AFC West: San Diego Chargers

SAN DIEGO – Chargers linebacker Andrew Gachkar was a surprise addition to San Diego’s injury report on Wednesday.

One of San Diego’s core special-teams players, Gachkar earned more playing time in sub packages on defense with his improved play. Gachkar scored his first touchdown since high school against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, scooping up a Shaun Hill fumble created on a sack by Corey Liuget and rumbling 13 yards for a score.

Along with Gachkar, defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) and outside linebacker Dwight Freeney (rest) did not practice. Running back Ryan Mathews (shoulder), receiver Eddie Royal (toe) and safety Jahleel Addae (concussion) were full participants in practice.

The Chargers also announced the team added center Jeff Baca to the practice squad. Baca will wear No. 62.

Chargers center Chris Watt can build on fast start

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
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Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams talks about rookie center Chris Watt and his success in his first start.
SAN DIEGO -- After he's dealt with a nagging back issue for most of the season, the San Diego Chargers finally brought center Rich Ohrnberger's season to a conclusion, placing the Penn State product on the season-ending injured reserve.

U-T San Diego reported that Ohrnberger will have surgery to correct the issue. The Chargers now have placed three centers on injured reserve this season in Nick Hardwick (neck), Doug Legursky (knee) and Ohrnberger.

Rookie Chris Watt started in place of Ohrnberger last week against the St. Louis Rams and played well. The Chargers selected Watt in the third round of this year’s draft as a potential long-term replacement for Hardwick at center, and the Notre Dame product will get a chance to prove his worth for the rest of the season with Ohrnberger out.

With a vacant spot, the Chargers signed outside linebacker Cordarro Law from the practice squad to the active roster.

QB snapshot: Philip Rivers

November, 25, 2014
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A quick observation of quarterback Philip Rivers and how he played in the San Diego Chargers’ 27-24 win over the St. Louis Rams in Week 12:

Rivers
Even though he threw an interception to St. Louis cornerback Janoris Jenkins that was brought back the other way 99 yards for a score, for the most part Rivers returned to the precision passing he demonstrated earlier this season.

Rivers completed 83 percent of his throws against St. Louis. He was just as effective against the blitz, finishing 13-of-16 for 148 yards and a touchdown when facing at least five pass-rushers.

Rivers' ability to get the ball out quick against an aggressive Rams defensive front resulted in some explosive plays from San Diego's receivers on slip screens and other throws down the field. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chargers gained 205 yards after the catch against St. Louis, the team’s highest total since it gained 228 yards after the catch in Week 12 of last season in a 41-38 win over Kansas City.

The Chargers can use that big-play ability in facing the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, who rank No. 29 in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 265 passing yards a game. The Ravens also have given up 40 passing plays of 20 yards or more, tied for No. 23 in the league.
SAN DIEGO -- With the league clearly focused on relocating a team to Los Angeles, discussions on a proposal to build a multi-use facility in downtown San Diego that would house a new convention center expansion and an NFL football stadium continue to move forward for the San Diego Chargers.

However, the proposal has yet to build consensus among city business and civic leaders, an important step for the team if it wants the project to succeed when inevitably placed on a countywide ballot for voters to weigh in.

The Chargers are keeping their options open because of what is happening in Los Angeles.

Serving as a backdrop for the team’s effort is the possibility of an NFL team relocating to the lucrative Los Angeles market. The Chargers are keeping a watchful eye on what happens in L.A., with 30 percent of the team’s premium sales -- including advertising, sponsorships, club seats and suites -- originating in the Los Angeles market.

Last December, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased 60 acres of land in Inglewood, California, near Hollywood Park racetrack that could house an NFL stadium.

[+] Enlarge Qualcomm Stadium
USA TODAY SportsQualcomm Stadium hosted a Super Bowl as recently as 2003 but may not host the Chargers for much longer.
Kroenke and Chargers owner and president Dean Spanos talked briefly on the field at Qualcomm Stadium about an hour before their teams played over the weekend.

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis has made inquiries about the possibility of moving to Los Angeles if his franchise cannot get a new stadium deal done in Oakland.

Los Angeles has not had an NFL team since the Rams and Raiders departed for St. Louis and Oakland, respectively, in 1995. Both the Rams and the Raiders have the ability to terminate their lease at the end of this season.

JMI Realty, the development company responsible for the San Diego Padres’ Petco Park, has proposed building a $1.4 billion multi-use facility with a retractable roof that would house a stadium for the Chargers, along with planned expansion of the convention center that would include an exhibition hall below the football field and a meeting room and ballroom space in an attached building, with views of the field and bay.

