The Cardinals, like every team, have a bunch of draft-eligible players visit this time of year. You can have up to 30 come to the team facility, and that doesn’t count players from local colleges or who already live in the area, nor does it count any private workouts a coach or a front-office exec might have by flying out to meet a player. This is, of course, on top of pro days and the combine, where teams have 15 minutes to meet with up to 60 players.
So what does it mean when a player visits Tempe before the draft? Odds are, nothing.
To be sure, players are coming through. (I ran into a couple downstairs the other day. No, I have no idea who they were.) But visits have never meant a ton to me. I remember Levi Brown saying he had no idea the Cards were going to draft him because they hadn’t talked to him beforehand. (No snide remarks, please.) If you just do the math — 25 or 30 visits, plus all the combine guys, plus private workouts, like the one recently by Bruce Arians of Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas that was put out there publicly by the school — that’s at least, what 65 or 70 (assuming possible duplicates)? All that for six draft picks, at least as of right now.
The Big Lead did an interesting article this morning about the topic. When you look at all the guys that are known to take visits last year, the vast majority are never drafted by teams. That’s not a surprise, but it’s also why it makes no sense to worry much about who is coming in. The “visit” tracker TBL used isn’t complete at all, it only listed 10 players the Cardinals met with pre-draft last year. But of the 10, the Cards took only one — Tyrann Mathieu. Quarterbacks were on the list, but the Cards passed on Ryan Nassib and Mike Glennon more than once. The Patriots had 43 players known on the visit list last year, and they drafted none of them.
(Quick side note: Some teams announce what players visit, some don’t. For some it’s easier to find out for reporters. When I first started covering the Cards, the team not only announced who visited, but we were allowed to interview them. I remember doing that on the 2001 visits of Leonard Davis and defensive lineman Gerard Warren.)
Again, visits may provide info, but it’s impossible to know what information a team is trying to glean. It’s even possible a team brings in a player to purposely intimate interest when there is none — love the draft smokescreens. In the end, the speculation can be fun but it’s usually fruitless, given all the variables involved.
Tags: draft, Levi Brown, Tyrann Mathieu
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That didn’t take long.
Levi Brown, set to start Sunday in Pittsburgh in the Steelers’ first game since trading for the Cardinals’ left tackle, hurt his triceps in warmups (after, as it turned out, the team had put in the game’s inactives, leading them to be short for the day.) Today, the Steelers put Brown on injured reserve, ending his season before he ever took a snap for Pittsburgh. Given Levi’s contract, I’d expect at the very least for the Steelers to release him after the season. Could they bring him back? Maybe, but not under this deal. He is due $6 million in 2014.
What does this mean for the Cardinals? Well, we know there was a conditional pick involved coming from the Steelers. That usually means based on some sort of playing time — which I feel confident in saying Brown didn’t reach, since he never even played a down. The Cards also sent a pick back.
Essentially, it means (and this is total speculation on what is involved, just trying to give an example) the Cards got, for instance, a sixth-round pick and gave the Steelers a seventh, and maybe the sixth could have become a fifth. Now, there will be no change, whatever the deal might have been. UPDATE: Kent Somers reports Brown had to be on Steelers’ active roster for five weeks to force draft pick compensation in the first place. Now that Brown won’t be, there will not be any swap of picks. In the end, the Cards basically cut Brown but saved about $600,000 that the Steelers ended up paying.
The Cards, based on what GM Steve Keim said at the time of the trade, sounded close to releasing Brown anyway. More importantly for the Cardinals, they moved on from the Levi Brown era, which was probably necessary.
Levi done with triceps injury before he ever plays a game in Pittsburgh. RT @steelers: We have placed Levi Brown and David Johnson on IR.
— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) October 15, 2013
Tags: Levi Brown, Steelers, Steve Keim, trade
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– The Cardinals get a conditional draft pick. Many have asked what it is, or even, what conditional means. Terms were not specified, but a conditional pick means the teams have agreed to two possibilities, a baseline pick the Cards will get regardless, and then a chance for that pick to be higher in the draft if Brown meets a certain criteria — either number of starts or percentage of snaps or something like that. The teams have not said what the possible picks are. I’d be surprised if we were talking anything higher than the fifth round. Maybe lower. For instance, the Steelers could offer a seventh, with it becoming a sixth if Brown starts a certain number of games.
UPDATE: According to the NFL transactions list released by the league, the Cardinals and Steelers swapped “unannounced” draft picks in the deal — meaning in addition to getting Brown, the Cards also sent a pick to the Steelers, while the Steelers sent a pick to the Cards. The details of what went where are unknown. And I’m sure it still has to do with some sort of playing time condition.
– The Cards will take a pretty significant hit of “dead” cap money next season. According to Brian McIntyre (and also reported elsewhere), the Cardinals gave Brown a $3.086 million bonus as they traded him. That represents most of the $3.6 million or so Brown was still due in salary this season, minus the $546,000 or so the Steelers will pay him as a veterans minimum salary. (Brown is due $715,000 a season at vet minimum at his experience; That number is divided by 17 weeks and figured for the 13 weeks left.)
That extra bonus pro-rates over the final four seasons of Brown’s deal. It means some goes on the Cards’ 2013 cap, but most goes on the 2014 salary cap. Brown was already going to cost $4.2 million in dead money (on his original signing bonus being pushed into next season) and the “new” bonus creates another $2.3M — totaling $6.5 million of “dead” Brown cap money in 2014. It lowered the cap hit the Cards are taking from Brown in 2013 by almost $3 million, however, creating more cap space if they want to re-sign anyone during the season.
Tags: Levi Brown, salary cap
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A lot happened over six years since Levi Brown first showed up, not the least of which being the Cardinals actually released Brown — which felt like the end of Brown’s time in Arizona — only to have the two sides decide to continue their marriage. That made some sense at the time, because then-offensive line coach Russ Grimm was a Levi fan and the Cards still needed a left tackle. But Grimm is gone now and a new staff, a new regime, finally decided to cut ties with Brown.
Yet it’s hard to escape the fact that Brown was always going to be linked to Adrian Peterson, the running back who is headed to the Hall of Fame and who was a consideration for the Cards. Brown was picked fifth, Peterson seventh. That part of the Brown narrative, while noteworthy, seems ancient and irrelevant to me at this point — the man was released once already, so I think the point was already made — but obviously, he will always be that guy for this fan base.
(Looking back at the newspaper/internet clips from that draft, Peterson was mentioned, but there was no outrage, locally or nationally, that the Cards picked Brown over Peterson. The Cards also had Edgerrin James at the time. In hindsight, the choice looks terrible. But in the moment, not so much.)
“When you look back at some of these high-round draft picks, they are under the microscope and the bulls-eye is on their chest from Day One,” Cards GM Steve Keim said. “When you don’t live up to expectations from Day One, that’s tough pill to carry. Not only Adrian Peterson, (but linebacker) Patrick Willis was No. 11 that year.”
Those are the examples Keim gives to young scouts these days, mistakes to learn from and grow from. But it was never going to help Brown, whose situation always felt like a more intense version of Calvin Pace. Pace was the pass rusher the Cards settled for instead of taking Terrell Suggs, and that too became an albatross for Pace. Brown tired early on with the Peterson talk, and that was understandable. Of bigger concern was his play, which was shoved further into the spotlight when he moved to the left side.
Brown struggled often. Brown’s play late in 2011 spurred reason for hope, enough so, apparently, that the Cards made sure to bring him back despite releasing him because of his exorbitant rookie contract salary due in 2012. Then he missed all of 2012 with his triceps injury, and the pressure was put back on him as soon as coach Bruce Arians called Brown “elite” at the owners’ meetings.
Arians was basing that on video he had watched. The coach addressed the “elite” comment Wednesday: “The player I saw on that tape was why I made the comment,” Arians said. “Once we started working together with all the offensive line coaches we had, it just wasn’t working out.” It’s hard not to feel that the three sacks Brown gave up in the season opener to the Rams’ Robert Quinn wasn’t ultimately the tipping point.
