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NFL morning after: Greg Schiano is what his record says he is

Greg Schiano AP

I want to judge Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano solely based on the way his team has played on the field.

Let’s put aside the fact that Schiano had a dysfunctional relationship with his starting quarterback, Josh Freeman. And let’s not blame the head coach for the MRSA infections that have caused major concerns on the team. And let’s just say that stuff like trying to blow up the other team’s kneel-down formation is a gray area where reasonable people can disagree about whether it’s a legitimate tactic.

Instead, let’s assess Schiano, who is closing in on the midway point of his second season as an NFL head coach, by saying this: His team stinks.

The Buccaneers are 0-5 even though Schiano has been handed a roster that has plenty of talent. Vincent Jackson is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Doug Martin is one of the most explosive young running backs to enter the league in the last few years. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is a beast in the middle of the line. A secondary with veterans Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, plus last year’s first-round pick Mark Barron and this year’s second-round pick Johnthan Banks, is the envy of almost every coach in the NFL. You can’t say Schiano is losing because his team doesn’t have the personnel to win.

What you can say is that Schiano doesn’t look like he has any coherent plan in place for molding all that talent into a good football team. Yes, yes, I know, Schiano wants to be “tough” and “physical” and “disciplined,” but does Schiano have a competent defensive scheme? It sure didn’t look that way on Sunday, when that talented secondary got lit up by a backup quarterback, Nick Foles, who went 22-for-31 for 296 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

And does Schiano have any plan for his offense? It sure doesn’t seem like it when he spends the entire offseason insisting that this is Josh Freeman’s team, then benches Freeman after three weeks and cuts him after four.

I could be persuaded that Schiano is a good coach who just needs time to turn things around if he had a good track record elsewhere. But the truth is, his track record at his only previous head-coaching job — at Rutgers — isn’t particularly impressive. In Schiano’s 11 seasons at Rutgers, his team never won the Big East and only finished in the Top 25 once.

The coach on the opposite sideline from Schiano on Sunday, Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly, also went from college to the NFL, but Kelly had coached a big-time winner at Oregon. In Kelly’s four seasons as head coach at Oregon, he won the conference championship three times and was never ranked worse than No. 11 in the country. Whether you think Kelly is going to succeed or fail at the next level, there’s no question that Kelly has shown he can win big at the college level. The same can’t be said for Schiano.

The old Bill Parcells saying, “You are what your record says you are,” is how Schiano deserves to be judged. And Schiano’s record says the Buccaneers have a winless and hapless coach.

Here are my other thoughts on Sunday in the NFL:

Joseph Fauria: NFL’s best undrafted rookie and best dancer? Fauria, the 6-foot-7 Detroit tight end, may be having the best season of any undrafted rookie in the league through six weeks. He’s been an outstanding red zone target for the Lions, and he reeled in three touchdown catches on Sunday in Cleveland. And Fauria’s touchdown celebration dancing is also amusing, having already drawn attention on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The dances he did on Sunday in Cleveland had his teammates cracking up in the end zone, and with his height and leaping ability, you can bet he’s going to go up and get a lot more touchdown passes in the future. Asked why Fauria has been successful in the red zone, Lions coach Jim Schwartz answered, “He’s tall as hell.” Sometimes that’s enough.

Vontaze Burfict needs to cool it with the personal fouls. Burfict, the Cincinnati linebacker, had 15-yard penalties for facemasking, for a hit on a sliding quarterback and for a hit on a defenseless receiver on Sunday. Burfict has been a terrific player for the Bengals since they signed him as an undrafted free agent last year, but the reason Burfict wasn’t drafted was that NFL teams didn’t think he could keep himself in check after developing a reputation as a hothead during his college career. Three personal fouls in a game is not acceptable.

