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Friday before the Niners (and Bucs-Saints)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 27, 2013 – 4:01 pm

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 …

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Niners aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 13, 2013 – 10:26 pm

It was, in a lot of ways, seconds from the perfect quarter for the Cardinals. They had withstood two early Carson Palmer interceptions and the defense somehow allowed almost nothing in stoning the 49ers right where they were before two measly field goals, They had withstood 171 yards receiving in the first half from tight end Vernon Davis.

(Another tight end. Truly an Achilles heel this season.)

But they were down just eight at the half, and they stopped the Niners on a three-and-out when Tyrann Mathieu pulled down the much bigger Colin Kaepernick on a run. Then came a nine-play TD drive capped by a Michael Floyd 10-yard scoring catch. Then came another three-and-out.  And the Cards embarked on another long drive, surely to end with points and a lead and after 11 plays … Fitz lost the fumble.

Now, after the Fitz fumble, the 49ers were still stuck at their own 11. Another three-and-out – and at that point, it’s not like the defense was tired – and the Cards could have overcome. But it didn’t play out that way. Frankly, if you would have said before Sunday the Cards would have four turnovers, I would have expected a major blowout. Is it progress? Not really. As Bruce Arians said, close means nothing. (I’m paraphrasing.) But if the Cards can bottle that third quarter – most of it, anyway – that’d be progress.

– Of Palmer’s first six passes, two were incomplete (one of those being nearly intercepted), two were caught for two and three yards, respectively, and two were intercepted. An awful start. It seemed like a chance for Drew Stanton at some point, and indeed, after the second pick, Stanton took off the baseball cap he usually wears on the sideline and put on his helmet.

But Palmer steadied himself. After the second interception, Palmer completed 23-of-35 passes for 293 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. That’s a passer rating of 110.8. The Cards are lucky the poor start didn’t bury them. But you see Palmer calmly talking to Tom Moore after the second pick and realize, Palmer truly is able to move past mistakes quickly.

– Scary moment for defensive end Calais Campbell, although it looks like he will be OK. I was stunned when the crowd at Candlestick started the Wave while Campbell was being put on a stretcher. Clearly, it wasn’t everyone in the stands, but it was more than just a few. It was nice to see so many 49ers players and others in the organization talk about how dumb it was. Because it was.

– Fitz had a very good game, but we’ll see if his right hamstring can hold up for a Thursday game. He was moving slowly after the game.

– Vernon Davis ended up with eight catches for 180 yards, again with 171 of those yards in the first half. The Cards had a few different players on him in the first half – linebacker Karlos Dansby, cornerback Jerraud Powers and safety Yeremiah Bell among them.

“Vernon is a tough matchup,” Bell said. “You’re going to win some and you are going to lose some.”

– Andre Ellington another very good game. Explosive 15-yard touchdown run. Averaged eight yards on seven rushes, got 36 yards on five catches. He’s become a major weapon, although I guess I could stop saying that.

– Brittan Golden was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad this week in place of Kerry Taylor. Wondered what he had showed. Uh yeah, apparently it was speed. Lots of it. He looks like that take-the-top-off-the-defense guy that Taylor couldn’t be and like none of the other receivers are.

“It was great to get the first catch,” said Golden, whose 53-yard bomb set up Ellington’s TD run. “It sucks that we lost. I know everyone when we walked out, we felt we could win the game. With the situation, it’s a little bittersweet.”

– After the Floyd touchdown, the Cardinals went for two to try and tie it. There was about eight minutes left in the third quarter. The Cards ran the same pitch and reverse-field pass play by Patrick Peterson. His pass was eventually incomplete.

“At that point and time it was the time to do it,” Arians said. “The play was open. Patrick just didn’t see it soon enough.”

Fitzgerald was open initially but Peterson didn’t throw the pass. The miss also left the Cards down nine after the 49ers’ long fourth-quarter TD drive.

– OK. It’s late, it’s a short week, and there’s lot to do. That’s a wrap for tonight.