I have no doubt that had one of the top three tackles in the 2013 draft fallen to No. 7, instead of all being gobbled up by the fourth overall pick, the Cardinals would have taken one. Who knows? The Levi Brown era might have been over much sooner than now. Instead, Brown is traded and the Cards move Bradley Sowell to left tackle. He’ll get his chance, but if a left tackle is staring at the Cards in round one next May, I’m sure they will consider it. The hope is, if they take one, they won’t have a similar roller-coaster ride.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Calvin Pace, Levi Brown, Steve Keim
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Multiple reports have surfaced this morning that the Cardinals are trading left tackle Levi Brown to the Steelers at some point today. No word on compensation, but I wouldn’t expect any blockbuster in return. This way, the Cards ease the logjam of offensive linemen on the roster — Bradley Sowell becomes the starting left tackle, and I would guess Nate Potter is the backup LT knowing you have both Earl Watford and Mike Gibson who can play guard.
More importantly, it clears away the constant talk of Brown’s play at left tackle, whether he will improve, and what the Cards will do at that spot. It’s funny that the Cards trade Brown the very week GM Steve Keim said on his radio show Brown played his best game of the season.
Nothing official has been announced yet and I would doubt it will be until Brown passes his physical. But Keim long ago promised to be aggressive with the roster, and it has been clear that, at some point, the Cards were going to try and upgrade from Brown (who is due $6M in salary next season and is still due $3.6M this season.)
UPDATE: On trades after June 1, signing bonus does not accelerate into the current league year, so the Cards will absorb $4.2M in dead Brown signing bonus cap room into the 2014 cap.
UPDATE II: Still not officially announced by Cards and Bruce Arians declined to comment, but the Steelers announced the move on their Twitter feed:
We have traded the Cardinals for OT Levi Brown. Isaiah Green was released to make room. We’re giving up a conditional pick in the deal.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 2, 2013
UPDATE III: It’s now officially been announced by Cards. Arians won’t be available to comment on it until Friday. GM Steve Keim is speaking later this afternoon.
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Levi Brown, Steelers
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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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This may be a game between the Cardinals and the Lions, but it feels like in some way, shape or form this week has been about arguably the best two wide receivers in the game (with a little Levi Brown sprinkled in.) Seeing how the Cardinals deal with Calvin Johnson – through Patrick Peterson, of course – was a natural, and then Larry Fitzgerald had to go and tweak his hamstring Wednesday and make his status a big part of the narrative.
The Lions are a better team and more importantly, in a better place, than the group that showed up to University of Phoenix Stadium last December and got pounded, 38-10. Then again, and I think this gets lost, so are the Cardinals. That Cardinals team was floundering on offense (and did so again in that game, mostly, even with the lopsided score) and on a nine-game losing streak. So it’s not like the Cards haven’t moved forward themselves.
It comes down to this: You can’t afford to start 0-2. Not in this division, not with this schedule, not with a team coming cross country to play in your home opener.
“We need a great crowd and the energy that will be there in the stadium,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Hopefully it will ignite us even more. Sometimes you use the opponent’s crowd cheering for them, but it’s nothing like when they are cheering for you.”
– Fitzgerald was asked this week if there are any matchups against a cornerback he relishes like Peterson does going against a guy like Johnson. Fitz said – no doubt knowing exactly what he meant – that it would be Peterson.
“Every day I match up with Patrick is special, in practice,” Fitzgerald said. “I have the benefit of having the top guy in my own locker room.”
We will take him at his word. Fitz did note how Peterson has gotten so much smarter as a cornerback, using safety help to create better leverage and just overall taking a step forward in the mental game when he already had a lot going for him physically. “That’s a deadly, deadly combination,” Fitz said.
– Life on an island against great receivers isn’t easy. But it can’t matter, cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “You know what you are getting into once you play this position,” Powers said. “You know some of the big-time names and guys in the league out there who have proved it, Calvin and Larry, that you know are top-notch. You have to believe in your technique and believe in your ability. They put their shoes on just like they do. You just have to have that type of confidence.”