Danny Amendola’s injury was frightening. Amendola, the Patriots’ No. 1 receiver, took a hard (but legal) hit to the head and fell face-first into the turf. When he got up, he couldn’t even walk straight. The Patriots immediately announced that he wouldn’t return to the game, and that looked like the kind of head injury that will sideline a player for more than just one game. Amendola is a talented receiver, but he simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

Baltimore needs Eugene Monroe to get better. Monroe, the left tackle the Ravens acquired in a trade with the Jaguars, whiffed on a block just before halftime, leading Joe Flacco to get blindsided and fumble, setting up a Packers field goal on the last play of the first half. That was one of the ugliest plays of the day, and a bad sign that trading for Monroe wasn’t close enough to fix the problems on the Ravens’ offensive line.

Can anyone explain what happened to the Texans? I don’t know if I can ever recall a team imploding quite the way Houston has. After Week 13 of last season, the Texans were 11-1, and a lot of people considered them the best team in the NFL. Since then they’ve gone 4-8, and seven of their eight losses were blowouts, including Sunday’s horrendous performance against the Rams. There have been no major coaching or personnel changes, and yet this team looks absolutely nothing like the good football team we saw in Houston a year ago. Gary Kubiak probably won’t last much longer in Houston. Like Schiano, Kubiak is going to be judged by his record, and his record isn’t good.

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Jared Odrick, Julius Thomas questionable for Thursday night

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 23:   Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars attempts to make a catch against the Oakland Raiders during the game at EverBank Field on October 23, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars have released their injury report for Thursday night’s game against the Titans and they only put designations on a couple of players.

Defensive end Jared Odrick and tight end Julius Thomas have both been listed as questionable to play in the game.

Odrick played after being listed as questionable last week with a hip injury. It’s a quad issue that’s landed him on this week’s report and Odrick did not practice on either Tuesday or Wednesday. Thomas didn’t practice Tuesday due to an ankle injury that’s been lingering the last few weeks, but moved up to a limited workout on Wednesday.

Everyone else on the 53-man roster was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, leaving the Jaguars in generally good physical condition as they try to rebound from last Sunday’s loss to the Raiders.

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Another double-digit drop in prime time

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 24:  Quarterback Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans runs out on to the field before the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans-Broncos game was pretty much what everyone thought it would be. And so were the ratings.

Unmoved by the return of Brock Osweiler to Denver, the needle moved in the wrong direction from a Nielsen standpoint, with a 14-percent decline in ratings from the Ravens-Cardinals Monday night game from Week Seven a year ago. The ratings also reflected a 17-percent decline from 2014, when the Steelers and Texans squared off.

Via, it was the lowest Monday night rating for Week Seven since 2012, when Lions-Bears conflicted with a presidential debate and a Game Seven in baseball. It also was the fifth game this year with a rating below 7.0. Previously, only four had dropped below that mark — in three prior seasons combined.

Perhaps the performance of the Texans in other big games contributed to the lack of widespread interest. It would have been a bigger game if it had been selected for the first game of the new season. Then again, the struggles of Carolina would have made Panthers-Broncos a far less compelling matchup later in the year.

Either way, the sizzle simply isn’t there this year, so far. After the election and the World Series end and once the playoff races heat up, we’ll know whether it’s an aberration, a full-year trend, or possibly a new reality for the NFL.

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Jets place Geno Smith on IR

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23:  Geno Smith #7 looks on from the bench during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

Quarterback Geno Smith will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL against the Ravens last Sunday, which left little reason for him to remain on the team’s active roster.

The Jets went ahead and removed Smith from it on Wednesday by placing him on injured reserve. Smith’s contract expires at the end of this season, so there’s a pretty good chance that he won’t be back on the roster at any point in the future.

Smith was one of four quarterbacks on the roster, so the team didn’t need to add to Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg as backups for Ryan Fitzpatrick.

They elected to sign linebacker Taiwan Jones instead. Jones spent most of last season on the Jets’ practice squad and was promoted to the active roster later in the year without seeing any action. He was with the team in the preseason this year as well, but didn’t make it through cuts at the start of the regular season.

