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Vikings tweak Norseman logo

Seven years ago, the Vikings made dramatic changes to their uniform and helmet.  On Thursday, the Vikings unveiled what the team is calling an evolution of its Norseman logo.

The changes are subtle, and they may have largely gone unnoticed if the Vikings hadn’t announced the adjustment.

The shape of the horns has changed, a bit.  The shading of the horns has been adjusted to match the shading of the horns on the helmet.  And small variations appear in the hair, mustache, and face.

The enhanced Vikings logo will begin to appear on team merchandise in March.  Which technically makes any team merchandise purchased through the implementation of the change obsolete.

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Get ready to see Jamison Crowder in various roles

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Washington’s plans for receiver Jamison Crowder don’t simply include making him a full-time starter. The team also intends to deploy him in multiple different ways.

“I’ve said all along Jamison can play anywhere,” coach Jay Gruden recently said, via Mark Bullock of the Washington Post. “He can play outside, inside. He can play running back probably if he wanted to. So we’ll utilize Jamison and try to get him more involved, not just in the passing game and the running game.”

Ultimately, whether Crowder plays running back depends on whether Gruden wants him to. If he does, things could get very interesting.

Crowder primarily has played in the slot for his first two seasons, with DeSean Jackson (gone to the Bucs) and Pierre Garςon (gone to the 49ers) on the outside. Starting this year, Crowder will be all over the place — despite being only five feet, eight inches tall.

“He just continues to prove every day why we like him so much,” Gruden said. “He’s great on option routes, he can run vertical stems. He can run just about anything you ask him to run. . . . He gets himself open because he’s got a great feel. He’s got quickness in and out of his breaks. He plays a lot longer than his size. He has got really long arms. He goes up and gets balls. Sometime he plays bigger than a taller receiver because he uses his height [and] he’s got great jumping ability and times the jumps extremely well. Some tall guys you see, they misjudge it and they don’t jump. But Jamison, he times them perfect and makes big plays.”

Crowder caught 67 passes (second on the team) for 847 yards (third) and seven receiving touchdowns (first) in 2016. With both a full-time role and the opportunities that may come from being on the outside, in the slot, and in the backfield, Crowder could make Washington fans quickly forget the two high-priced receivers that got away. And he could be on his way to becoming a high-priced receiver.

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Robert Kraft on Deflategate: “I don’t hold grudges but I never forget”

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this week that his relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft “was never strained” despite the #Deflategate investigation.

Kraft may not be reading off the same script.

One of the commissioner’s 32 bosses told Claire Atkinson of the New York Post a slightly different version.

I don’t hold grudges but I never forget,” Kraft said. “Sometimes people mess up at when they’re doing their jobs, but it most organizations people make bad decisions. I’m about the present and the future.”

So, yeah, no strain. Ever. Clearly.

As much as Goodell might want to believe (and sell) the idea that he and Kraft are arm-in-arm again, it’s clear that the Patriots owner hasn’t fully let go of what he seems to have perceived to be a witch hunt. If only he had a Twitter account with which to talk about it more.

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CFL QB Bo Levi Mitchell hopes for NFL chance

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It has been a while since the NFL has seen a quarterback make a successful jump from the Canadian Football League, but it certainly isn’t without precedent.

Warren Moon, Jeff Garcia and Joe Theismann all starred in Canada before thriving in the U.S. and Doug Flutie did the same after returning from the CFL for a second NFL stint. Calgary Stampeders quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell hopes to get a chance to do the same thing.

Mitchell was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player last year while taking Calgary to the Grey Cup and was the MVP of Canada’s title game after the 2014 season. That success has the Texas native and Eastern Washington product with a desire to see if he can make it in the NFL as well.

“I think about it all the time,” Mitchell said, via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com. “Just now in training camp, there were seven or eight scouts who came in. I know there’s been some talk in the NFL about me. When my time comes, the NFL has been my dream since I was a kid. I’ll take that shot. … I know it’s not the easiest thing. I’ve seen a lot of guys attempt to do it. But I feel I can play. I feel like I can be a Warren Moon, a Garcia, a Doug Flutie, a guy who comes from the CFL and plays in the league for a long time.”

Mitchell is under contract for two more years, so a jump over the border isn’t imminent. It may also be a long shot.