– Big game for left tackle Levi Brown. It’s one thing to deal with speedster Robert Quinn on the turf. He’ll be back on grass, and the Lions don’t have an edge guy like Quinn. For all the focus on the Peterson-Megatron matchup, everyone knows Brown will be under the microscope too, after last week.
“We have a high expectation for that position and he has to meet that,” said offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Harold Goodwin. “(He needs to) carry over things he does in practice and take it to the game. That’s all he has to do and he’ll be fine.”
– Arians said he thought inside linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby played “solid” in St. Louis, although he said Brinkley got caught in space a couple of times. Profootballfocus.com gave both good grades against the run but noted their struggles in pass coverage.
– Missed tackles were an issue last week too. “I’m not surprised,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “Probably disappointed. (The Rams) are a good football team. We just have to tackle better. We had been doing a good job of it, but we didn’t last week.”
– Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was credited with two tackles and one quarterback pressure last week, according to the coaching staff. Dockett will need to make more of an impact for this defense to really shine.
“I don’t feel I played bad,” Dockett said. “I played well in spurts. I can do better. No matter what the stats say I always feel I could have done something better. The biggest thing was creating pressure when I had one-on-one blocks, I could have done a lot better with those.”
– The Cardinals, if you wanted to know, will be wearing their red jerseys. I anticipate white pants.
– There were no fines last week for the Rams for any of the hits on Andre Roberts. But cornerback Cortland Finnegan was fined $7,875 for a late hit (I believe on Michael Floyd, that was the play Finnegan drew an unnecessary roughness flag) and so was St. Louis linebacker William Hayes, who hit someone late after the play on a punt.
– Almost a week later, Tyrann Mathieu still isn’t going to get all giddy about his forced fumble against Rams tight end Jared Cook last week. He’s much more matter-of-fact.
“It definitely boosts your confidence, let’s you know you can make plays in the NFL,” Mathieu said. “I am looking forward to making more plays like that in the NFL. It’s all about how you practice. If you practice those things, 100 percent of the time you will make those plays in games.”
I mentioned that both Arians and Hall of Famer Deion Sanders (who happens to be a Mathieu mentor) called it one of the best plays they had ever seen. Mathieu shrugged his shoulders. “If I forced a fumble and picked it up and ran it back 100 yards, that’s amazing to me,” Mathieu said. “But I understand why they said it. It was a big-time play. I’m happy those guys are rooting for me.”
OK, that’s plenty. Cards-Lions Sunday. I’ll be on pre-game radio at 10 a.m., on KTAR 92.3 FM, if you want to give a listen.
Tags: Andre Roberts, Bruce Arians, Calvin Johnson, Cortland Finnegan, Darnell Dockett, Deion Sanders, Harold Goodwin, Jasper Brinkley, Jerraud Powers, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Lions, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu
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At one point during his press conference Monday, Bruce Arians said he only used three of the six bullets he planned to use in St. Louis — a reference to the deep shots he goes into every game wanting to try. And when people jump up and talk about giving left tackle Levi Brown help, well, therein lies the rub.
“There were some shots that we didn’t take in the game, looking back,” Arians said. “We didn’t throw a couple of balls that I would’ve liked to have called, mainly because of the pressure. Normally, I don’t do that.”
That’s why Levi Brown, if he is going to stay in the lineup, has to improve in one-on-ones and the Cards can’t just rely on helping him every time. (I found it interesting, by the way, that Brown wasn’t among the top 10 lowest graded players for the week by profootballfocus.com. Darnell Dockett was eighth in the league. On the positive side, QB Carson Palmer was the third highest ranked player in the NFL, and the top quarterback — even above Peyton Manning and his seven TD passes.)