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Joe Thomas hopes Browns stick to their word about not trading him

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 16:  Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans tries to get past Joe Thomas #73 of the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 16, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

The trade deadline is next week and one of the names that has come up as a possible target for teams looking to upgrade their offensive line is Browns left tackle Joe Thomas.

Connecting those dots isn’t hard. The Browns have jettisoned many veterans since their latest regime change, Thomas has been one of the best tackles in the league for years and the team reportedly came close to moving him to Denver around this time last year.

In response to such thoughts, Browns coach Hue Jackson said earlier this week that the Browns “are not going to trade Joe Thomas.” Thomas said Wednesday that he’s been around the NFL too long to be surprised by anything, but that he hopes Jackson was telling the truth.

“Feels good to be loved,” Thomas said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’m hoping they stick to their word.”

Thomas admitted to not being sure if he wanted to stick with the Browns before they hired Jackson and put their latest front office in place early this year, but said after Jackson’s arrival that he “definitely” wanted to stick around. An 0-7 start hasn’t changed that feeling, although it won’t be until next week until we’re sure that the status quo will remain in place.

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Josh McCown optimistic he’ll play on Sunday

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 18: Josh McCown #13 of the Cleveland Browns looks on before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

If the Browns had to play a game yesterday, they would have started fourth-string quarterback Kevin Hogan. Fortunately, they didn’t have to play a game yesterday.

Cleveland does have a game on Sunday against the Jets, and there’s optimism that Josh McCown will be able to play. McCown said his broken collarbone is healing nicely, and he’s hoping for a good week of practice this week and full medical clearance before Sunday.

“We’re moving in that direction,” McCown told reporters in Cleveland today. “We’ll see how it goes.”

After Robert Griffin III was injured in Week One, McCown started Week Two, only to break his collarbone. Cody Kessler has started since Week Three, but he suffered a concussion on Sunday and appears to be unlikely to get cleared in time to play on Sunday.

So at the moment it appears that this week, McCown will be No. 1 and Hogan will be No. 2 at the most dangerous position since Spinal Tap drummer.

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Belichick: Lorenzo Alexander one of the best players we’ve seen all year

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 16:  Lorenzo Alexander #57 of the Buffalo Bills sacks Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has been a useful NFL player for the last decade, seeing time on defense and special teams for a variety of teams.

Alexander’s play this season has taken things to another level, however. Pressed into a starting role after injuries to other linebackers in Buffalo, Alexander has responded with at least a half-sack in each game and a league-high nine sacks overall while also playing his usual role in the kicking game.

Alexander had one of those sacks against the Patriots in Week Four and Patriots coach Bill Belichick called him “one of the best players we’ve seen all year” while they head into this weekend’s rematch.

“He’s been great,” Belichick said in his Wednesday press conference. “He’s had a great year. [He’s] been a tremendous run player, pass player, every special team, impact player in the kicking game and impact player on defense, hard to block, rushes inside, rushes outside, good tackler, great motor. He’s really good.”

The Bills defense took a step backward last Sunday after playing a major part in the team’s four-game winning streak. Keeping Alexander in check would do a lot to help the Patriots extend the downturn, although doing that has proven to be difficult for any of Buffalo’s opponents so far this season.

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Doug Pederson says Eagles aren’t looking to trade for a receiver

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Doug Pederson reacts during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on October 23, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Vikings 21-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

Before the start of the regular season, the Eagles made a trade with the Titans to acquire wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham.

Green-Beckham has caught 13 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown for the Eagles’ 29th-ranked passing game in the first six games of the season. That low ranking has helped spark some talk that the Eagles might want to make another deal for a wide receiver like Torrey Smith before next week’s trade deadline.

During his Wednesday press conference, Eagles coach Doug Pederson said that there’s no “legitimacy” to any such chatter because the Eagles are happy with the players they have at the position. Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor and Josh Huff join Green-Beckham in that receiver group.

Comments like Pederson’s should always be taken with a grain of salt because we’ve seen too many examples of teams saying one thing before doing another, especially when there’s a need to boost production in the area under discussion. Given how many other changes the Eagles have undergone on offense since Pederson took over, however, it isn’t hard to understand why they might like to focus on what’s already on hand rather than shaking things up again in the middle of the season.

