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Cards feel the cost of injuries

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2014 – 10:55 am

The Cardinals are not the most injured team in the league, although there has been little argument they have been undercut by the players they have lost. In the NFL, of course, anytime you lose a starting quarterback, that automatically puts you near the top of the list.

Quantifying that compared to other teams in virtually impossible. There are dozens of ways to look at it. But here is one. Spotrac.com has compiled a list that adds up the salary cap hits each team have sitting on injured reserve, and, no surprise, the Cardinals have landed in the top five. The Cards are fourth, with eight IR’d players taking up $28.8 million in cap space. The three teams ahead of them: the Giants with $34.7M, the Rams at $30.6M and the Bears at $29.9M. The Giants are there in part because they have a whopping 22 players on IR. The Rams have one less player on IR than the Cards, but with QB Sam Bradford’s huge contract ($17.6M himself) the total is slightly ajar.

The eight Cardinals on IR: Carson Palmer, John Abraham, Darnell Dockett, Troy Niklas, Ed Stinson, Dave Zastudil, Andre Ellington and Eddie Whitley. That total doesn’t include linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who was out eight weeks when he was on IR/designated to return.

You can argue that the money could be weighted — the Bears, for instance, just put wide receiver Brandon Marshall on IR — but the overall totals do speak to the “importance” of the players on IR, because you figure the guys with the highest cap numbers are usually the most crucial.

As for the full list of walking wounded Cards, here are the guys who have missed games this season because of injuries, with the total games they have sat out thus far:

DT Dockett (14)
LB Abraham (13)
P Zastudil (12)
LB Shaughnessy (8)
QB Palmer (8)
TE Niklas (7)
DT Stinson (5)
S Tyrann Mathieu (3)
LB Alex Okafor (3)
LB Glenn Carson (3)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (2)
LB Desmond Bishop (2)
DE Calais Campbell (2)
RB Stepfan Taylor (2)
G Paul Fanaika (2)
RB Ellington (2)
DE Frostee Rucker (1)
TE Rob Housler (1)

We’ll see if the final two games bring any more surprises.

EllingtobloginjuryesUSE


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Cromartie has ankle injury, and other Keim notes

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2014 – 8:19 am

The short week has started. The Cardinals are already in meetings this morning, prepping for a Thursday night game in St. Louis, even as the win Sunday against the Chiefs has barely had a chance to register. That’s what happens on a short week; Bruce Arians said the coaches probably won’t even grade the Chiefs game because it’s already time to move ahead. Today is “Wednesday” in terms of the prep schedule, Tuesday is “Thursday” and Wednesday is a combo “Friday/Saturday” with travel mixed in. Hectic doesn’t begin to describe it.

So the newsiest thing coming out of GM Steve Keim’s weekly segment on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 this morning was an update on cornerback Antonio Cromartie. When Cromartie first got hurt it did not look good, having to be helped off with help. Then it was announced it was an Achilles injury, which is really not good. A tear there and you are done for a long time.

But after the game, Arians said it wasn’t the Achilles, and Keim this morning said the preliminary diagnosis was an ankle injury affecting the peroneal tendon. Keim said at this point Cro is day-to-day, although he is getting more extensively checked out by doctors this morning.

“Things  can change, but it wasn’t on the surface as severe as I thought it looked,” Keim said.

More from Keim:

— He said he wasn’t sure how Andre Ellington’s workload will be handled next year, but that he needs to get fixed up now. The running back is will go on injured reserve as soon as today and is getting surgery on a hernia in Philadelphia.

“Sometimes in football there are those fluke injuries,” Keim said. “And there are those guys who have rough seasons in terms of durability.

“Andre has got to stay healthy and I think this is an important offseason for him in terms of strength and conditioning, getting bigger, stronger.”

— Keim said the offensive line had its best game of the season, and thinks left tackle Jared Veldheer is “having a Pro Bowl season.”

— Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy banged up his shoulder late in the game and didn’t return, but Keim said he should be OK.