JMI says the project would save hundreds of millions of dollars, rather than building stand-alone facilities for both projects. JMI uses the same architect the Chargers have used, HOK Populous out of Kansas City. Done separately, the price tag on the two projects could reach $1.8 billion.

JMI presented plans to the mayor’s office, city officials, the port and other stakeholders earlier this year. They have proposed three different alternatives. All would require the use of hotel tax money the city earmarked for the convention center expansion.

“We’ve worked very closely with JMI and have a good, cooperative relationship,” said Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Spanos and the team’s point person on the stadium issue.

Fabiani and representatives of San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer have had regular meetings on the project since March. But no timetable has been established on when an official proposal would be presented to the city council, and ultimately to voters.

“Over the past several weeks my office has been meeting with stakeholders, including the lodging and convention industry, the Chargers, JMI Realty, and various experts to discuss options for moving forward,” Faulconer said in a prepared statement. “My review of these proposals, many of which have been covered by local media outlets, is preliminary.

“As I take a fresh look at expanding the convention center, I am open to all options. These include finding alternative financing for the current plan to expand directly next to the existing convention center as well as exploring a non-contiguous expansion at a different location that could include a new stadium for the Chargers. I continue to believe that any proposed Chargers stadium project should be brought before voters.”

The Chargers argue that non-contiguous expansion of the convention center is a more suitable alternative, coupled with a multi-use stadium because it would allow for multiple conventions at the same time.

“The big advantage is if you had a convention space inside a stadium with a retractable roof, you could host the biggest events in the world, including the World Cup, Final Fours, major boxing matches, major MMA matches or huge conventions that require an abundance of flat floor space,” Fabiani said. “All of that could be hosted in the type of facility we’re talking about.”

However, proponents of the initial proposal for expanding the convention center argue that at least 750,000 square feet of contiguous space is needed to attract large conventions, which generate the most revenue. The current convention center houses 525,000 square feet.

In August, an appellate court ruling struck down the financing plan for a $520 million expansion of the convention center along San Diego’s waterfront.

“There have been a number of customer studies and feedback from key citywide conventions that clearly articulate the need for expansion of the existing convention center,” said Joe Terzi, president of the San Diego Tourism Authority. “We would love to see a new multi-purpose stadium downtown and believe it would have a tremendous positive economic impact as Petco Park did when it opened, leading to the revitalization and creation of East Village."

If consensus on a proposal is met, a vote on the project could appear on a countywide ballot as early as the general election in November 2016.

The proposal would need a two-thirds majority vote in order to use hotel tax money as a funding source for the project. That same funding source has been contemplated for use on the convention center expansion.

“We believe it’s achievable, otherwise we would not be spending time on this,” Fabiani said. “But it’s not achievable if you’ve got significant opposition in the community.”

While there’s no official deadline on reaching an agreement on a stadium plan, the Chargers have a three-month window to renew the team’s year-to-year lease with the city of San Diego for Qualcomm Stadium that permits the team to terminate the lease at any time between Feb. 1 and May 1.
SAN DIEGO -- Ryan Mathews has totaled 175 rushing yards in two games since returning from an MCL knee sprain that forced him to miss seven games.

But through two games, Mathews has carried the football an average of 14 times a contest, with just four of those carries coming in the fourth quarter and two in the red zone.

Mathews
So what gives?

San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy explained his team's approach to Mathews.

"We are monitoring that to a certain extent," McCoy said, when asked if Mathews' workload will increase in the weeks ahead. "But he'll kind of help us dictate that also. The longer he can go will come into effect, with this being the second week back. More last week we told them to monitor that. We didn't want him to play too much or too little. And the same this week, he's going to kind of dictate some things there."

McCoy went on to say the coaching staff is going to do what they think is best, and that means using Branden Oliver and Donald Brown for specific plays that feature them. Mathews and his injury history also plays a role in McCoy wanting to limit how many carries Mathews can get so he can make it through the regular season and beyond healthy.

Mathews suffered a shoulder injury in the second half, but later returned to the game. He was further evaluated in the locker room after the game, and it appears the injury is not serious. However, McCoy did not provide an update on Mathews' injury status on Monday.
SAN DIEGO -- A job usually handled by middle linebackers around the league, San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle has worn the green dot on his helmet the past two games, which means he's wearing a radio headset in his helmet so he can directly communicate with defensive coordinator John Pagano and relay the calls to the rest of his teammates.

Weddle
"I'm a unique kind of guy," said Weddle, known for his long, gnarly beard. "I do a lot more than most people."

Middle linebacker Donald Butler wore the green dot earlier this season. But with the University of Washington product's reduction of playing time, coupled with Weddle's experience in the defense and the fact he doesn't leave the field, the defensive co-captain became the natural choice.