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NFL: No ejection for Jarvis Landry because we can’t tell intent

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 23:  Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by  Ronald Darby #28 of the Buffalo Bills at the Hard Rock Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry put Bills safety Aaron Williams in the hospital with a brutal hit to the head on Sunday. That hit drew a 15-yard penalty, but Bills coach Rex Ryan suggested afterward that ejecting Landry would have been appropriate as well.

NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said on NFL Network that Landry wasn’t ejected because the officials can’t say for sure that Landry was specifically aiming for Williams’ head, as opposed to just making a block and going too high.

“It’s certainly a foul,” Blandino said. “It’s certainly something that we’ll review for potential discipline, but it’s still a football play, and it’s tough to read intent there. That’s why the officials kept him in the game. It’s not an automatic ejection. It’s up to the discretion of the crew and they didn’t feel like it was flagrant enough to throw the player out of the game.”

In college football, a hit like that would be an automatic targeting ejection. In the NFL, there are fewer plays that result in automatic ejections.

“We have very few automatic ejections in the game today,” Blandino said. “If you get two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls in the same game, if you put your hands on a game official in an aggressive way, those are automatic ejections. Punching an opponent.”

That’s an area where college football’s rules make more sense than the NFL’s. If there are going to be automatic ejections at all, an illegal hit to the head that sends a player to the hospital should be something that draws an automatic ejection. College football’s targeting rule has its problems, but it’s a rule that makes more sense than the NFL’s rule of ejecting a player for two taunting fouls, but letting a player stay in the game after a vicious and illegal hit to the head.

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Why did NFL reduce Josh Brown’s suspension from six games to one?

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 30: Josh Brown #3 of the New York Giants reactsa after missing a field-goal during the second half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 30, 2014 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) Getty Images

One of the biggest lingering questions regarding the Josh Brown case relates to the decision to suspend him for the May 2015 incident that resulted in his arrest. With the NFL now using a six-game suspension as the baseline for first-offense domestic violence, why was he suspended for only one game?

The Personal Conduct Policy, as revised after the Ray Rice debacle, establishes the six-game suspension for a first offense, with the possibility of the suspension increasing or decreasing, based on aggravating or mitigating factors.

“Possible aggravating factors include, but are not limited to, a prior violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, similar misconduct before joining the NFL, violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when an act is committed against a particularly vulnerable person, such as a child, a pregnant woman, or an elderly person, or where the act is committed in the presence of a child,” the policy states. As to mitigating factors, there is no similar explanation.

So what are the mitigating factors? Absent an effort to identify them, mitigating factors can be whatever the NFL wants them to be.

As to Brown, there were two mitigating factors, from the league’s perspective. First, the NFL didn’t regard the incident as a serious instance of domestic violence, since Brown simply grabbed his now-ex-wife’s wrist. (Many would say that any incident of domestic violence is serious.) Second, the NFL considered its difficulty in getting cooperation from Brown’s now-ex-wife or from law enforcement to be a mitigating factor.

The better approach would be to stick with the default penalty of six games for any incident of domestic violence, unless and until the player can articulate and prove true mitigating factors on appeal. The structure of the policy, however, suggests that the NFL doesn’t want to impose a standard of this nature, possibly since it would strip the league of the ability to point to any factor it wants as a mitigating factor — regardless of whether it actually is.

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Anti-Baalke banner to fly over next 49ers home game

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 28: San Francisco 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke watches warmups against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the 1-6 49ers return from their bye, an effort will be made to force the team to bid farewell to G.M. Trent Baalke.

Via, an anti-Baalke banner will fly over Levi’s Stadium in connection with the team’s next home game, on November 6 against the Saints. The public funding goal of $1,076 was quickly reached, allowing for the “#FireTrent” message to be displayed to anyone at the game.

Maybe the good news is that ongoing “traffic problems” will ensure that fewer people will see the banner.