— Keim said he and Arians had “several conversations” over the last few weeks whether to make running back Kerwynn Williams active. They liked what they saw on the practice field, but there was an unknown once he would get into a game. Guess Williams answered that concern.

— It was director of football administration Mike Disner — the Cardinals’ salary cap guru, among other duties — who saw the ball pop loose from Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and told Arians he should challenge. The resulting Cardinals’ recovery was a turning point in the game. Disner spends every game with the coaches in booth upstairs, and one of his duties is to help figure out replay challenges.

“Dis gave us for good information for once,” Keim joked. “Not many people know this, but one of my nicknames for him is ‘Dismal.’ Because he is the money man. So many times we are talking about potential free agents or guys I’d like to sign and he’s the guy who gives me the thumbs up whether we can afford him or not. I call him ‘Dismal’ because too many times I get the thumbs down. (Sunday), ‘Dismal’ gave us some great news.”

— Keim opened his segment by praising the home fans. “They were a big reason why we won Sunday.”


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RB Bush cut as Shaughnessy rejoins roster

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2014 – 3:01 pm

The Cardinals made a somewhat surprising move today by cutting recently signed running back Michael Bush. The Cards were going to have to create a roster spot for linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who is coming off IR/designated to return. But the Cards also decided to promote running back Kerwynn Williams back to the active roster from the practice squad, so cutting Bush and new tight end Matthew Mulligan were the moves made.

Bruce Arians had been hesitant to say if Bush was playing this week, and this probably is the reason why. Stepfan Taylor is getting the start at running back in place of the injured Andre Ellington, who heads up a long list of injured players. This doesn’t necessarily eliminate Bush from coming back — it’s possible he’s just not up to speed yet, not like Williams, who knows the offense, and this is a game-to-game thing — although it’s also possible the Bush experiment simply didn’t work out.

Arians said the running backs will be worked in as the game dictates. I’d anticipate Marion Grice getting a chunk of work even with Taylor starting. We’ll see if the Cardinals can make headway running the ball against what has been a bad Chiefs’ run defense.

“The runs that are working pretty good are the ones downhill,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “We have to be better at the ones that go sideways, as far as zone plays.”

Ellington (hip), starting right guard Paul Fanaika (ankle), defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) and safety Tyrann Mathieu (thumb surgery) are all listed as out.

Arians also said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who has been making progress but who is still not 100 percent, is going to be a game-day decision again — so no lock Fitz plays. Fitzgerald did practice fully Friday for the first time since his knee injury, however.


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Mathieu could miss time; Veldheer hurting

Posted by Darren Urban on December 1, 2014 – 12:39 pm

The broken left thumb of safety Tyrann Mathieu leaves a lot in the air about Mathieu’s immediate future, coach Bruce Arians said Monday. Mathieu was at the doctor as Arians met with the media, and the checkup was to determine the best course of action going forward for the thumb. There is a chance Mathieu, in order to properly set it, will need a pin inserted. If that happens, Arians said, Mathieu would be out three weeks. But there is also a chance Mathieu will be able to cast it up and play.

Left tackle Jared Veldheer also sprained his ankle late in the Atlanta game. He never came out it is now something Veldheer has to deal with, and Arians did not know if that meant Veldheer could miss a game. Bradley Sowell would take Veldheer’s place if that happened. Starting right guard Paul Fanaika is also dealing with an ankle sprain, leaving his status up in the air. Running back Andre Ellington (hip pointer) will miss Wednesday’s practice, Arians said, and the Cards will go from there on his status.

But there is good news. Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy is coming back this week — he’s already been practicing — and will play Sunday, although Arians said the Cards will work him in and not just drop him in the lineup. And Arians said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald should practice Wednesday coming back from his knee sprain.

Injurybloguse


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Some rough Falcons aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2014 – 8:29 pm

Everything Sunday was supposed to be for the Cardinals – everything the Cards needed it to be – it wasn’t. Bruce Arians called the loss to the Falcons disappointing, lots of players called it disappointing, but more importantly, they were asking themselves why it happened the way it did when they simply couldn’t afford such a performance.