"It's been awesome," Weddle said. "It helps me because I'm not waiting for the call. And then all of the alerts from what I see, I can get it out because I'm in front of the huddle. So anything the coach is alerting me on I can get it out instead of running around the field telling each guy because I'm already in the huddle with them. So it's been good. We haven't had any mishaps."

The Chargers are 2-0 since making the switch, and have played more consistent on that side of the ball since the bye week. Weddle said he called the plays defensively three years ago, but he never consistently got back to the huddle to call the plays, something he's doing a better job this time around.

"I think it takes the burden off of other guys," Weddle said. "I can handle it. I've been in this league a long time. When you have a bunch of voices talking to you -- not only Coach [Pagano] but other players -- sometimes it can be overwhelming. But it's been good."

The Chargers have allowed just 23 points defensively in two games, holding teams to 9-of-29 (31 percent) on third down. Better communication has resulted in more consistent play.

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers’ 27-24 win over the St. Louis Rams.

What it means: After winning two straight games coming out of the bye week, the Chargers (7-4) allowed 14 points in the final two minutes to a sub-.500 team in the Rams, but held on for the victory after safety Marcus Gilchrist's interception in the end zone with just over a minute remaining. San Diego is a game behind the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos (8-3) and tied with the Kansas City Chiefs (7-4). The Broncos travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs next week, and San Diego takes on the Baltimore Ravens (6-4) on the road.

Chargers led by turnovers: Heading into Sunday’s contest, San Diego’s defense had forced just one turnover in the past four games. But a Brandon Flowers interception led to a Nick Novak 23-yard field goal. Darrell Stuckey blocked a Greg Zuerlein 46-yard field goal attempt. And linebacker Andrew Gachkar rumbled 13 yards on a fumble return forced by Corey Liuget for a score. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gachkar’s score was the first defensive touchdown for San Diego since Week 9 of last season. The Chargers had gone 18 games without a defensive score over that span.

Mathews regains form, suffers injury: In his second game back since missing seven games with a knee sprain, Ryan Mathews rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time this season. Mathews finished with 105 yards on 12 rushes, including a 32-yard run for a score. It’s the first time Mathews has rushed for more than 100 yards since totaling 144 yards in a 27-24 overtime win over Kansas City last Dec. 29 that clinched a playoff berth. Mathews suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter, but did return to the game.

Stock watch – Down: Philip Rivers wasn’t awful, but he has not returned to the MVP-type effort we saw from him early in the season. Rivers finished 29-of-35 for 291 yards, one touchdown pass and an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Rivers eclipsed 35,000 career passing yards with his effort on Sunday and now has 35,204.

Up-and-down game for Allen: Keenan Allen rebounded from a couple of costly mistakes. He continued to struggle finding a rhythm with Rivers. Allen finished with six receptions for a team-high 104 receiving yards. But he failed to knock down a pass in the end zone that St. Louis cornerback Janoris Jenkins intercepted and returned 99 yards for touchdown. Allen also fumbled after a long reception and muffed a punt after cornerback Chris Davis ran into him. However, Allen corralled his second touchdown catch of the year, a 29-yard reception for the winning score. Allen has as many tackles (2) as touchdown catches (2) this season.

Game ball: On second-and-goal from San Diego's 4-yard line with just over a minute remaining, Gilchrist picked off a Shaun Hill pass intended for Kenny Britt in the end zone, returning the ball to his team's 3-yard line to preserve the win.

What’s next: The Chargers go on the road to face the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
SAN DIEGO – Executing an opposing team’s offense in practice can be tedious at times, but the San Diego Chargers have an experienced hand helping them prepare for the St. Louis Rams in second-string quarterback Kellen Clemens, who spent three seasons in St. Louis, finishing 4-8 as a starter for the Rams.

Clemens
Clemens is very familiar with St. Louis offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s West Coast-based offense, having played in that scheme with the Rams and the New York Jets. Clemens also intimately knows the Rams’ personnel from his time in St. Louis.

“It’s huge for us,” Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano said. “For him to be able to stand in the huddle and say, ‘This is how this is run,’ or those types of things when he sees a play. He’s got his job to do, and he’s still got to prepare. But when he has the opportunity to look at the plays and talk to guys about certain routes, it’s always huge for that.

“But you can’t put too much into that. Regardless of him, we have to go out and play, and we have to go out and execute. And that’s the most important thing.”

Clemens also downplayed his role in getting San Diego’s defense prepared for Sunday.

