Fitz remembers all, Friday before the Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2017 – 3:48 pm

The last time the Cardinals played in Houston in a game that counted, Larry Fitzgerald was only 22 years old, in the days when the Cards never talked about the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember. Fitz was asked this week about a 12-yard touchdown pass he caught in the game – a loss to a Texans team so bad they ended up with the No. 1 overall draft pick – and it took him no time to recall that it was the great John Navarre who threw him the pass.

“I have a photographic memory,” Fitzgerald said. “Slant route in garbage time. Fantasy owners were happy.”

Fitz proceeded to say he remembers almost every catch he’s ever made, and that’s quite a few. I mean, that’s 1,185 in his career and counting – a number that came into even sharper focus Friday morning with Fitz’s contract extension through 2018. As I said before, it’s good he’s under contract but for me, it doesn’t guarantee Fitz playing next season. Good sign, yes. But until I hear it from his mouth – I am guessing it will be a topic postgame Sunday – I can’t go all in.

This season, though, Fitzgerald is here and playing very well. If you can have a quiet 10-113 as a receiver, Fitz did last week against the Seahawks. With Blaine Gabbert starting Sunday, I’m guessing the new QB will lean on Fitz targets again, both because, duh, he’s a Hall-of-Famer-to-be, but also because of the troubles the pass catchers not named Fitz had with drops/near-catches against Seattle.

— It made a lot of sense all week that Gabbert would get the nod to play Sunday. He’s healthy. Drew Stanton is not. Bruce Arians wanted to keep Stanton in the lineup, and I do agree with B.A. that Stanton played pretty well against Seattle. Gabbert is playing because of injury but I also understand the idea of getting a chance to see what Gabbert can do, in this offense, in a game that counts.

— Fitz was asked if Gabbert’s success in the preseason gives him confidence in the new QB. It led to a long pause. “I’ve been in it a long time,” Fitzgerald finally said. “Preseason is preseason. I’ve seen him have success in regular-season games.”

— Interesting (to me, at least) that the Cards become the first team to start three QBs this season, given that it comes against the Texans. The long-ago loss in Houston, in which Navarre found Fitz? It was the only time the Cardinals have played three quarterbacks in a game. Kurt Warner started, completed all 10 of his passes (Fitz isn’t the only one who remembers all this stuff off the top of his head) before exiting with a knee injury. Josh McCown was the backup and came in, but he was horribly ill that day and he couldn’t continue. So the Cards turned to Navarre.

— Arians was asked about those receivers this week after the struggles they had collectively. “Practice is fine,” he said. “When those lights turn on … it’s going to be a big week for them.”

— The Cardinals have only played the Texans three times in the regular season. The loss in 2005, and the Cardinals getting home wins in 2009 and 2013.

— Stanton hurt his right knee when he was hit low by Seattle defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who was flagged on the play (and it kept alive the TD drive that ended with the Stanton TD screen pass to Jermaine Gresham). Richardson was fined $18,231 for his play, and was not happy about it. Also fined $18,231 was Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, who was flagged for the hit to Russell Wilson’s jaw. Dansby is appealing, and the Seahawks are still dealing with the fallout for not properly checking Wilson for a concussion.

— Corey Peters has been solid in the middle of the defensive line this season. Not having him in the lineup is notable. The Texans are going to want to run to protect struggling QB Tom Savage. We will see who plugs the middle of the line.

— The Texans are putting former all-pro wide receiver Andre Johnson, their version of Fitz, into their Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday. Current star receiver DeAndre Hopkins was asked to name his favorite Johnson play. It turned out he named a reception over Patrick Peterson in Arizona in 2013.

Late in the game, Johnson was blanketed by Peterson, who actually got his hand on the ball and looked like he might get an amazing end zone interception. Instead, the ball bounced and Johnson somehow tipped it to himself and kept his feet in. (Here, look for yourself, around the 52-second mark.)

“I don’t know how he caught it,” Hopkins said.