“We didn’t wake up,” linebacker Kevin Minter said. “It was like we were asleep the whole game. We’ve just got to do better, man. Do what got us here, as far as hitting people in the mouth, just playing hungry, playing nasty – play like we are one of the top teams in the league, which we supposedly were until these last two games. We’ve just got to wake back up and get back on this winning train.”

The offense wasn’t good, and we’ll get to that in a moment. But from the time that Steven Jackson – Steven Jackson? – reeled off a 55-yard run on the game’s first possession, it was the defense that simply didn’t do enough Sunday. No, the offense didn’t do enough either, but this year, with this team, the defense is held to the higher standard. The defense will be what takes the Cardinals however far they will go.

Jackson gained 101 yards. The Cardinals never give up 100 yards to a running back. Julio Jones put Patrick Peterson on blast to the tune of a career-high 189 yards, and Harry Douglas added 116 himself – you know, as long as Roddy White was hurt, why not?

The last time the Cardinals gave up at least 100 yards in a game to a running back and two receivers? Way (way) back on Nov. 12, 2000, when Robert Smith rushed for 117 yards, Cris Carter had 119 yards receiving and Randy Moss has 104 for the Vikings. Of course, that was for a bad, bad Cardinals team that went through a midseason coaching change. This was by a defense that not only is better, but when it is playing well is one of the best in the league.

Adversity has come to visit, linebacker Larry Foote said. With four games left – including the last three within the division – the Cardinals have to figure out how to overcome. It starts on defense.

— Stanton did seem to find a little bit of a groove after a very slow start. But the Cards kill themselves over and over. A Michael Floyd fumble here. A Ted Larsen holding penalty there. An incomplete bomb to Ted Ginn on third-and-2. The first thing Stanton talked about after the game was converting third downs, of which the Cards did only once Sunday.

— Andre Ellington said he’ll be OK after his hip pointer – he said it was a different injury than the one he has been dealing with – but the run game didn’t help again. Falling behind so big so early didn’t help, but Ellington and backup Marion Grice combined for just 10 rushing attempts, for just 35 yards.

— There were too many important players standing out of uniform on the sideline during the game – Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, John Abraham – to not make you think if all the injuries are starting to catch up to this team.

— The Cardinals do get linebacker Matt Shaughnessy back this week and he can play against the Chiefs. That isn’t a small thing.

— Jaron Brown had his best game, with a team-best seven catches for 75 yards in Fitz’s absence, and absorbed one wicked blow late as he was tackled. Brown was fine with that, he said. He wasn’t fine with the ball that glanced off his hands early in the game, which turned into the Falcons’ first interception. The pass looked too high from Stanton, but to that Brown shrugged off.

“That catch I should have made,” he said. “It hit my hands. Those tips are something we can’t have.”

— Lyle Sendlein, who used to be an offensive captain before Carson Palmer took a foothold in the locker room, is wearing the “C” on his uniform again now that Palmer is out for the season.

— With the high-ankle sprain of Paul Fanaika, it sure looks like Jonathan Cooper will be in the lineup as a starting guard for a little while at least. Even before Fanaika got hurt, Cooper was swapping series with Ted Larsen at left guard. It looked like the effort to reintroduce him into the lineup had begun.

— Arians said he didn’t challenge the 41-yard catch by Julio Jones in the second half – the one in which numerous fans mentioned to me on Twitter Jones only got one foot down – because the coaches upstairs never saw a replay. Peterson was called for holding on the play, but a challenge could have saved the Cards 36 yards if the catch had been negated.

— The punt team nearly was burned on a 70-yard punt return touchdown by Devin Hester. But Hester was called for a facemask while trying to straight-arm punter Drew Butler, and then the Falcons were flagged for another 15-yard penalty for complaining about that call. Cost the Falcons four points in the end (Atlanta later got a field goal). Hester afterward insisted it was a bad call.

— That’s it from 30,000 feet. The Cardinals go back to work tomorrow, trying desperately to right what’s wrong.

