Yes, training camp starts today (hopefully you can check out our redesigned homepage and our training camp page.) But before we get off and running, how about a quick glance at the Cardinals’ opponents for the 2016 season — which, as you know, the league has determined 14 of the 16 regular-season games already.
— New Orleans Saints
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers
— New England Patriots
— New York Jets
— NFC East team that finishes in same divisional spot as Cardinals
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— St. Louis Rams (assuming the Rams are still in St. Louis)
— Carolina Panthers
— Atlanta Falcons
— Buffalo Bills
— Miami Dolphins
— NFC North team that finishes in same divisional spot as Cardinals
— Seattle Seahawks
— San Francisco 49ers
— St. Louis Rams (even more important to see if Rams are still in St. Louis)
Tags: 49ers, Bills, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets, opponents, Panthers, Patriots, Rams, Saints, Seahawks
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There will be change for the Cardinals this offseason in the front office. It turns out Jason Licht, vice president of player personnel and right-hand man to General Manager Steve Keim, will be named to the vacant GM job in Tampa Bay, according to Jay Glazer (and now, many national other reporters as well.) It’s a blow to the Cards because Keim and Licht are close. Keim worked hard to bring Licht back from the Patriots after Licht’s first stint in Arizona for the 2008 season. But Licht’s ambition was always to be a GM — he was a finalist for the Bears job in 2012 — and Keim wanted that for Licht as well.
UPDATE: The Cardinals have addressed the move.
“Jason did a tremendous job in two different stints with the Cardinals and we knew it was only a matter of time before he would become a GM,” team president Michael Bidwill said. “We know that he will do a great job in Tampa. At the same time Steve (Keim) has developed a very deep bench in our personnel department to prepare for this event and will continue to make that area a strength of the organization.”
Said Keim, “Anyone that knows Jason recognizes not only what an outstanding evaluator he is but also a high-quality person. His reputation is well-deserved and speaks for itself. There’s no doubt his talent and experience will be a tremendous asset for the Buccaneers and all of us here wish him nothing but the best.”
The Buccaneers have already hired a new coach in Lovie Smith, and there was a lot of talk about the new GM having little true power because it would be wielded by Smith. But Glazer was the latest to report the new GM will indeed control the draft and other personnel decisions. For an up-and-comer like Licht, there would have been no reason to settle for a toothless GM job. Adam Schefter reported Licht will sign a four-year contract.
What does this mean for Keim (below left, with Licht in the middle and scout Terry McDonough)? The Cardinals will have to fill that void. I’m sure, since Licht was also interviewing for the Dolphins GM job, that Keim is prepared for a Licht departure. I don’t know if they would go outside the organization or promote from within. But these are the things you deal with when you hire good people.
Tags: Buccaneers, Jason Licht, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim, Terry McDonough
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A decade ago this weekend (on Dec. 28 to be exact), the Cardinals knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs with a dramatic Hail Mary touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Nate Poole that thrust the Packers into an improbable postseason berth. Ten years later, McCown is a backup Bear, hoping his own team can get into the playoffs. Larry Fitzgerald, the guy the Cards drafted because they went from the No. 1 to No. 3 overall pick that day, is the face of the franchise. And the Cardinals are hoping Mike Glennon can be their Josh McCown.
Like the Packers that day, who still needed to beat the Broncos to have a Vikings loss mean anything, the Cardinals must knock off the 49ers to have a shot at the playoffs. But if they do, they must count on the Buccaneers – playing the role of the 2003 Cardinals – to knock off, in New Orleans, the heavily favored Saints – playing the role of the 2003 Vikings. It’s unlikely, yes. But so too were the Cards, McCown and Poole.
“Anybody can beat anybody in the National Football League,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s a tough place to play but they play them every year in that division.”
Then again, Arians has stressed to his team all week they should only be paying attention to the 49ers and not the scoreboard. It’s simple, really. If the Cards blow the game against San Francisco (and it will be anything but easy), the Saints-Bucs game means nothing anyway.