— Fitz on Johnson: “He exudes class. He’s one of the best to ever do it. This is just a precursor to greater things down the road. He’s a Hall of Fame talent. I’m happy as a fan of his to witness and see it go up.”

— One final Fitz note. It was mentioned in his “A Football Life” episode that he buys suits for all the coaches. Fitzgerald said he’s been doing that “forever.”

“Our success on the field, it says our numbers, but those guys spend hours … (assistant head coach) Tom Moore is here at 4 o’clock in the morning every morning figuring out new innovate ways to be able to feature guys like myself and Adrian (Peterson),” Fitz said. “A lot of hard work was put into those schemes and you want to do right by those guys.”

“They all get custom stuff, make sure they look good. Some of them look better than others.”

See you in Houston.

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Texans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 10, 2013 – 8:21 pm

Patrick Peterson was shaking his head, unable to fathom even after Sunday’s game how Andre Johnson had made his two touchdown catches. Both were against Peterson but neither were Peterson’s fault as much as Johnson – the Texans’ star receiver – making unreal plays to get a second foot down on the edge of the end zone.

“I thought I played pretty well today,” Peterson said. “I held him to 37 yards, I believe. Just those two touchdowns. He’s an all-pro. He gets paid the big bucks.”

Ultimately, that was the story of Sunday in a nutshell. The Texans got some good plays from their stars. J.J. Watt had a couple of impressive forced fumbles too. But in the end, the Cardinals got more from more people. Bruce Arians called it a “team” win – and most coaches do, and there were parts from everyone. It looked a lot like the other wins the Cards have had, with a defensive bent, no question, but the offense did enough.

And, of course, the Cardinals are 5-4 and going to play Jacksonville on the road.

— There was no way to start the game better than the John Abraham strip-sack that Matt Shaughnessy returned for a touchdown. It didn’t lead to a blowout or anything, but it did underscore what a good signing Abraham is turning out to be. He now has five sacks (and he was pretty close to a few before he got his first three games ago) and is exactly as advertised as a pass rusher.

— There will be much talk – again – about Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington. But guess what? Arians wasn’t down on Mendenhall at all afterward, so there are going to be no changes. He said he thought Mendenhall was down before he fumbled, so the fumble isn’t going to be a black mark. He said he thought Ellington’s work was just fine, and that was after 13 touches (although two more passes were thrown incomplete to Ellington.) Mendenhall had 14 touches for the game.

— It was interesting for a coach like Arians, who said in training camp he didn’t like the wildcat, to use Ellington in the wildcat. Arians said after the game he doesn’t like the wildcat with the QB on the field, and Carson Palmer wasn’t. Ellington was QB for three straight plays. Ran it for five. Ran it for seven. Handed off to Patrick Peterson for a four-yard loss.

— Karlos, Karlos, Karlos. You might be headed to your first Pro Bowl if you could hang on to those near interceptions. There were two more today. Feels like Dansby should have six interceptions already instead of just one.

— Arians said he expected Michael Floyd back next week after he sprained his shoulder, but I want to see that first. With Andre Roberts available, the Cards may not want to push it. It’s too bad, because Floyd was off to a good start Sunday.

— Fitz had three catches for 23 yards on six targets, and it really didn’t mean anything. Don’t know if that’s a good sign or bad.

— Palmer, on the two big plays by Watt: “There are a handful of players you’re not going to stop,” Palmer said. “They’re going to make their plays. It’s inevitable.”

— The Cards got three false starts in the first half. That’s what happens when Watt and company are ready to come. “Guys like (Antonio) Smith and Watt can come off the ball and you are primed up and ready to go,” guard Daryn Colledge said. “Carson is trying to hold (the snap) to help us as safeties are rolling down but we’re primed to go and he’s late in his cadence. There was a perfect storm. We probably could have had more than that. I think pretty much every offensive linemen at some point is pretty much just holding on to the grass.”

— Justin Bethel should be in the Pro Bowl. And that field-goal block was a life saver.

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Friday before the Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on November 8, 2013 – 3:53 pm

“I don’t know how they are 2 and 6.”