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A-Dub emerges, and some other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on June 13, 2011 – 5:53 pm

Figures on a day where I escaped up to Flagstaff with family to visit a life-long friend, there have been a smattering of news and notes from the Cards that I feel the need to string together in a post:

– The biggest news of the day? Adrian Wilson is on Twitter (@adrian_wilson24, and his avatar is priceless as he tries to get the point across that it is indeed his account and not a fake). When I talked to Adrian last offseason about the Twitter back-and-forth between Darnell Dockett and Vernon Davis, it was an arena he swore he’d never be a part of. Things change.

– OK, maybe that wasn’t the biggest news. It was the newest news. But Wilson also did an interview with XTRA 910’s Mike Jurecki, talking about that abductor injury he suffered last season and its affect on his 2010 season. The Pro Bowl safety said he suffered the injury “probably at the middle to the end of October” but, as expected, refused to blame the injury for any troubles he might have had on the field. That said, he noted a couple of times, “I’m a pretty good player” as an answer to the notion he was losing a step.

“It wasn’t as bad as it first happened as it was as the season went on. I’m not making excuses for the type of season I had because it was definitely unacceptable from my standards, coach (Ken) Whisenhunt’s standards and definitely the fans’ standards. I understand the fans’ frustrations … I’m not out to really to prove anyone wrong. I am a star in this league, period, so there is no question about what I can do. I am just staying focus and trying not to listen to what everyone is saying. The injury had nothing to do with the type of season I had, to be honest with you. I decided to play on it and that was my decision. At the end of the day I had to go out and produce and I didn’t produce.”

He added he will use it as motivation. “One bad season isn’t going to erase all the good things I’ve done,” Wilson said.

– By the way, USA Today rated A-Dub the fifth-best safety in the NFL, behind Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Nick Collins and Eric Berry.

– Wide receiver Steve Breaston, hitting it big last week with his poem about the lockout (the man is flat-talented as a writer and he can deliver a poem too), went on ESPN’s “First Take” to talk about “A League Deferred.” “Stevie Phantom” said he was frustrated with the labor situation and wanted “to get some emotions out.” About his poetry, Breaston said he’s been writing since seventh grade and performed some spoken word in New York recently. “It helps me express my feelings and is a stress reliever.”

– Former Cards tight end Leonard Pope, now with the Chiefs, saved a child from drowning.

– Former Cards defensive tackle Mao Tosi — now we are going way, way back — was featured on the “Today Show” for founding “Alaska Pride,” which raises money to help kids in need reach their potential. Tosi is from Alaska. It’s great Mao has gotten to this point in his life. I remember him as the big defensive tackle in the “crazy name” draft of 2000 (Jabari Issa? Sekou Sanyika?) and the fact he broke his tooth on Thanksgiving one year while having dinner at teammate Russell Davis’ house, and Davis made sure everyone knew it was coincidence and not his wife’s cooking that caused the dental damage.

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Vernon, Dockett and Cards-Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on May 16, 2011 – 4:16 pm

Even with very little going on right now around the league, there apparently still be a little trash talk going on between 49ers tight end Vernon Davis and Cards’ defensive lineman Darnell Dockett. Well, at least from Davis, who mentioned he’d like to take on Dockett in a steel cage match. Of course, it should be noted those kinds of “matches” are for pro wrestling, where everything is staged. As has been mentioned before, Dockett and Davis are good friends, both having grown up in Maryland. Having them war with words is a little like hearing Paul Calvisi and Ron Wolfley verbally attack one another.

Dockett, just about a year ago, even clarified some Twitter bombs he was lobbing both at Davis and the Niners.

Now, the rivalry between Davis and safety Adrian Wilson, that’s another story. Or so I thought. I believed there was some bad blood between the two. That’s always how A-Dub came across. Then I watched Davis praise Wilson for the recent NFL Network stuff naming Wilson one of the top 100 players in the league, and I began to wonder.

Not that Wilson — or Dockett, for that matter — would let up on Davis in a game.