“I think I can give them as good of a look as I can, up until this point,” Clemens said. “I know the offense. I know how they’re going to read it. I know how they’re going to try to attack it, and the adjustments they’re going to make.

“There’s little things that I can see while running the scout team in terms of how they’re going to run things. But a significant difference? I wish I could claim that, but I don’t think I can.”

Clemens a two-year, $3 million contract with San Diego as a free agent, and said he holds no bad blood toward his former team. Clemens said he looks forward to seeing old teammates and friends made while in St. Louis on the field before the game starts.

“I’ll be out a couple minutes early probably to get my warmup in,” Clemens said, smiling.
Defensively, the St. Louis Rams made Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos’ potent offense look pedestrian in a 22-7 victory last Sunday.

The Rams harassed Manning into two interceptions, sacked him two times and had the Broncos on their heels the entire contest. St. Louis held the Broncos to 397 yards, including just 28 yards on the ground.

So how did they do it?

“It was a team effort,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. “We ran the football, and Shaun [Hill] did a nice job of keeping the offense on the field through most of the game, with respect to third-down conversions.

Laurinaitis
“Our hope and intention going in was to do that – win time of possession and be able to run the football. And, of course, we got some pressure on him at times, and we came up with the two turnovers. And then I thought our special teams did a nice job with respect to covering kicks and field position.”

Added St. Louis middle linebacker James Laurinaitis: “We were aggressive on their short routes. We were able to affect Peyton pre-snap and post-snap. And really we just played fast. The challenge is how can we play fast again here this week against a very similar offense – with some differences – but very similar scheme-wise.”

Laurinaitis said a point of emphasis for his defense will be making sure to watch the ball and not anticipate Rivers’ cadence. Rivers coaxed four false-start penalties from the Oakland Raiders last week. Laurinaitis said Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league at drawing defenses offside.

“Being an aggressive defense, we definitely have to be cognizant of that, because if we’re not, those are easy yards,” Laurinaitis said. “And it’s not only the 5-yard penalty, because a lot of times it’s similar to Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, when somebody jumps offsides, most quarterbacks go up top.

“Philip does a lot more deep shots and deeper passes that we need to be very aware of. Peyton was a lot more timing stuff and anticipation. Philip has the arm strength and just really the guts to throw it deep. He goes up top to [Malcom] Floyd a whole bunch, and we have to be disciplined in the back end.”

Fisher said Rivers’ anticipation and ability to direct the offense at the line of scrimmage makes San Diego’s offense tough to stop.

“He sees so well and makes good decisions,” Fisher said. “He’s accurate, and he’s got a good group around him. I think the offensive line is playing well. They’re giving him time. I’d say they’re doing more things just from a formation standpoint that kind of puts stress on the defense.

“They create matchups. And with the up-tempo, he’s usually putting them in the right situation all the time, run or pass. I think he’s doing a lot more on the line of scrimmage than he has in the past.”
SAN DIEGO -- Antonio Gates was right, to a point.

Rivers
The San Diego Chargers listed quarterback Philip Rivers on Wednesday’s injury report with a chest injury. Gates told reporters after his team’s win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday that Rivers had been playing with a severe rib injury for three or four weeks.

Gates later backed off of those comments a day later on Monday, stating his words were taken out of context. Chargers coach Mike McCoy did not confirm that Rivers had a rib injury, saying his quarterback was healthy.

McCoy maintained his position after practice on Wednesday.

“He had a great practice today like the last 11 weeks,” McCoy said. “He didn’t miss a snap. He had a great day’s work.”

Asked if there was any change in Rivers physically, McCoy had this to say: “He looked great out there today at practice. He’ll play on Sunday.”

Rivers did his best to clarify his injury status after practice, stating he suffered the chest injury falling on the ball while being sacked by Khalil Mack in the fourth quarter against the Raiders this past Sunday. Rivers has started in 138 consecutive regular-season games, a streak that is second only to Eli Manning of the New York Giants.

“Unfortunately it was more made of it than he intended it to be,” Rivers said about his teammate’s comments. “I think as a buddy he was trying to give a compliment, and it ended up being, ‘Oh, what’s the matter.’ So I can honestly say there’s nothing going on that’s hindering me in any way. There’s a lot of guys in that locker room that are playing, that are a lot sorer than I am.”

Rivers also was asked about his trademark toughness, saying that was learned as a kid growing up playing for his father, Steve Rivers, back in Alabama.

“Growing up around it, my dad always said unless you can’t walk, you find a way to play -- or find a way to get off of the field,” Rivers said. “That was the main thing -- don’t lay out there on the field. So I found my way off a few times on Sunday.”