Mitchell, who opted for a CFL contract over a tryout with the Texans coming out of college in 2012, says he’s also looking for “a perfect situation” and a better one than his current standing with the Stampeders may not develop even if he continues to thrive in Calgary.

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Drew Stanton thinks NFL has a QB development problem

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Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton entered the league as a second-round pick of the Lions in 2007 and has spent the last decade serving as a backup in Detroit, Indianapolis and Arizona.

Stanton has seen a lot of quarterbacks move through the league over that time and that experience has left him with strong views about how the league handles the development of young quarterbacks. Like a lot of other people, Stanton believes they aren’t doing a very good job and points to the move away from having a third quarterback on the inactive list on Sundays as a particular problem.

“It’s so hard to develop as a quarterback in this league nowadays,” Stanton said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. “The NFL is, unfortunately, heading into a bad trend. When I first got in the league, you could be an inactive third on game day like I was when I was younger. That transitions into now, they’re trying to save spots and get guys to the practice squad.”

Stanton’s coach Bruce Arians made it clear that’s the case in Arizona when discussing Cardinals backups Stanton, Blaine Gabbert and Trevor Knight. Arians said keeping a third quarterback on the active roster comes down to whether he’s “the best player, regardless of position” and the fact that quarterbacks don’t play special teams plays a role in that decision.

Even if the league were to revert to the old inactive arrangement, there would still be limits on how much work quarterbacks down the depth chart get with teams preparing their starter to win games every week. That’s one of the reasons why there have been frequent calls for a true developmental league in the vein of the departed NFL Europe, although those calls haven’t led the league to take action at this point.

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NFL’s OTT service could let it cut out the middleman

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While Amazon may indeed become a key part of the NFL’s immediate future when it comes to the so-called OTT broadcasting of games, there’s another option that the league quietly is considering: Cutting out the middleman and streaming games directly to customers.

As recently explained by John Ourand of SportsBusiness Journal, the NFL has been selling live games directly to consumers in Europe, and the league currently is focused on growing the product. While the league currently doesn’t sell live game action to domestic consumers, it could just be a matter of time before the NFL creates a similar product that would allow the league to manage the experience and retain all revenue.

The question becomes whether a service like Amazon will offer enough money for the ability to stream games in order to make it more financially viable for the league to simply collect the rights fees in lieu of creating its own in-house streaming business.

But here’s the one thing to keep in mind. Even with OTT being a big part of the league’s future, broadcast TV via free over-the-air networks won’t be going away, especially since the NFL would risk losing its broadcast antitrust exemption if the league stops making football available on free TV, a practice the NFL championed several years ago while stubbornly (and clumsily) defending the blackout rule.

Regardless of how it all plays out, big changes are looming for the way live NFL games are consumed, from the way that we watch to the way that the league gets paid for it to, ultimately, how much money the NFL continues to make. Despite the league’s popularity, the NFL has benefited over the years from the willingness of networks to overpay for pro football. If/when that ends, it will be difficult for the league to continue to grow the multi-billion-dollar pie.

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Tom Brady is the 2017 MVP favorite

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In his 17 NFL seasons, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been named NFL MVP only twice. (Loser.) He’s nevertheless the odds-on favorite to win it again.

Via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bovada odds for 2017 regular-season MVP show Brady as the 4-1 favorite. Next is Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at 7-1. Newly-minted $25 million man (and Raiders quarterback) Derek Carr appears third, at 9-1.

Intriguing prospects include Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who at 50-1 may fare a lot better than that given his weapons in the passing game. Ditto for Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who created MVP buzz in spurts last year, who has Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate, and O.J. Howard this year, and who is rated as a 66-1 underdog to be the league’s top dog.

And now for some safe bets, if you want to place a little action on the “no.” Steelers receiver Antonio Brown has 50-1 odds to win an award that no receiver has ever won. If Brown ever would generate the kind of numbers necessary to be in the conversation, it will mean that the guy throwing the passes has likely done ever more to win the award.

Likewise, Broncos linebacker Von Miller is a 100-1 pick. With a new coach, new coordinators, and an unsettled quarterback situation, Miller will be hard pressed to stand out enough to become only the third defensive player to be named league MVP (Alan Page did it in 1971, and Lawrence Taylor won it in 1986), especially given the many great offensive players throughout the league. So, basically, if I was a betting man, I’d be inclined to risk $100 to win $1 if/when Miller doesn’t win the MVP award.