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Ranking A-Dub

Posted by Darren Urban on May 3, 2011 – 1:16 pm

He was a Pro Bowler despite an off-year while injured, and now, Adrian Wilson continues to garner props. He is somewhere in the current NFL Network’s list of 100 greatest current NFL players (we just won’t know exactly where until his group is revealed; at this point all we have seen is 91-100 and Wilson isn’t in there). I did find it interesting that 49ers tight end Vernon Davis is the one giving Wilson compliments. Those two go at it pretty hard when the Cards and Niners play, and I find it hard to believe A-Dub would be all that willing to return the favor if someone asked him about Davis.

Wilson was also ranked fourth in the NFL among the best safeties in the league in a current ESPN analysis/vote, behind Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed and Nick Collins.  From the story:

“Adrian Wilson of the Arizona Cardinals finished fourth, but he drew the widest range of votes among safeties in the top 10. ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton and Bill Williamson ranked Wilson No. 3, and NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert ranked Wilson No. 10.”

Knowing Wilson, he’ll nod his head at the good parts of these things and take parts of disrespect from others and use it for motivation.

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Saturday before the 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on November 27, 2010 – 4:26 pm

In weeks like this – a Monday game, in which the Saturday before becomes a normal Friday, at least in the regimented world of the NFL – the time after the final practice is oddly quiet. The offices are closed, so while the team is going about normal business, the rest of the building is shut down. Media coverage is even lighter than normal. And this week, it gave coach Ken Whisenhunt a chance to be a little more introspective after the camera (there was only one, from azcardinals.com) was off.

Whiz was asked if, around the holidays right now, he was finding any chance of relaxing away from the game. He had already mentioned to us previously that night time – when there wasn’t any work left to be done and he was alone in his thoughts to mull what was going on – was the hardest.

Not surprisingly, Whiz said no.

“It’s hard,” Whisenhunt said. “I am disappointed. I want to win. It doesn’t sit in your gut right. You think about a million things that could have gone differently or been done differently. It’s not easy. That’s the way it is.”

Whiz hasn’t been through this as a head coach, although he mentioned a similar season he dealt with in Pittsburgh (which I noted earlier this week). There, however, Whiz was an assistant. And that doesn’t compare to living with it as a head coach.

“I feel like, ‘You let everybody down,’ ” Whisenhunt said. “You’re working hard, you’re trying to do it right, you want to have success. But you’re not. And it’s hard.”

– So the Cards will be on the national TV stage trying to break a five-game losing streak. Whisenhunt made it clear this week that while technically the Cards are still in the NFC West race, it was folly to think about such things until the Cards won a game (or two or three) and he’s right. The reality, however, is this: The Cards will know by the time they play what Seattle and St. Louis have done this week. If they have both lost, the winner of this Monday game is better off than any 4-7 team deserves.

– This is the fourth straight game the Cards are playing a team that is coming off a beatdown the previous week. The Vikings, Seahawks and Chiefs all had suffered multiple bad games in a row before beating the Cards. The Cards have to make that fact work in their favor for once.

– San Francisco QB Troy Smith is a wild card here – Beanie Wells has been swearing by his former Ohio State teammate all season, insisting he was the best the Niners had – but maybe the Bucs showed a blueprint of how to deal with Smith last week.

– That said, I have seen two Niners – Frank Gore and Vernon Davis – be particular pains-in-the-rear to the Cards over the years. Those two, I think, are the keys to the game. Gore especially seems to just kill the Cards. They have to contain him.

– If you missed it, this is a great video on former-Cards-receiver-turned-team-mentor Anthony Edwards.

– Steve Breaston talked about scoring touchdowns. The Cards have to find a way. The offense has scored more than one touchdown in just four of 10 games this season.

– No official word on the roof being open, but given that it is a night game and a national telecast, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the sky. We already know we’re going to see the black uniforms.

– It would be cool for Larry Fitzgerald to get the nine receptions he needs to become the franchise’s all-time leader in catches (he is eight behind Anquan Boldin’s 586). Then again, it’s not like he won’t be breaking the mark at home, with three straight home games.