Larry Fitzgerald said that about the Texans this week. Coach Bruce Arians said something similar. Normally, eh. Players and coaches are always going to say nice things about the opponent, lest bulletin board material be uttered. But this is a week where that seems to make a little sense. The Texans have the top-ranked defense in the NFL. They have the top-ranked pass defense. They have a top 10 offense. Those things don’t usually add up to 2-6 as a record.

But it is the cracks in the armor that put the Cards in a good position coming off the bye. Those stats don’t translate into wins because the Texans don’t generate a lot of turnovers. They have a hard time stopping teams from scoring touchdowns once they get into the red zone. They’ve managed to give up a lot of points when they are playing offense (although a quarterback change has helped that) and their special teams aren’t very good.

Add in a missing head coach who also happens to be the team’s play caller, and the Cardinals seem to be set up for an opportunity coming off the bye.

— Texans quarterback Case Keenum has played very well since taking over for Matt Schaub. But for an inexperienced guy, it just feels like there will be a bump coming sooner rather than later. That could be Sunday. The Cards do a nice job against the run and tend (unless you have an athletic tight end) not to get beat deep. Keenum likes to throw the deep ball. I just have this feeling that will get him into trouble this week.

— That will obviously mean Patrick Peterson will be on display, especially since he will be chasing Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson much of the game. Johnson went off for 229 yards and three touchdowns last week. The spotlight will be on both. Peterson hasn’t given up a touchdown pass since Week 3 in New Orleans, when he was beat late on a Jimmy Graham slant. says that Peterson has been targeted 48 times in eight games by opposing passes, and he has allowed a completion on only 50 percent of those throws.

— Cardinals tackle Eric Winston not only played with Johnson in Houston, but also in college at Miami. “Andre is that specimen-athlete-type guy,” Winston said. “He looks at a weight and he puts on weight. At Miami we made him stop coming to the weight room because he got too heavy. He ate McDonalds every day and had two percent body fat.”

— Jake Ballard will be active this week. I do not expect him to be a revelation at tight end, but the Cards hope he can show a little bit as he works back into the game following so much time off.

— Rashard Mendenhall will start. Not a big deal. Andre Ellington should get his touches. That is a big deal.

— I expect Bradley Sowell to start at left tackle. Watching how the Cardinals deal with J.J. Watt, however, is going to be a line-wide job. Can they hold him off? That run game (the Texans are just 18th against the run) is going to be so important in making that pass rush hesitate at least a little.

— Saw Jonathan Cooper this morning in the weight room. The rookie guard still has a boot on his foot but was doing some dumbbell work. A good sign as he slowly progresses in his rehab.

— Heads up for anyone going to the game Sunday. Not only is the football game going on, but there is a concert at Arena and then the annual NASCAR November race at PIR. Traffic is expected to be heavier than normal on the 101 and around the stadium. Be prepared and give yourself extra time. Parking lots open at 10 a.m. – remember, with the rest of the country changing clocks, kickoff this weekend is now 2:25 p.m.

— And in case you missed it, the Cardinals will be wearing their black jerseys.

— As we wrap this up, I found this Karlos Dansby video very entertaining (now the world sees what I have known for a while, how Los repeats your question.) His one comment might be the quote of the year: “Batman, man, he’s gonna have problems. He’s gonna have issues.”

See you Sunday.

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Fitzgerald: “My season hasn’t been that great”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 13, 2012 – 4:35 pm

It was Thursday, and those are the days Larry Fitzgerald talks to the media. Normally, a wide receiver with six catches over four games doesn’t draw a crowd, but given Fitz’s stature, it’s even more important these days to listen to what Fitzgerald has to say more than any other time because both the team’s season and his season have fallen way, way short of expectations.

And as usual, Fitzgerald handled the time well. He was asked what he thought about whether quarterback Kevin Kolb would return in 2013. “I would love to see everybody come back, but that’s not my decision,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s for management to take care of. Hopefully I can come back next year. Hopefully they bring me back. My season hasn’t been that great.”