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Robert Kraft: Amazon deal shows where NFL is headed on TV

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Amazon will stream NFL games to its Prime subscribers this season, which represents a new source of revenue for the NFL, but a small one: Although the precise amount of money Amazon has paid for NFL deals has been disputed, suffice to say it’s peanuts compared to what NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN and DirecTV pay for the rights to show NFL games on traditional television.

But while online streams are a tiny fraction of the NFL’s revenues today, that won’t always be the case, according to Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Eventually, Kraft believes, over-the-top content will replace traditional television for the NFL.

“This year we’re with Amazon and for us the future is OTT,” Kraft said, via the New York Post. “We’ll be very interested to see how Amazon goes as it’s behind the paywall. The thing we have to be careful of is millennials. They don’t watch TV, they don’t have TVs or subscribe to cable. So we have to bring that audience in. Partly it’s done through fantasy games and linking to that. Over-the-top is a great opportunity.”

Kraft is probably right about that: A younger generation of fans wants to watch football on phones and on the go, not while sitting in the living room in front of the TV. The NFL needs to figure out how to keep those fans involved — and how to bring in the same kind of revenue from those fans that it brings in from traditional TV viewers.

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Green Bay says it could host a draft as big as Philadelphia’s

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Philadelphia saw an enormous turnout for this year’s NFL draft, with the league claiming 250,000 people attended the three-day outdoor festival surrounding the event. But a crowd that big doesn’t necessarily mean the draft has to be in a big city.

Green Bay is pushing to host the draft, and Brad Toll, the president of the city’s convention and visitors bureau, says his city could manage a Philadelphia-sized crowd.

“My gut feeling is with the people they had in town, we could accommodate that,” Toll told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Between the Resch Center and Titletown District, we certainly have every bit of space they need.”

But the problem facing Green Bay is less about the physical space to fit that many people than about the hotel rooms to accommodate them. Green Bay has just 4,700 hotel rooms while neighboring Appleton adds another 3,000. The Philadelphia region has more than 35,000 hotel rooms.

The NFL wants to make the draft an event big enough that football fans will travel from around the country to attend. Green Bay may not be big enough for that. But they’re going to try to convince the NFL they can handle it.

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Bengals think Andre Smith can be a “terrific” guard

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The Bengals lost two starting offensive linemen as free agents this offseason, leaving them with openings at left tackle and right guard as they built their team for the 2017 season.

They filled one of those spots by reaching out to a former member of the team, although Andre Smith’s won’t be returning as part of the plan to replace Andrew Whitworth at left tackle. Smith played right tackle in his first tour with the Bengals, but is set to take over at right guard for Kevin Zeitler.

Smith said he’s noticed things move faster at guard, something that may be exacerbated by practicing against defensive tackle Geno Atkins, but offensive line coach Paul Alexander says the transition has been a successful one thus far.

“I think Andre has a chance to be terrific at guard,” Alexander said, via the team’s website. “He’s getting to start from the beginning this year with the base techniques and then learn the offense as he goes. If we all of the sudden picked him up a week before the season and said, ‘Go play right guard,’ I don’t think he could do it. But going through this progression I think he’ll be fine.”

If all goes well, the move would benefit both the Bengals and Smith personally as the shift could prove to be a career extender as he closes in on a decade as an NFL offensive lineman.

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Friday morning one-liners

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A look at how S Micah Hyde fits with the Bills.

The Dolphins have set their schedule for training camp.

LB Shea McClellin’s playing time could drop with David Harris joining the Patriots.

A trip through the Jets’ depth chart.

Ravens rookie CB Marlon Humphrey is expected to play on the outside.

Bengals TE C.J. Uzomah hopes to pick up where he left off last season.

LB Christian Kirksey has grown into a leader on defense for the Browns.

Can Knile Davis spark the Steelers kick return game?

A breakdown of the Texans tight ends.

The Colts website takes a look at some projected stats for the team.

Jaguars rookie CB Jalen Myrick hopes he made a good first impression on the team.

The Titans have running back options beyond DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.

A Broncos fan won a chance to share a steak dinner with rookie T Garrett Bolles.

The Chiefs’ decision to fire G.M. John Dorsey caught many people off guard.

A look at the reaction to QB Derek Carr’s extension with the Raiders.

Rookie G Forrest Lamp didn’t pay attention to commentary on the Chargers’ decision to draft him.