– The last time both the Cards and 49ers used the same starting quarterbacks for both regular-season matchups was 2003, when Jeff Blake faced off against Jeff Garcia twice. Since then, one or both of the teams has used two different starting QBs. The chances both Derek Anderson and Troy Smith still will be starting in the regular-season finale Jan. 2? I’m just sayin’ …

– Jon Gruden took Fitzgerald on to the “Monday Night Football” bus this afternoon to talk a little and go over some video. I squeezed in to the tight hallway to snap a picture of Gruden and Fitz – Fitz was admiring Gruden’s Super Bowl ring. And if you notice on the screen in the background (sorry about the flash), cued up on the video is the moment right before Fitz broke his 64-yard Super Bowl touchdown.

Ahh, good times. But time to live in the now. It’s on to Monday night.

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Top 50 Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on September 9, 2010 – 10:31 am

The Sporting News has put up their annual list of the top 100 NFL players and the Cardinals have three guys in the top 50: wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is fourth in the entire league (behind Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Chris Johnson), while defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is 47th and safety Adrian Wilson is 48th (and former Card Anquan Boldin is 92nd). The 49ers, by the way, have two three on the list: linebacker Patrick Willis is 12th, running back Frank Gore is 55th and tight end Vernon Davis is 69th. Wonder if Dockett will let Davis know via Twitter. Or whether Wilson will when the teams actually play.

Speaking of Wilson, he is hosting the first regular-season Big Red Rage tonight at 6 p.m. at Majerle’s Sports Grill in Chandler. Special guest? Quarterback Derek Anderson, who can talk about his college buddy, Rams running back Steven Jackson. It’ll be on live on Sports 620 KTAR if you can’t make it there.

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A Dockett tease

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2010 – 9:16 pm

You never know what you’re going to get with Darnell Dockett. He’s gotten very good at getting himself out there and finding the resulting attention. He has capitalized on Twitter. So while I’m sitting here working on the computer, it’s hard not to take notice when Darnell fires off this tweet:

“To all my cardinal and dockett Fans I’m gonna post a link that I want u all to read and just try to understand!”

Then, a few minutes later, there was this follow-up tweet:

“Nothermind ill just share it with yall at a respectable time. Just know I never wanted things to get this Far!! Ttyl! And much love!”

Now, this could mean a whole lot of not-a-big-deal. But … understand what? Never wanted what to get this far? A glass half-empty person (OK, like myself) wonders, “Is there any way this is contract related?” Or, “Might he be implying he could not show up to camp on time in protest?” (And maybe I am just reading way, way too much into this). Maybe it was just that he said something on Twitter at some point negatively about Vernon Davis or taking a shower and feels the need to clarify. Darnell has been at the complex this week and working out, and I just don’t see why he’d do all that if he was stewing about his contract. If I am betting, I am betting Dock is there Friday night in Flagstaff. (And GM Rod Graves just said the other day that contract isn’t about to happen right now, and I am sure Darnell knows that).

Of course, in the end, maybe this is exactly what Nine-0 wanted. A night of speculation even if there is nothing behind it.

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The rivalry according to Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on May 12, 2010 – 4:38 pm

This is a story about a man, his tweets, and the perceived “hatred” of his rival that really isn’t.

Darnell Dockett certainly has kept things lively between the Cardinals and 49ers, recently jumping on something Niners tight end Vernon Davis said on Twitter about dominating opponents and turning it into a back-and-forth about Davis, Adrian Wilson and the Cards/Niners rivalry.

Dockett was backing up his man Wilson until some Niners’ fans got into the fray, letting Davis lob an insult and Dockett firing back. Dockett certainly hasn’t held back this offseason, talking a lot about getting another shot at the 49ers.

But here’s the thing, which Dockett laid out in a lengthy explanation in the locker room today following his workout: He wants to beat the 49ers. Bad. He’ll make that clear on Twitter often. Hate them, though? Not really.

“I don’t hate them,” Dockett said. “Actually I have a lot of respect for them. I remind my teammates all the time, when we’re out there running (in the offseason) and you’re tired, I tell ‘em, ‘Think about what it’s going to feel like in Monster Park in the third quarter and they are trying to run the ball down our throat.’ Guys who have been in that fight before, it’s like, bam, the switch turns on.”

Rather than pare down too much of what Dockett said, I’d rather let him tell the story.