It provided a chuckle, even if it was true. Fitz has dropped a few passes this season that in past years he seemed to come up with. But as has been chronicled many times, his numbers — 57 receptions, 652 yards, four touchdowns — aren’t reflective of his ability as much as the struggles at quarterback. Every week, Fitz compiles the plays of the top receivers in the league, guys like Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Houston’s Andre Johnson, New England’s Wes Welker, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall, Tampa’s Vincent Jackson and Atlanta’s Roddy White among them, and studies their work. He tries to pick up tips, but he can’t steal the throws they are getting from their QBs, and his numbers will fall far short of those other elite receivers.

“When we didn’t have a starting quarterback, in a season when I caught TD passes with five quarterbacks – that’s crazy,” Calvin Johnson told “He’s in a situation where they don’t have a steady quarterback situation. You don’t have a chance to get the ball.”

Fitz isn’t going to complain. He knows it makes no difference. Besides, he can let others (like Calvin Johnson did) do it for him. It’s not rocket science to analyze his frustration. But he also wants to power through the end of the season and set a good example.

“Certain days I am up, certain days I am down. I’m human,” Fitzgerald said. “I try my best to be a professional every day, come to work and give it my best. It’d be easy to hang your head and be disappointed but as a teammate you can’t do that to your teammates. You have to keep practicing and working hard and trying to improve. That’s my mindset. I never feel sorry for myself.”


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This metric calls Fitz the best

Posted by Darren Urban on July 12, 2011 – 9:32 am

There has been plenty of talk this offseason (and, unfortunately, plenty of time for such talk) about lists and the best players in the league, yada, yada, yada. That includes wide receiver, a position in which Larry Fitzgerald is always in the discussion, but, in large part of who has been throwing him the ball, not at the top.

That changed with this grade scale from, which gives Fitz the nod (barely) over Houston’s Andre Johnson over the last three-year period. PFF’s metric includes the playoffs (which boosts Fitz because his phenomenal 2008 postseason remains in play) and it also “altered the weighting of our grades so that all other areas (pass blocking, run blocking and rushing) are worth a quarter that of actual receiving.” Which shows that Fitz has been more well-rounded.

Says PFF, “When the Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl, Fitzgerald was our top ranked receiver after a monstrous year and tremendous post season. He still found himself near the top (seventh) when the Kurt Warner-led Cardinals went to the playoffs, and improved on that with a sixth place finish last year despite some horrible quarterback play. Essentially, whether you’re feeding him caviar or out of the garbage, Fitz is a receiver hungry to make the most of any opportunity. The best hands of any of the top receivers.”

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Not all Madden choices created equal

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2011 – 10:50 am

This year, EA Sports has decided to make a contest out of who will be their cover photo for this year’s version of the Madden football video game. Given the past season, I guess I assumed Aaron Rodgers was a shoo-in for Madden ’12, but no, Rodgers is just one of 32 candidates — one from every team. It’s also set up in bracket form, so we aren’t just talking about the total number of votes.

There are many cover possibilities that make sense — Rodgers, Matt Ryan, DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis, Adrian Peterson, Julius Peppers, Andre Johnson — and others that I look at and think, ‘A good player, but a cover?’ — guys like Peyton Hillis, Jake Long, Josh Freeman. There are repeat candidates, guys who have already been on the cover before, like Drew Brees, Michael Vick and, for the Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald.

But just when you find a couple of head-scratchers (The Bengals’ Carlos Dunlap, the Bills’ Steve Johnson, the Patriots’ Danny Woodhead, Tim Tebow?) you end up freezing on the option for Seattle. Apparently, they have no player worthy of the honor, at least none important enough to usurp “The 12th Man” — the name the Seahawks give to their crowd (which yes, can be very loud, but is generally a non-factor if the team is lousy — just like any other crowd).

The 12th Man faces the aforementioned Willis in the first round, so I’d guess Willis will be the one to advance there. But still, the Qwest crowd? Really? Not, oh, maybe Mike Williams? Marshawn Lynch?

Besides, how exactly does the Madden curse affect that group — I’d be afraid of a natural disaster on game day.