The reality is that, as the 49ers continue a stunning fall from perennial contender to perennial doormat, the paying customers need to be engaged. Surely, plenty of them currently are tempted to disengage, indefinitely.

Which will result in plenty of them pressuring the team to disengage from Baalke, permanently.

Regardless of whether the 49ers fire Baalke or make other changes during or after the year, much must be done to turn around a team that seemed to be setting the gold standard for the NFC, if not the NFL.

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Huff’s TD return leads to NFC weekly honor

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Josh Huff #13 of the Philadelphia Eagles gets by Eric Kendricks #54 of the Minnesota Vikings after making a catch for a first down during the fourth quarter of a game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 23, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The eagles defeated the Vikings 21-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eagles wide receiver Josh Huff returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown last Sunday vs. the Vikings, and on Wednesday Huff was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Huff’s touchdown was the Eagles’ first score of the game. They went on to hand the Vikings their first loss of the season, 21-10.

The touchdown gave a nice boost to Huff’s kick return average, which is now up to 38 yards per return on the season. He also had a kickoff return for a touchdown in 2014.

Huff’s return marked the first time in Eagles history that the Eagles returned kickoffs for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. Wendell Smallwood ran a kickoff back 86 yards for a touchdown the previous week at Washington.

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Landon Collins named NFC defensive player of the week

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  Landon Collins #21 New York Giants celebrates his touchdown during the NFL International Series match between New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham Stadium on October 23, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images) Getty Images

Whether it was jet lag or just the continuation of a season-long lack of consistence, the Giants offense didn’t get much done against the Rams in London last Sunday.

The Giants were still able to return home with a victory, however, and safety Landon Collins was a big reason why they won. Collins had two of the team’s four interceptions of Rams quarterback Case Keenum and scored the team’s first touchdown of the game.

The score came on a play that’s sure to be a staple of highlight films for a good long while. With the Giants trailing 10-3 in the second quarter, Collins picked off a pass that went off Tavon Austin’s hands and began a trip to the end zone that took him from one side of the field to the other while breaking several attempted tackles.

Collins’ second interception came on another attempt to get the ball to Austin in the fourth quarter and set up the touchdown drive that put the Giants up 17-10. Keenum would throw two more interceptions and the score stood up for a victory that had Collins’ fingerprints all over it.

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Davante Adams named NFC offensive player of the week

GREENBAY, WI - OCTOBER 20: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers talks with teammate wide receiver Davante Adams #17 in the third quarter against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on October 20, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the absence of a reliable running game, the Packers needed someone to take on a larger role.

Wide receiver Davante Adams did just that.

Adams was named NFC offensive player of the week after catching 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in last Thursday’s win over the Bears.

Adams hadn’t caught more than five passes in a game all season, but made the most of the opportunity, and helped spark a Packers offense which has been off sync all season.

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King wins AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after strange, productive day

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 23:   Marquette King #7 of the Oakland Raiders punts against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at EverBank Field on October 23, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

Raiders punter Marquette King was good with his right foot and did a little work with both feet in last Sunday’s win at Jacksonville.

Wednesday, King was named AFC Special Teams Player of the week. King averaged 50.6 yards on five punts in the game. He landed four of those five inside the Jaguars’ 20-yard line.

King also picked up a botched snap in the fourth quarter and ran 27 yards for a first down.

He also won an AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award last December.

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Denzel Perryman named AFC defensive player of the week

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 23: Denzel Perryman #52 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates after the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on October 23, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s one thing to play hurt. To play hurt and play well gets you recognized.

Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman was named AFC defensive player of the week, after his work in helping the Chargers beat the Falcons in overtime last week, while playing through a shoulder injury.

Perryman’s interception of a Matt Ryan pass helped set up a game-tying field goal for the Chargers. He followed that up with an even bigger play, stopping Devonta Freeman for a loss on fourth down in overtime, which allowed the Chargers to kick their game-winning field goal.

The second-year linebacker from Miami also had seven tackles and a pass defensed.

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