AfterBruceuse

 


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Watching Wilson and Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on November 21, 2014 – 3:52 pm

When the Cardinals beat the Seahawks last season, they took a quarterback who at times had looked like an MVP candidate with his efficiency and made him look very, very bad. Russell Wilson’s stats that day: 11-for-27, 108 yards, one touchdown, one interception. More importantly, he had just two rushing attempts (for 32 yards, including one outlier 27-yard scramble).

There aren’t many quarterbacks who throw on the run as well as Wilson. Aaron Rodgers, maybe, but his is a different style. With Wilson there is the constant fear he will take off. And he’s done that a lot this season – already Wilson has rushed for at least 100 yards in three different games – or triple the amount he had in his first two seasons.

The Cardinals would love to make sure Wilson has the same kind of game Sunday as he had against the Cards last year, but “I don’t think there is a blueprint,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “It’s catch ’em if you can.”

The top priority will be to slow Marshawn Lynch, because it always is. The Seahawks, without any real dynamic receivers, don’t have a scary passing game. If there is a way to slow Lynch and not let Wilson go off on broken plays, the Cardinals will have gone a long way toward winning another one in the Pacific Northwest.

— A player to watch in this regard: Rookie Deone Bucannon, the safety who is playing linebacker in in nickel and who has essentially replaced Wilson antidote Daryl Washington this season.

— This game, even if the Cardinals win, does not clinch the NFC West. But it goes a long way in doing so, as long as there isn’t an epic collapse down the stretch. And teams that win in Seattle and are 9-1 before that don’t collapse. A loss, and things could get interesting, especially with another game left to play with the Seahawks. The tough games do not end yet.

— As I mentioned, my gut here on a Friday is that Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t play, and as I mentioned, I’ve been wrong on Fitz before. It’s hard not to remember the obvious confidence OC Harold Goodwin showed in the rest of the receiving corps though. They want Fitz to play, of course. But if Jaron Brown and John Brown and Michael Floyd are the top three guys, the Cardinals can live with that. They are better suited to survive a short-term injury at receiver perhaps more than anywhere else.

— The Cards have to find a way to run the ball with some success, and it can’t be all Andre Ellington, Rashard Mendenhall had 21 carries in the Seahawks game in Seattle last year, Ellington 15 as the Cards had the most rushing attempts in a game in more than a decade. Yes, it was Jamaal Charles, but the Chiefs were able to run a lot and well against the Seahawks last week. Ellington plus, Step Taylor? Marion Grice? They just need to give Drew Stanton a chance.

— Stanton needs to be smart, but the Cards can’t be too cautious either. So far, the Cardinals, with Stanton, have moved the ball immediately in all his starts. It speaks to the Arians/Goodwin plans, and how much Stanton understands the offense. They just have to have it carry through the game.

— Great note pointed out to me on Twitter by @DylanCarey11. Stanton will be the sixth different starter at quarterback the Cardinals have used in Seattle the last six trips there:

2014 – Stanton
2013 – Palmer
2012 – John Skelton
2011 – Kevin Kolb
2010 – Max Hall
2009 – Kurt Warner

— As an additional note to that, the Cardinals will have used eight QBs in those six games, because Ryan Lindley played in relief of Skelton in 2012 and Derek Anderson came in for Hall in 2010. Neither time it was injury related. Just bad football.

— If you haven’t seen it, Michael Silver did a great piece on Bruce Arians and his path to Cardinals’ head coach. Some of it goes over familiar territory, but there is some good stuff, like the just-fired Ken Whisenhunt telling Arians good things about the franchise and encouraging Arians to interview for the job.

— There is also this great story by David Fleming covering the family of the donor woman who gave Carson Palmer his original ACL replacement – and the feeling after it gave out against the Rams, sidelining Palmer.