“If we don’t win, that would really be a crying shame,” Arians said.
— One last note on the missed chance the Falcons had to knock off the 49ers. Arians cracked he was asleep when the final interception happened to cost Atlanta at least a chance to tie. He watched it later on video. “I like the fact Smitty was playing for the win,” Arians said of Falcons coach Mike Smith and the pass play at the end.
— The Cardinals had their last practice of the season Friday. Maybe. “I’ve been in a bunch of these, where the last one counts,” Arians said. “You don’t know what is going to happen Sunday. This team has a chance to make history and that’s all we have talked about all week.”
— The local chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association handed out its two annual awards Friday. Center Lyle Sendlein was given the Steve Schoenfeld “Good Guy” award for being always accessible and insightful with the media regardless of the situation. Linebacker Karlos Dansby received the Lloyd Herberg MVP award. Both awards are named after former Arizona Republic Cardinals writers whose lives were tragically cut short.
— A reminder: Cards are wearing red-on-red Sunday.
— The roof will be open for the game.
— In the weekly video about officiating that the league sends out, VP of officiating Dean Blandino explained the confusing first-and-20 situation in Seattle after an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Cardinals. A flag was thrown on defensive end Frostee Rucker. The penalty was for verbal abuse of an official. A normal unsportsmanlike penalty would be marked off and then the first-and-10 chains set – normally making it first-and-10 at the Arizona 10-yard line. When the penalty is against an official, however, the chains are set and then the penalty is marked off. So the Cards had a first-and-20 at their 10.
— In their last nine meetings against the 49ers, the Cardinals have a whopping 28 turnovers and have never won the turnover battle. That’s why they have lost eight of them (and the one win, the Cards had three turnovers, the Niners zero.) The Cards must take better care of the ball.
— The Cardinals did not play great that day in San Francisco back in October, but were left with the feeling of a missed opportunity. That’s been an underlying theme this week.
— Here’s hoping the Cards have found out how to quell tight end Vernon Davis, who beat them up pretty well the first time around (8-180-2). ”
— I am interested to see what it is like in University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday. This game has been sold out for a while. The Cards have a chance to win 11 for the first time in Arizona, playoffs or no playoffs. This is a rivalry. “If we could only win two games the whole season, I would pick both to be the 49ers,” Fitz said this week, and this is a chance to get one.
Until Sunday …
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Dean Blandino, Falcons, Josh McCown, Nate Poole, Saints, University of Phoenix stadium, Vernon Davis
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Go … Lavonte David?
In case you missed it last night — and I’m sure most of you didn’t — the 49ers beat the Falcons to clinch a playoff berth and eliminate the one opportunity left for the Cardinals to control their own postseason destiny. The Falcons almost posted a miracle finish, scoring a touchdown to pull within three and then recovering the onside kick and driving deep into San Francisco territory. Then this happened. And the Cards’ hopes were kicked right in the wrong place.
(And as a quick aside, I had no problem with the Falcons passing. Ryan was shredding the Niners in the fourth quarter with the pass and there, you are playing to win, not to settle for a field goal and overtime.)
So that leaves one playoff scenario for Arizona. Beat San Francisco at home, first of all. Second, the Cards must hope the Tampa Bay Buccaneers go into New Orleans and knock off (or at least tie) the Saints. Sure, the Saints are favored by a whopping 12 points. Sure, they are 7-0 at home with an average margin of victory of more than 17 points. Hey, the Bucs only lost by two to the Saints earlier in the season (in Tampa, and the Saints are a totally different team on the road.)
The NFL, into drama as it is, moved the kickoff of the Saints-Bucs game from an early to a late game, meaning the Cardinals’ chances will be riding along in parallel games with the 2:25 p.m. kickoff. Otherwise, the Cards might have known they were eliminated before they even took the field. I can’t see how Bruce Arians and his guys won’t be scoreboard watching in this case.