Arians has a term for when his play-calling is inhibited because of needing extra pass protection. He calls it button-up. “You’re all blocked up with nowhere to go,” Arians said. “Somebody else is going to get there soon enough.” Arians told an anecdote playing against the Titans once upon a time, and using extra blockers on Kevin Carter and Jevon Kearse. The problem? There were so few receivers in the pattern, none could get open, and eventually, the protection broke down anyway. “We got sacked about five times,” Arians said.
That doesn’t mean help doesn’t help (like Andre Ellington’s great block on Michael Floyd’s long catch, below) but the Cards can’t do it all the time. As for Brown and the Cards situation, Kent Somers does a great job breaking down the “elite” talk and the Cards’ thought process that led us to this point.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Levi Brown, Michael Floyd
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The new depth chart revealed a new option on the left side with newcomer Bradley Sowell listed as Levi Brown’s backup. Sowell was on the right side last week, but he’s been flipped and Nate Potter now officially listed as the left guard backup to Daryn Colledge.
A lot of people have asked about Bobby Massie playing the left side, but he’s never done it. In college, in fact, Massie was also a right tackle at Ole Miss — because the left tackle was none other than Sowell. Sowell played in only six games as a rookie for the Colts (including the playoff game), and was right tackle in all but one, in which he played left guard. In college, however, he started 36 of his final 37 games at left tackle.
None of this means Sowell is on the verge of starting or taking Levi Brown’s place. Bruce Arians sounded pretty sure the last couple of days that there was no plan on changing out Brown now. But the Cards will probably get Sowell work there like Potter is working at guard, and we will see what happens — both with Sowell’s development and Brown’s play on the field.
– The running back depth chart was officially changed too, and Ryan Williams — as how it played out in the opener — is indeed listed fifth, behind Rashard Mendenhall, Alfonso Smith, Stepfan Taylor and then Andre Ellington (even though Ellington got eight offensive snaps and Taylor none against the Rams.)
– Speaking of the offensive line, I caught up with Jonathan Cooper. He isn’t worried about being a rookie again next year when he returns from his broken leg, because of his confidence gained from playing in the preseason.
Tags: Alfonso Smith, Andre Ellington, Bradley Sowell, Jonathan Cooper, Levi Brown, Ryan Williams, Stepfan Taylor
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Bruce Arians just met with the media, and the locker room will be open in about 10 minutes. So, before then, some quick notes:
– Left tackle Levi Brown had some technique problems and needs to play better. But Arians said he didn’t think the offensive line play was “the end of the world.” He also said on two of the sacks Brown gave up a running back should have helped with a chip and went out into the pass pattern too early. Clearly, a change is not coming. But Arians is aware of it. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the most negative thing was the pressure on the quarterback and the sacks and the turnovers,” Arians said.
– The Cardinals got out the game “clean,” Arians said, although he said tight end Rob Housler (ankle) would probably miss another game.
– He thought the defense did well in a couple of key stands, especially after turnovers. Obviously the pass rush was a problem. He said he liked the push provided up front by Dan Williams and Calais Campbell. It was hard not to notice he did not mention Darnell Dockett, who did not seem to show up much Sunday. Pass-rush-wise, Arians said too many players forgot about the proper technique like going with power moves instead of speed they might not have had. “Don’t all of a sudden go rogue” and forget your strengths, Arians said.
– Clearly Arians wasn’t thrilled with kicker Jay Feely, who not only missed the 50-yard field goal but “was poor on kickoffs.” The early squib kickoffs of Feely were not planned, Arians said. But Arians also said the Cardinals were not planning on looking at any other kickers right now. “We looked at the best kicker” available, Arians said in a reference to Dan Carpenter. It’s also notable that Feely, as a vested veteran, is guaranteed his $1.5 million salary now that he was on the roster the first week.
– Arians said the Feely miss, and the other red-zone visit that resulted in a Feely field goal instead of a touchdown, ultimately were scoring opportunities that cost the Cards the game.
– Arians talked about how the Cards had correctable problems for the most part. After the loss, he said he was “disappointed? Yes. Discouraged? Not at all.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Jay Feely, Levi Brown, Rob Hosuler
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