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Pieces before OTAs

Posted by Darren Urban on May 18, 2010 – 9:17 am

The Cardinals head out on to the field about 10:30 this morning, but until then …

— There was some concern about a rookie or two having to miss some time at OTAs because of their college graduation dates (like Beanie missing all of OTAs last summer) but the class looks intact. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said during minicamp the situation of quarterback John Skelton had to be “clarified” and apparently it has been, because Skelton was here yesterday.

— Seeing the new issue with Andre Johnson in Houston and his contract problems just serves as a reminder that the Cards aren’t the only team that deals with such things. Since I believe Darnell Dockett will be out there today (I would hope, after he’s shown up the last couple of weeks), it’s nice that for the most part, the Cards aren’t dealing with those problems (technically, since Deuce Lutui is unsigned, he’s not skipping anything).

—  Kurt Warner is getting his number retired. Nope, not by the Cards. By the Iowa Barnstormers, the Arena Football League team with which he jump-started his professional career. I was able to cover Warner’s last AFL game ever, an ArenaBowl loss to the Arizona Rattlers at then-America West Arena in 1994 1997 in which the game turned when Rattlers star Hunkie Cooper picked off a Warner pass over the middle and returned it for a touchdown. One of the things I always remembered was talking to Warner afterward and thinking how gracious he was in defeat. That opinion certainly never changed in covering him for five seasons as a Card.

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Texans aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 11, 2009 – 10:08 pm

Tim Hightower had one of those smiles, one of those Sure-I’m-happy-but-I-know-better-than-to-be-too-happy looks.

“We won,” the Cardinals’ running back said. “At the end of the day, you want to play better and we’ve got to play better, but in this league when you get wins, we appreciate it, thank God for it, learn from it, and move on.”

That’s probably the best way to view Sunday’s 28-21 win over the Texans. Fans didn’t get cheated in terms of having their heart tested; they got 21 points (and what should’ve been 28) in the first half, and then, just when those hearts may have been ripped out, they got DRC’s Pick-6 and a goal-line stand. Whew. But here we are, Sunday night, and the Cards are right where they hoped they’d be when the day dawned. They are 2-2, the 49ers were run out of Candlestick Park (is that what they are still calling it?) by the Falcons, and the Cards are back to controlling their own destiny starting with a trip to Seattle next weekend.

“It’s gonna be a helluva week this week at practice because this is personal between us and Seattle,” defensive end Darnell Dockett said. “We know for a fact we’ll get their best shot and I’ll probably send Matt Hasselbeck a Twitter message later this week, so stay tuned.”

But first, cleaning up some thoughts from the Houston game:

— The good, obviously, was what the defense did at the end of the game, both with the DRC interception and prevention of the final touchdown. It would have felt a lot better had the unit not surrendered TDs on three straight possessions, but coach Ken Whisenhunt talked afterward about how his team responded to the change in momentum and Rodgers-Cromartie was even more specific.

“Being up 21 points at the half, coming back and giving up three touchdowns you kind of think,TexansAfterMath2 ‘Oh snap.’ You want to hit the panic button,” DRC said. “Our captains, Darnell and Adrian (Wilson) came up and were like, ‘Don’t panic just yet. It’s still 0-0.’ That stuck with me.”

Did it lead to the interception? Who knows? DRC clearly felt like he got a little something back after all the slings and arrows he had endured following his less-than-memorable Colts’ game.

— That last goal-line stand wasn’t the only stand the defense made. Remember the key one early in the third quarter, in which the Texans had a second-and-1 on the Arizona 22 and the defense held up as follows: Stuff Steve Slaton for no gain, stuff Steve Slaton for no game, force a bad deep pass to Andre Johnson that DRC had perfect coverage upon. Zero points (think the Texans would have liked a field goal there by the time the game was over?).

— That third-down play on the final stand, the pass to tight end Joel Dreessen, was the key play. That was the play call on which the Texans needed to score. “That kind of scared me,” Dockett said. “He was wide open.” But linebacker Karlos Dansby forced Matt Schaub throw it justabit too high.