Will WR Lucky Whitehead stick on the Cowboys roster again this year?

DE Devin Taylor is bidding to make the Giants.

How will the Eagles spread out work in their backfield?

Getting to know Redskins director of college scouting Kyle Smith.

Bears rookie TE Adam Shaheen went from basketball to football because he “missed hitting somebody.”

How will Derek Carr’s new deal impact Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s forthcoming contract?

A look at the Packers’ push to host the NFL Draft.

A position battle preview ahead of Vikings camp.

Play action passes will remain part of the Falcons offense in 2017.

Panthers LB Luke Kuechly is slinging soup.

OL Jack Allen is ready to compete for a Saints roster spot.

The Buccaneers’ social media team took issue with Nate Burleson’s wide receiver rankings.

S Ironhead Gallon hopes he makes an impression on the Cardinals beyond his name.

How good will the Rams defense be this year?

The 49ers should have a spirited competition for tight end jobs.

Will Eddie Lacy’s arrival get the Seahawks back to a power running game?

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NFL players support protesting Texas youth team

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Much like Colin Kaepernick, the Beaumont Bulls paid a price for their protest.

But unlike the unemployed-for-no-valid-reason quarterback, the Bulls are getting some NFL backing and are back on the field.

According to Tim McManus of ESPN.com, a group of NFL players donated $20,000 to help the Texas youth team, after their season was canceled last year after taking a knee during the national anthem.

Last September, the Beaumont Bulls 11-12-year-old team took a knee. The Bay Area Football League promptly suspended coach Rah Rah Barber. This year they’re back as the Southeast Texas Oilers, as members of a different organization.

Malcolm Jenkins and Torrey Smith of the Eagles; Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty; and free-agent wide receiver Anquan Boldin were among the players who wrote the checks to support their start-up. Jenkins and Boldin heard about the situation during a panel discussion in Houston  during Super Bowl week set up by Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (That’s Ross as in Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.)

“We wanted to make sure that we sent those kids the message that it’s OK to stand up for what you believe in,” Jenkins said. “We didn’t want them to walk away from the season feeling punished for trying to do the right thing. We wanted to make sure that was rewarded and acknowledged and encouraged, so that was our main motivation for helping.”

The donation covered the cost of equipment needed for the team to take the field this fall.

Oilers vice president April Parkerson said the movement began with her son Jaelun, who was troubled by the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota by a police officer. And following the example set by Kaepernick, the team decided to take a knee as he did.

“We thought about it long and hard because we are a military family,” April Parkerson said. “We had the support of friends and family and we all believe in doing the right thing and we all took a knee together. It just took off from there.”

The team told the Bay Area Football League about the planned protest before a Sept. 10 game, but opinions changed quickly against them, including death threats coming in by social media.

Jenkins was among the players to lodge similar protests last year, raising a fist during the anthem for all but one game.

“As role models, when you step out there and you demonstrate something, especially something as big as what happened last year with the protests in the NFL. . . . I think it’s definitely the responsibility of those out in front to think about the impact that it has on everyone behind them,” Jenkins said. “Because some of these kids and coaches and youth teams don’t have the same protections and securities that we have. And so I think it’s definitely a responsibility to at least thoroughly explain why you demonstrated, why you’re doing what you’re doing, so that people understand the risks and consequences, and that you also encourage them and support them.”

Now if they can just find a team willing to support the guy who started the movement.

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Deshaun Watson calls his work ethic a lifestyle

AP

The Texans drafted former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson in the hopes that he’d be the same kind of leader in the NFL that he was in college, where he led his team to a national championship. The early returns are very, very positive on that front.

John McClain, the longtime NFL reporter who covers the Texans for the Houston Chronicle, wrote on Twitter that Watson has been everything the Texans wanted in a franchise quarterback, and more.

“I can’t overstate how hard rookie QB Deshaun Watson worked in the offseason. Stayed after practice. Worked on days off. What a work ethic!” McClain wrote.

Watson saw that tweet about his work ethic and added, “It’s a lifestyle.”

Whether Watson can develop into an NFL-quality passer remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that he will put in the work.

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Browns see improvement from 2016 fourth-round pick Ricardo Louis

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Wide receiver Ricardo Louis was one of 14 draft picks to make the Cleveland Browns last season. However, Louis, a fourth-round pick out of Auburn, had some difficulty making the transition to the NFL and only managed 18 catches for 205 yards in his rookie campaign.