It’s about winning 11 games now for the Cardinals, and as Arians said, letting the chips fall. But the Cards have come within less than two minutes of two monumentally needed outcomes this weekend before being punched in the face twice — the Panthers were on the verge of a loss before Cam Newton threw a game-winning TD pass with 23 seconds left, and NaVarro Bowman’s game-changing interception last night was with 1:28 on the clock — and those chips are landing exactly where the Cards do not want them. One chip left to play.
Tags: 49ers, Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Falcons, NaVarro Bowman, playoffs, Saints
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Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was asked at the end of his Monday presser about the Buccaneers going hard at the Cards’ two kneel-downs at the end of the game as they tried to run out the clock. Arians turned very serious. “That’s their style,” Arians said. “I have no comment on it.”
It wasn’t hard to see how Arians felt about it when watching a video of the end of the game. The Cards had two kneel-downs and QB Carson Palmer was knocked on his backside on the first (screenshot below) as the Bucs crashed in. The second was also a jumble of bodies, and Arians delivered a noticeably quick handshake to Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano — if it was a handshake — and just as the camera was about to leave him, and what looked like a Tampa assistant Arians knew tried to say good game, Arians looked like he was going to give that coach a piece of his mind too.
This, of course, isn’t the first time this has been an issue. Flash back to Schiano’s first season last year and the same thing happened with the Giants. Reaction was mixed. Schiano said Monday afternoon on his radio show (via joebucsfan.com), after a Tampa fan said he had a problem with such a play, that his players are ultimately the ones who decide to do it.
“I can say it’s misunderstood. Maybe I’m misunderstood. Who knows? But there’s a couple of things that I can tell you. No. 1, it’s an organized play. It isn’t just a mayhem of diving,” Schiano said. “Has it worked here yet in the NFL? No. Has it worked before? Sure. It’s worked or I wouldn’t do it. You know, we’ve caused several balls to be put on the ground in the past in doing this. And there’s a technique, a series of techniques that are involved.
“But most importantly, you know, I want everybody to know, our players, I ask our players, ‘if we don’t want to do this, we don’t do it.’ I mean, that’s where I am. I’m not going to force guys. Because is there’s always a risk involved? Sure. I mean there’s always a risk involved when you’re hitting other people. And I’m talking about a risk for our players.”
Schiano went on to say in a one-score game and the Bucs need just a field goal, it’s part of his team’s belief system to go after the ball. He also said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was warning the Cardinals the rush was coming.
“I’d like people to quit complaining, and that’s what we’re going to do, and get ready for it,” Schiano added.
I’m not sure I buy that Schiano’s players have the latitude to say they won’t do it, especially if Schiano is saying it’s part of the team’s belief system. The question is, what will come first: The Bucs actually creating a turnover out of it, or some player getting hurt?
Tags: Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Carson Palmer, Greg Schiano
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Bruce Arians used the hot read on his first postgame comment Sunday.
“I wouldn’t have any other ending at Raymond James Stadium,” he said. “I’m kind of used to that.”
Of course, Arians was referencing both Sunday’s 13-10 come-from-behind win for the Cards over the Bucs and the Super Bowl he won with the Steelers back in early 2009, and yes, that picked at the scab of the Cards’ fans that remembered that painful ending all too well. Then again, it was nice for the Cards to avoid another painful trip to Tampa Bay. And goodness knows it certainly looked like it was going to be just that.
For a while it echoed the Cards’ last regular-season trip here, a seven-point loss in which the offense could do nothing. The Cards saw exactly what they expected this time out of rookie Mike Glennon. He completed some passes on them but for the most part, the Bucs’ offense did little. Not that they needed to.
But finally, the offense came around. Sure, Patrick Peterson had to play the set-up man – what in the world were the Bucs thinking letting a struggling rookie throw that deep in his own territory when the Cards had been doing next to nothing offensively? – and it’s always nice when your stars shine. Peterson two picks? Check. Fitz clutch TD? Check.