— There is also this story on the rise to GM by Steve Keim. It happens to be my work, so if you haven’t read it, just sayin’ …

— Matt Shaughnessy was back on the field this week for practice for the first time since a knee injury forced him to the IR-designated to return list. He can’t play the next two games, but he will be back for the Dec. 7 game against the Chiefs. Arians wasn’t definitive in how Shaughnessy will fit in the lineup; Shaughnessy’s replacement, Alex Okafor, is playing the best of the outside linebackers. Could it be Shaughnessy and Okafor, with Sam Acho as a reserve? Possible. Arians said he wants to see where Shaughnessy is first; there’s going to be rust that must be knocked off.

— Last year at the end of the Seahawks’ upset, a handful of defensive linemen had a snack of Skittles on the sidelines in the waning moments. Skittles, for the uninitiated, are famously the favorite treat of Lynch. There won’t be any this year, alledgedly.

“Naw,” defensive tackle Dan Williams said. “I got to cut back on calories.”

— Last year, the win in Seattle was the Cards’ 10th win of the season. Can they do that two years in a row?

BeforeSeahawksBlogUSE


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Cards’ run defense must hold up

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2014 – 10:26 am

Before Calais Campbell got hurt a couple of plays into the second half of last weekend’s game in Denver, the Broncos had exactly four rushing yards. On seven attempts. With Campbell out of the game, the Broncos got 88 yards rushing on 21 tries.

There were, of course, other factors. The defense eventually got tired in the fourth quarter because the Cardinals could not generate any offense and stay on the field. But make no mistake, Campbell is an important part of the run defense. So too is Matt Shaughnessy, who was playing hurt in Denver and now is out a couple months with a knee injury. How the Cardinals deal with the loss of Campbell and Shaughnessy and hold up against the run, in my opinion, is the linchpin of keeping this season together as the Cardinals deal with all their injury-related setbacks.

If the Cardinals can continue to play like a top-five run defense — and they are fifth right now — they will stay in games. Certainly, the next stretch of the schedule will test that. The Redskins have Alfred Morris. The Eagles have Shady McCoy. And the Cowboys have the leading rusher in the NFL in DeMarco Murray. Getting Campbell back sooner rather than later will help, but there no way to know right now exactly when that will be. At this point, the Cards can’t afford to wait for reinforcements anyway. They must perform with who they have.

RunDefenseBLOG


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Zastudil goes to IR; QB Dixon to practice squad

Posted by Darren Urban on October 7, 2014 – 12:56 pm

And the Cardinals officially lose another one.

Among a handful of roster moves Tuesday was the Cardinals putting punter Dave Zastudil on injured reserve with his bad groin, ending his season. He joins linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who gets the Cardinals’ lone injured reserve-designated to return tag of the season because of cartilage damage in his knee. Shaughnessy must miss at least eight games.

Filling those roster spots are one-for-one moves. Zastudil will be replaced by practice squad punter Drew Butler, who already had filled in for Zastudil in the first three games of the season. Shaughnessy’s spot goes to Marcus Benard, who was cut at the end of the preseason, briefly signed back befoe being cut again, and now returns for a second time. Benard knows the system – he did play here in 2013 too.

It’s been a rough stretch with injuries. The Cardinals have to hope the worst is past.

To fill Butler’s spot on the practice squad, the Cardinals have signed former Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon, who worked with Bruce Arians in Pittsburgh and knows the system. He’ll be available for practice Wednesday, so the Cardinals are in better shape to promote him if Carson Palmer and/or Drew Stanton cannot make it back for the game.

Zasty


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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 26, 2014 – 12:15 pm

As we come to the end of June (and the beginning of a little time off), it’s time for my annual pre-vacation pair of posts – the ones in which I take a stab at who will be in the starting lineup on opening day, which in this case will be Monday night against the Chargers. Some picks are obvious. Some are not. We’ll defense today, offense tomorrow. And then we’ll wait to see what training camp brings.

(For the offense, click here.)

DE – Darnell Dockett. There are a lot of questions, given Dockett’s age and 2015 salary, about what his situation will be next season. But this season, Dockett will be right where he always is – in the starting lineup. The Cards do like to rotate on the line. It’s necessary for good defenses to stay effective. And rookies Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson will get some time.