But with a year under his belt, the Browns and Louis feel like he’s better situated to contribute for the team this season.

Now he lines up at the line of scrimmage and hears the play and sees the defense and recognizes the coverage, he goes 100 miles per hour,” wide receiver coach Al Saunders said, via Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. “He’s a talented young man. I’m thrilled he feels really comfortable in what he’s doing and am really excited when we get him to the preseason and take that transition and get into real physical football and play the game when things aren’t what you expect it to be.”

Head coach Hue Jackson echoed the sentiments, saying Louis has “really improved” since last season. Louis agreed that he’s taken a sizable step forward as well.

“There’s a lot of things that you have to be very specific on when it comes to being in the NFL,” Louis said. “You have to be detailed with everything you do as far as preparation and taking the next step.”

That 14-man class will have to be significant contributors eventually for the Browns to build toward contending status. A jump forward from year one to year two is typically expected from players moving into the pros. Louis appears situated to be a more trusted option in 2017.

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Family suing Broncos Stadium after deadly fall last October

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The family of a man who died in a fall at the stadium formerly known as Sports Authority Field at Mile High last October is suing the Metropolitan Football Stadium District seeking an unstated amount of damages.

According to 9NEWS, the family of Jason Coy filed a claim dated April 11, 2017 alleging that the staircase when Coy fell to his death was “inherently dangerous to patrons” of the stadium.

“On October 24, 2016, while attending a Denver Bronco’s football game as an invitee inside the Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Mr. Coy fell to his death in a fire escape corridor and staircase, inside the North East concourse of the stadium,” the suit states. “The subject corridor was designed, built, and maintained as a fire evacuation escape route and egress method for invited game attendees. The corridor and staircase contained a vault and open shaft that was inherently dangerous to patrons, and Mr. Coy slipped over a handrail near the top of the staircase, falling to his death, at or near the base below. We believe the Stadium District, and others, failed to make the subject staircase and stairwell, reasonably safe for invited guests/patrons, and this failure led directly to Mr. Coy’s fatal injuries.”

Coy was attending a game between the Houston Texans and Broncos the night he fell.

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Jeremy Kerley isn’t fond of former Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey

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San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jeremy Kerley isn’t going to mince words when it comes to his opinion on Chan Gailey.

Kerley played under Gailey with the New York Jets in 2015. It was his worst season as a pro as Kerley caught just 16 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns with the Jets.

Coming off of arguable his best season, Kerley didn’t bother to blunt his opinion on his former offensive coordinator during an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

What changed a lot for me was in my fifth year, in New York, somebody telling me that, for whatever the reason was, I wasn’t good enough to play in that offense or I wasn’t a fit for that offense,” Kerley said. “And even though I knew I was, it still pissed me off to the point where I was just like, you know, what can I do to try to separate myself or stand out more. And I think, just from that point on and 2015 was by far my worst year in the league. I absolutely hated the NFL. I wasn’t getting any playing time at receiver; I was just strictly punt return. Me and Chan Gailey were always … we didn’t see eye-to-eye. I didn’t have a lot of respect for him. It was probably the same for him.”

Gailey was hired to serve as offensive coordinator after Todd Bowles was brought in to replace Rex Ryan as head coach. Gailey served in the role the last two seasons before retiring at the end of the year. Unsurprisingly, Kerley lasted just one season playing in Gailey’s offense before moving on to the 49ers last year (after a brief stop in Detroit).

“Chan was just one of those type of guys that he has his mind set up before he sees whoever’s there,” Kerley said. “I mean, he just wasn’t a fit for me, so when we came in it was kind of like, I had just signed a four-year, $16-million extension. So I’m assuming this is my time, I’m going to play or I get to maximize my play. And it was the exact opposite. I can’t speak highly of a guy who never really let me have an opportunity to prove. And then the fact that he would always bring in guys that were my same height or my same size after guys went down or whatever happened, it brought me to believe that maybe he just doesn’t really like me.

“For whatever the reason was, I just feel like we were going to bump heads after that. I don’t say this about a lot of people, but I don’t really have a lot of respect for that and how that situation went.”

Kerley ended up in a much better situation with the 49ers. He caught a career-high 64 passes for 667 yards and three touchdowns last year for San Francisco. The three touchdowns matched a career-high. The showing earned his a new three-year deal with the 49ers this offseason.

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