There will be frustration and concern, all rightfully so. Yet there is a world of difference between 1-3 and 2-2, and the Cards made sure they didn’t mess it up. Most, if presented with the possibility of 2-2 after four games – three being on the road – would take it. The Cards will.
— Peterson said the game changed as field position began to change in the second half. The offense didn’t score but at least it was getting yards. Meanwhile, the Bucs stopped moving as the Cards honed in on rookie QB Mike Glennon.
“(Being a rookie) definitely played into the thought process,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “They threw a little more early than I thought they would. He is a young quarterback and he made some young mistakes.”
— That included that game-turning pass thrown to Peterson. Glennon said he made the right read but just a bad throw. Peterson said he knew exactly what the route was and jumped the pass. Regardless, it changed the game.
— And yes, Peterson admitted that as a rookie, or even last year, he probably would have tried for a longer return on his final pick. But he got down because he just wanted to end the thing and get the Cards on their flight back to Arizona. A wise man.
— It was good to see Fitz get involved. Cause/effect? Sure seemed that way.
— The Cardinals will officially get Daryl Washington back. I’m pretty sure it’s as early as tomorrow. Peterson talked about how much more aggressive the Cardinals will be able to get with him in the lineup. I really think he will have a huge impact on the defense.
— The last time the Cards came back to win a road game where they trailed by at least 10 points in the fourth quarter? It was in Philadelphia, Sept. 12, 1999. The Cards were down 12 before coming back to win, 25-24. That’s the year before I started covering the team. The last time they won in regulation down at least 10 in the fourth quarter? That was 2003, with the infamous McCown-to-Poole Hail Mary pass to beat the Vikings, 18-17. That was 17-6 in the fourth.
— Rookie wideout Jaron Brown hadn’t looked sharp in his few chances this season, but he showed a lot by making that 19-yard sideline catch while being blasted by Bucs safety Dashon Goldson. Goldson was flagged (and could be suspended) and the Cards got the easy field goal attempt.
— Tyrann Mathieu got a couple of punt return attempts, but the Bucs kicked it away from him like they did Peterson. The first Mathieu return came after Peterson’s right arm went numb briefly, and he didn’t want to take a chance at fumbling a punt out there.
— The defensive linemen were huddled around after the game wanting to know how many yards the Bucs rushed for, and were disappointed when they heard 80 (on 31 carries). Of course, that was skewed by Goldson’s 22-yard fake punt. Doug Martin gained just 45 yards on 27 carries – 1.7 yards a tote – and that’s a good day’s work for the D.
— By the way, confirmed by Elias, there has only been eight times when a player had 25 or more carries and gained 45 or less yards since 1935. Only the second time it’s happened in a team’s loss. So again, a good day’s work for the D. Martin was a key Sunday.
— Arians wasn’t sounding overly concerned about Carson Palmer’s play. He did say he thought getting sacked on the first play didn’t help Palmer’s confidence. But “it’s not just him,” Arians said. “It’s 11 guys on offense. We have about eight of them playing in the first quarter the last two games.”
— I did think the pass protection was generally better in the game after a rough start. Palmer was sacked on that first play and then wasn’t sacked again.
— In their two wins, the Cards are a combined 2-for-21 on third-down conversions. Mind-boggling.
That’s enough from 35,000 feet. It’s been a long week.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Daryl Washington, Doug Martin, Jaron Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Mike Glennon, offensive line, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Safety Rashad Johnson was not cleared by doctors to play with his severed fingertip so he will not be active today against the Bucs. As expected, Tyrann Mathieu will start in his place.
No Johnson is a blow especially to a special teams unit that was already missing Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho. Special teams was a spot where the Cardinals had been consistent. We will have to see how the unit can respond. You figure rookie Tony Jefferson will also take a bigger role all the way around. The fact the Buccaneers probably will run the ball more with a rookie quarterback lends itself to the play of vet safety Yeremiah Bell, too (although the Cards must tackle better than they have.)