— Hope you didn’t blink because you might’ve missed it, but the Cards ran a version of the Wildcat for a play Sunday. Not with Anquan Boldin taking the snap but instead Beanie Wells. Not sure there’s much threat of a pass there. Beanie gained two yards.

— Boldin was a big part of the game plan and had seven catches, but he fell into the trap of turning the ball over inside the 10-yard line. Turnovers kill, but ones that close to paydirt usually are devastating. That’s what made Calais Campbell’s blocked field goal so huge, because it stopped the Texans from using the turnover for their own score.

— Not sure the extent of the ankle injury to tight end Stephen Spach, but the Cardinals get previously suspended tight end Ben Patrick back tomorrow. A roster move will have to be made to bring back Patrick.

— There will be more talk about running more often. Whisenhunt said he wanted balance if possible and the 21-0 lead would seem to have played into that possibility. But if Kurt Warner is going to have to option to have a run/pass check at the line of scrimmage, he’s going pass if he determines that’s what the defense dictates. Can it be argued the Cards need to force the run game sometimes in certain situations, especially with the lead? Maybe. But again, I think the thought process is, this is our offense, these are our stars – Q, Warner, Fitz – and they will sway the thinking.

OK. That’s plenty for now. Like Hightower said, a win is a win in the NFL. The Cards will take it and move on — even if it comes down to (almost) the final play.

UPDATE: OK, couldn’t go to bed without watching the final stuff one more time. While the players all said it was a team effort — and it was — nose tackle Gabe Watson got off the snap incredibly quick (with Dockett right after) and the Texans’ o-linemen weren’t as quick. That penetration, along with a perfect get-lower-than-the-opponent move by DT Bryan Robinson, created the push the Cards needed. Alan Branch and Calais Campbell pinched from the sides, and Chris Brown never had a chance.


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Texans game sells out; no blackout

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2009 – 1:00 pm

The Cardinals officially sold out Sunday’s game by today’s deadline, so the game will indeed be televised locally on CBS (Ch. 5). The result means the Cardinals keep alive their streak of sellouts since the opening of University of Phoenix Stadium, which now totals 37 straight games including preseason and postseason dates.

There are still some premium tickets available, however, so anyone interested can call 800-745-3000 to buy them and see the crucial game which includes the subplot of two of the best receivers in the game: Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson.

As for practice today, I have yet to see the official injury designations for the weekend, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said he expects to have all 53 players available Sunday to craft his 45-man active list. That’s a first for 2009.

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The commercial value of Fitz

Posted by Darren Urban on October 7, 2009 – 2:35 pm

Much of the talk today after practice was concerning Larry Fitzgerald vs. Texans WR Andre Johnson. Eventually, it came around to dueling commericals — Fitz for IHOP, and Johnson for Dick’s Sporting Goods. Fitz might as well been on a late-night talk show as he launched the one-liners. 

“He made a lot tougher catches than I did,” Fitzgerald said. “He was catching a hoagie. I was just catching coffee mugs. … His commerical was better because he got to talk. He got to show his personality and stuff. I just had to keep my mouth shut.”

(That may be true on the final product, although Fitz clearly shot extra stuff where he did talk. But we don’t want to get in the way of a good story of the poor, underused Fitz on the set).

“I had a line actually, but they said I didn’t do a good job with it,” Fitz added, with sympathy growing. “That’s all right though, I am happy you guys (meaning the media) allow me to work with you. I am happy for the opportunity.”

What about catching the fresh coffee? “It was hot, I burned my hand a couple of times,” Fitz quipped. “But you have to go out and deal with the pain.”

And for your efforts, what’d you get? A million dollars? Free pancakes for life? “No, I got like two gift certificates and thanks for my services and go on home.”

Yeah, I’m guessing not so much.

It has to invite people to chuck stuff at you when you go to IHOP though, right? “They don’t throw things at me,” Fitzgerald said, still smiling. “I go in from time to time but they are off-beat hours. People aren’t throwing too many things. I’m signing napkins and stuff. That’s all.”


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