NT – Dan Williams. It’s a big year for Williams, who goes into the last year of his contract. He might have been pushed by Alameda Ta’amu, but Ta’amu is coming off knee surgery. Ta’amu will return early in the season, and the one-two combination will help. It has to start with Williams, though.

DE – Calais Campbell. He’s deserved Pro Bowl consideration the last couple of years, even if he hasn’t gotten it. When the Cardinals’ braintrust say they hope Martin turns into another Campbell, that says something.

ROLB – John Abraham. Abraham turned into a real find last year. He was supposed to be a part-time pass rusher and proved to be much more. He’s ahead of Sam Acho these days, but at some point, Acho (who’s in the last year of his contract) or someone has to step forward to provide a future.

ILB – Kevin Minter. He was going to be a starter as soon as Karlos Dansby left. Now, with Daryl Washington absent, there is a lot on the second-year man.

ILB – Larry Foote. There is a chance Lorenzo Alexander could win this job, but I think Alexander will end up filling multiple depth roles and Foote will get the starts. His signing has proved to be fortuitous given Washington’s situation.  What will be interesting to watch will be where someone like Kenny Demens fits in – with Washington out, there’s an opportunity for someone.

LOLB – Matt Shaughnessy. The Cardinals had the best run defense in the NFL last season in large part because Shaughnessy was so solid. It’s what you’d expect when you have a former defensive end playing outside in the 3-4. The Cardinals are hoping Alex Okafor develops down the road, but his inexperience leaves him a question mark for now.

CB – Patrick Peterson. Forget the criticisms (yes, he needs to get better, like everyone) and forget the chatter of who is the best, which is really meaningless anyway. He’s an anchor, and he’ll be an anchor for a long time.

CB – Antonio Cromartie. He looked healthy in the offseason and that’s a good sign. If he can regain the consistent level of play he’s had in the past, the Cardinals will be in great shape for their coverage.

FS – Rashad Johnson. With Tyrann Mathieu on the mend, Johnson is the natural choice. He’s a vet who won’t make mistakes. Tony Jefferson has been playing strong safety in offseason work, but Jefferson should be in the mix when dime packages are used.

SS – Deone Bucannon. The aforementioned Jefferson was running first unit in the offseason but the Cardinals are going to play their first-round pick if he shows anything in camp. I expect that to happen and Bucannon will get his shot as the season begins.

Tomorrow, we’ll have the offense.

 DefenseWorthBlog


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Lining up to begin OTAs

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2014 – 10:05 am

There are, in the end, few starting spots that will truly be up for grabs as the Cardinals move toward the regular season. That’s reality. But as the Cards begin organized team activities today, there are some things to watch for. Through the Phase 2 work, there have been certain people running with the first unit. For instance, on the offensive line, Bradley Sowell is the first-team right tackle and Paul Fanaika remains the starting right guard. Bobby Massie and Earl Watford are with the second team. I don’t know if that is going to change before we get to training camp — I’d be a little surprised if it did — and camp will be when Massie and Watford will have to make their push.

At tight end, there’s been a lot of work for John Carlson and Jake Ballard and I think Rob Housler is going to have to work hard to stay up on the depth chart, although with his skill set and Bruce Arians’ love for multiple tight ends there will be plenty of work to go around. On defense, Kevin Minter and Daryl Washington are your inside linebackers, although Larry Foote is there to step in if Washington can’t be there. On the outside, Matt Shaughnessy and Sam Acho are getting reps although I’d expect John Abraham to be the starter when he’s around (remember, all this work is voluntary right now).

The rookies, meanwhile, will be worked in slowly. It was interesting to see first-round pick Deone Bucannon basically shadow Tony Jefferson at strong safety during the Phase 2 run-throughs of defensive plays. That’s one way to learn on the job. I anticipate a two-field system like last summer for the young players, although we’ll see if Arians sticks with that. I’ll have more after today’s workout.

DefesnivehikeUSE


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