The rest of the inactive list comes as no surprise. Nose tackle Dan Williams (father’s death) and linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring) were already out. The others sitting:
— QB Ryan Lindley
— RB Ryan Williams
— T Bobby Massie
— G Earl Watford
For the Buccaneers, QB Josh Freeman, benched this week, is inactive. Wide receivers Mike Williams (ankle) and Vincent Jackson (ribs) are active.
Tags: Buccaneers, inactives, Rashad Johnson, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu, Yeremiah Bell
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The Cardinals have played the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay just once in the past 16 years, a forgettable 2007 17-10 loss in which, among other things, the Cards began to start leaving for East Coast trips on Fridays (after looking sluggish following a Saturday arrival in Tampa) and Larry Fitzgerald inexplicably stepped out of bounds on a long catch-and-run that seemed like it should have gone for a touchdown.
That, of course, doesn’t even include the last time the Cards played in Raymond James Stadium, which didn’t include the Buccaneers but did include Bruce Arians on the other sideline.
“I don’t have any good memories from this stadium at all,” Fitzgerald said.
The Cardinals desperately need to change that up this time around. It couldn’t be lined up any better. The team stayed in Florida for the week, to prep for the early start/humidity/weather. The Buccaneers decided to start a rookie quarterback – a third-round pick, no less – and will probably inactivate the only QB on the roster who has ever had any success in the NFL (and who played well against the Cards in 2010 in Arizona.) Fitzgerald is back healthy. The Bucs are 0-3 in the first place.
There seems like a giant chasm between a 2-2 record and a 1-3 record.
— Fitzgerald was talking – again, like he has the past couple of years – about what the problems were of the offense. Fitz obliged the best he could, and then was asked if he ever tired of saying the same things. Fitz smiled.
“I can give you clichés all day,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve got them in my back pocket. I’m not going to give you any bulletin board material. I’m going to keep it classy.”
— Some of the issues aren’t new. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin reiterated the need to protect Carson Palmer better, and if that happens, the offense flow from there. Once again, Goodwin was asked about extra blocking help on the edge, especially for left tackle Levi Brown.
“There’s only so many things you can do in a game based on what we do,” Goodwin said. “We are going to go empty. We are going to do play-action pass. Obviously he’s got to get the job done. Otherwise I’ll be in there.”
— The reality is that most teams have protection issues these days. Look around the league. That doesn’t excuse problems Brown or anyone else have, but few teams are satisfied. It can change week to week too. As for sacks, the goal is “get the number down,” Goodwin said. “You are going to give up sacks, it’s the nature of the beast. We just have to do a better job getting in front of those guys, try and slow them down.”
— If the equation is a) the Bucs’ top two receivers Mike Williams and Vincent Jackson are questionable with injuries and b) the Bucs are starting rookie Mike Glennon at quarterback and c) the Bucs have a solid run game with Doug Martin in the backfield, well, that all should equal some obvious offensive tendencies. That run defense we saw through the first two-and-three-quarter games – before the Saints game went sideways – is what the Cards need in Tampa.
— Looking back at that 2007 game, the seven-point loss – the Bucs had the ball for more than 43 minutes. How is that even possible in a 17-10 game? I’m sure the Bucs want to possess the ball again like that. The best thing the Cards could do is have another opening drive like the one in New Orleans. With Glennon and not Drew Brees, the affect would be much greater.
— Martin, whose nickname in college was the “Muscle Hamster” – a nickname Martin clearly hated – played at Boise State. His tackle was current Cardinal Nate Potter, and at one point, there was a story going around that Potter gave him the nickname. Martin said that wasn’t the case.
“He actually didn’t call me the nickname, and that’s why I like him,” Martin said.
— How the Cards deal with the loss of their starting linebackers is going to be a major storyline. It isn’t as if Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho were dominant, but they were starters for a reason. And they clearly will be missed on special teams, which has been the one spot that’s been pretty consistent up until this point. What you have to wonder about is the coverage skills of the outside guys on the roster. Shaughnessy, Abraham and Moch are all pass rushers first.