– On the perception he hates the 49ers: “I am cool with a lot of their team. You don’t know that if you look at Twitter and you’ll be like, ‘Man, you really hate them.’ But I just feel like we are the best two teams in the division, a lot of people say they are going to win the division, we won it the last two years … I know what type of games they will be. I’m not crazy. I think if they played every game like they played us, they’d be undefeated. I feel if we played every game with a certain intensity that we play (against) them, we’d be undefeated.”

– On losing to San Francisco: “If you lose to a team back to back and (the games) are so competitive and you know you’ll play your best game and they’ll play their best game and they beat you, you take that personal. Especially if you are a winner in your heart. … We lost (last year). They kicked our ass. It don’t matter how we lost. I don’t plan on losing to them again.”

– On hearing from 49ers’ fans on Twitter: “I love their fans because they’ve got some ride-or-die fans. I actually enjoy reading some of their fans’ tweets because they are really disrespectful and I actually wish some of our fans would be like that sometimes too. … They say, ‘We got all these Super Bowl wins.’ I just respond, ‘Ya’ll had Super Bowl wins before I even got in the league, I don’t care about that. That ain’t got nothing to do with me.”

– On Vernon Davis and having Adrian Wilson’s back: “Vernon, you see the trash he is talking, he and Adrian, they have their own vendetta against each other. But me? I’m cool with Vernon. I see him all the time. We’re from the same area (in Maryland), I just saw him this weekend. But I’m going to ride-or-die for my teammates too. I am as loyal as they come. I’m going to have my boy’s back, because he’s not on Twitter and I know if Adrian had been on Twitter he would have spoken up. Adrian was in the weight room the other day and I told him what Vernon said and all of a sudden, he’s got 525 pounds on the squat with no hesitation.”

– On what it’s like to play the 49ers: “They’ve got street dudes on that team, they’ve got dudes that don’t give a damn, they’ve got dudes who will curse, they’ve got dudes who are going to be disrespectful, they’ve got dudes who will hold, scratch, spit on you, talk (crap) to you, be dirty —  it’s a backyard fight. To me, I love those types of games. It’s like, ‘Let the games begin.”

Is it Nov. 29th yet?

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A long time before the Niners

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2010 – 2:40 pm

When the schedule came out in April, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt made a joke about not opening up with the 49ers — a joke everyone around the Cards could have made. It had become a death-and-taxes sort of thing, with the Cards and 49ers beginning every season against each other (at least since 2006, when the Niners visited in the regular-season debut of University of Phoenix Stadium).

The history between the teams since they became NFC West brethren has been interesting, to say the least, building on a rivalry. There was the Pearl Harbor Day disaster for the Cards in 2003, when a 50-14 loss in San Francisco was crystallized on Josh McCown’s backwards pass to tackle L.J. Shelton in his own end zone. There was the Niners’ “Cardinals-and-14″ record in 2004, when their only two wins were identical, backbreaking 31-28 overtime victories against Arizona. There was the 31-14 Cards’ demolition (after a 14-0 deficit) of the Niners in Mexico City in 2005 in front of a then-record 103,467 fans. There was the Cards’ sweep of San Fran in an otherwise forgettable 2006 season that ended Denny Green’s tenure. There have been “Monday Night Football” clashes each of the last three seasons and the crushing 37-31 OT home loss for the Cards in 2007.

Now that both teams have been revived to the level of division title contenders — and given the dichotomy of the Cards’ 10-6 division-winning record if a year ago compared to the Niners’ sweep of Arizona despite a .500 record — this season’s matchups may be the most anticipated since the two moved in together in the NFC West.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see anything until after Thanksgiving. That’s what I thought as Darnell Dockett and Vernon Davis traded Twitter jabs (and Mike Sando stirred it up) about Vernon and Adrian Wilson (who usually steers clear of such things). Not only are the Cards not opening with the Niners, the Cards will be 10 games into the season before San Fran visits Glendale for a fourth straight year of “Monday Night Football.” The two teams close out the season against each other Jan. 2 in the Bay Area.

It’s a long time to wait. And a long time for ill will to build.

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