historic Wild Card win

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — As the final minutes ticked off the clock of his team’s 47-17 trouncing of the Patriots, Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott allowed himself to take in the atmosphere.

For the better part of the last two decades, Buffalo had to endure the suffering of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady-led Patriots’ dynasty. They owned the Bills like no other franchise. But over the last two seasons of the post-Brady era, the changing of the guard has been swift atop the AFC East.

Saturday night’s demolition of the Pats — one of the worst losses of Belichick’s coaching career — was the loudest stamp yet on a new era. The Pats allowed 47 points, the most of the Belichick era, and it was their third worst playoff loss in franchise history.

A rowdy and boisterous crowd at Highmark Stadium — the Bills’ first home playoff game since 1995 in which full capacity was allowed — under frigid conditions was just further proof. The dominant victory didn’t wipe all of Buffalo’s pain of the last 20 years away, but it was clear that it meant something more to their fanbase.

“I’m more happy for our fans,” McDermott said. “It’s not often that a coach can enjoy the last six minutes of the game and look up into the stands and see the fans enjoying it at home. I’m happy for them more than anything.”

But to the Bills players? The Patriots were just another opponent in their path.

Certainly, they understood the significance. They know the history. Prior to the 2020 season, the Bills were 5-35 against the Pats in the Belichick era. Consistent misery.

GIven all that, though, they didn’t take any extra pride in embarrassing the Pats on a big stage in the playoffs.

“It didn’t matter who we played, we were going to try to come out and dominate,” said Bills safety Micah Hyde. “I think it’s big for people in this community, people who are out there to be part of that game against that opponent just because we know the history and we know what’s happened for the last 20-plus years. We just wanted to come out here and play our game. It wasn’t about an exact opponent.”

The Bills did acknowledge that last month’s 14-10 Patriots victory at Highmark Stadium — a game the Pats dominated at the line of scrimmage — didn’t sit right with them. Defensive end Jerry Hughes said “it was a little bit on my mind.”

Jordan Poyer, though, insisted there wasn’t much of a carryover effect.

“I don’t think either of those games meant anything coming into this game,” the safety said of the two regular-season meetings. “We just wanted to go out there and be us. Execute at a high level. We felt like we were the better team and that’s what we showed tonight.”

The Bills stayed grounded in the moment. Even McDermott, who was criticized for some of the comments he made after last month’s loss, stayed humble.

“For us as a team this year, it’s one game,” McDermott said. “That’s a good football team, and they’ve been at the top for so long. I have a lot of respect for them. We just have to keep moving on.”

Josh Allen carried that respect forward, too. The Bills quarterback, who threw for 308 yards and five touchdowns in a surgical performance, was spotted after the game offering seemingly encouraging words for Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who played well in a losing effort.

“I’ll keep that private between me and him, but he’s a heck of a player,” Allen said.

Allen echoed the words of his teammates who were happy for the fans on Saturday night. Of course, he wasn’t around when the Pats were handing the Bills perennial beatings like the one seen here on Saturday. He’s now won four of his last five matchups against the Patriots.

“It feels good for the fans,” Allen said. “I know that. I’m glad we could give that to them, but at the end of the day, it’s a playoff game that we advanced on. It doesn’t matter what we did this week, or last week, or the week before. It matters what we do going forward.”

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