— It’s been a crazy week with the finger issue of Rashad Johnson, all the way to the very real possibility he will play Sunday. That just is unreal to me.
— The team will bus from Sarasota to Tampa tomorrow afternoon. Two-game road trips in the NFL – true road trips, not road games on back-to-back weekends – are rare. We’ll see if the Cards can come up with a split.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, Dontay Moch, Doug Martin, Harold Goodwin, John Abraham, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Matt Shaughnessy, Rashad Johnson
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The Cardinals finished their final full practice of the week today. After that rocky start to the week, with a practice that could have been poor Wednesday because of the rain and the near-flooded field (pictures here) but went, by all accounts, pretty well. The sun came out Thursday (with the IMG fields remarkably dry 24 hours later) and the Cards got in all their necessary work for Sunday’s game against the Bucs.
“The adversity kind of helped make it more focused,” coach Bruce Arians said. “It was something we needed this week.”
We’ll have a “Friday Before” post in a bit, but here are a couple of quick notes:
— S Rashad Johnson was limited in practice today and will be questionable for the game. Arians sure made it sound like he would play, although Johnson said he and the team will still check it out Saturday. He tried to work a cast that would give a couple fingers freedom, but it was determined it wasn’t going to work, so if he does play, he will do so with a big ball cast on his left hand. Arians said he’d be a backup and play special teams.
— Are the Cards ready for the humidity? Sure, Arians said, deadpanning, “I think we had seven IVs yesterday. It was about what we needed.”
— Arians said Wednesday the linebackers would be Matt Shaughnessy and John Abraham and the young guys would fill in behind them. But Arians was a little less detailed Friday talking about who would start at outside linebacker, with heat and weather conditions playing factors as well.
“Depend on the packages,” Arians said. “Todd has a number of different packages. There could be any number of mix and match scenarios.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Buccaneers, linebackers, Rashad Johnson
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The last time — the only time — Larry Fitzgerald went to Revis Island, it wasn’t even an island yet. It was still just young, promising cornerback Darrelle Revis, like Fitzgerald a University of Pittsburgh product and No. 1 pick of the New York Jets. Fitz had eight catches for 122 yards that day in New York, but Revis had two interceptions of Kurt Warner — returning one for a touchdown — and two pass deflections. The Jets took a 34-0 lead at halftime and ended up with a 56-35 win. Revis’ first pick was intended for tight end Ben Patrick. His second was on the final play of the game, a pass thrown to Fitz that had little meaning behind it since just a few moments before, Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin had had his jaw shattered.
Fitz and Revis hadn’t had a chance to see each other since. Last year in New York, Revis had long been down with his torn knee ligament, and it’s not like the Jets’ defense needed help on Fitz given the Cards’ bad quarterback situation. The Cards scored just six points that day.
So now Fitzgerald gets a real chance at Revis Island when the Cards visit Tampa Bay, Revis’ new home, Sunday.
“This is the best defense in general we have faced all season,” Fitzgerald said. “Darelle is playing at an elite level as always. I don’t see any difference in his play.”
Revis has played since the opener coming off his knee surgery. He plays a Fitzgerald who is practicing fully this week after suffering his hamstring pull. Fitz had a team-best five catches and 64 yards in New Orleans, but certainly, it wouldn’t hurt if the Cards could use him more and surely, Fitz would like that himself.
“I know Larry very well,” Revis said. “I know him personally and it’s cool, it’s competition, I’ve played him before, a couple years ago. I’m excited he’s healthy and I’m excited he’s back (from injury), so it’s going to be fun. Whoever I line up on — You never know, I might not line up on Larry — but whatever the game plan is and what we’re doing is for us to execute a winning game.”
One interesting coincidence: The last time Fitzgerald and Revis played against each other? It came at the end of the Cardinals spending a week away from Arizona between games on the East coast — just like this week.
Tags: Buccaneers, Darrelle Revis, Jets, Larry Fitzgerald
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