Center Rich Ohrnberger said the offensive line will continue to work to keep Rivers clean on Sunday against a talented St. Louis Rams’ defensive front.

“Week to week, we’re motivated to take care of him because when we do, he does an excellent job,” Ohrnberger said. “So I don’t think it matters what the circumstances are, or the team we’re playing. Whatever it is, our goal is to make sure he’s on his feet the entire game.”

Ryan Carrethers (elbow), Dwight Freeney (rest) and Ohrnberger (back, ankle) did not practice for the Chargers. Along with Rivers, Sean Lissemore (quad) returned to practice and was a full participant.

Safety Jahleel Addae also appears to have fully cleared the NFL concussion protocol. Addae was a full participant in San Diego’s fully padded practice on Wednesday.
SAN DIEGO – The NFL announced that San Diego Chargers punter Mike Scifres was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his effort in his team’s victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

Scifres placed five of his nine punts inside the 20-yard line. Scifres’ booming punts also helped the coverage units, as he finished with a 41.4-yard net punting average against the Raiders. It’s the second time the 12-year pro has won the award.

Scifres is the fourth San Diego player to earn AFC player of the week honors. Antonio Gates won the award after a Week 2 win over the Seattle Seahawks. Corey Liuget earned it on defense after a win over the Buffalo Bills in Week 3. And Nick Novak won the special teams award following his Week 4 performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Keenan Allen needs to make impact plays

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
10:00
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ESPN Chargers Eric D. Williams says receiver Keenan Allen can pick up his game in the backstretch of the season.
SAN DIEGO – Riding a five-game win streak early in the season, the San Diego Chargers missed the quiet presence of Ryan Mathews in the huddle and his bulldozing running style at the line of scrimmage.

“It was very humbling to be back out there in front of the fans, hearing my name called again,” Mathews said.

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
AP Photo/Gregory BullRyan Mathews returned for the first time in two months and had 16 carries against the Raiders.
The Chargers’ physical running back returned Sunday in a 13-6 victory over the visiting Oakland Raiders. It’s no surprise the swagger the offensive line played with last season also made an appearance. Offensive linemen such as Chad Rinehart and D.J. Fluker were finishing blocks down the field and looking to spring loose Mathews for a few extra yards.

In his first game since he suffered a knee sprain in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, Mathews led the Chargers with 70 yards on 16 carries, including a long of 20 yards. The Chargers totaled 120 yards on the ground, the most the team has run for in the past five games.

“He showed that he felt comfortable out there, right from the start -- even after missing all of that time,” Rinehart said. “Just the amount of carries he got last year, and we’re still running similar things. So he’s able to jump right back in. It was awesome having him back.”

Most importantly, the return of Mathews and the running game helped San Diego create some balance on offense, something that has been missing for most of this season. The Chargers ran the ball 32 times -- including 10 times in the fourth quarter -- and threw 34 times.

San Diego’s ability to run helped the Chargers control the tempo of the game and keep Oakland’s offense off of the field.

With quarterback Philip Rivers having an off-day, Mathews set the tone for San Diego’s offense.

“He’s physical, fast and a tough back,” Chargers safety Eric Weddle said. “We have been missing that, obviously a lot, the past three weeks. So it was good to get him back in there and see that smile on his face as he punishes the defensive backs and linebackers. It’s an element that we have been missing.”

Now that Mathews has returned, the goal for Chargers coach Mike McCoy is to keep him healthy. Mathews left the locker room with his knee heavily taped as a precaution to keep the swelling down after his first game back. He also wore a brace on his injured right knee during the game.

Mathews’ injury history is long. He’s only played a full, 16-game season one time in his five-year NFL career. Mathews was unable to finish the AFC divisional playoff game against Denver last season because of a severely sprained ankle. The Chargers can’t afford to be without Mathews again late in the season, when the games matters most.

“He ran the ball hard,” McCoy said. “We knew it was going to take him a couple plays to get rolling, but that was expected. He got in a groove, and he was telling us how he felt throughout the game. He just kept pounding it the way he likes to run it.

“We just want to make sure he’s fresh for four quarters [and] not worry about overloading him too quick in the game and just communicate.”

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the San Diego Chargers' 13-6 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.

What it means: The Chargers ended a three-game losing streak by defeating the Raiders for the second time this season. With the Denver Broncos losing to the St. Louis Rams, the Chargers (6-4) are a game behind the Broncos (7-3) and the Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) in the AFC West.

Defense stymies Raiders: The return of linebackers Manti Te'o, Jeremiah Attaochu and Melvin Ingram provided a spark for San Diego’s defense, which kept the Raiders out of the end zone. The Chargers finally played better on third down. Heading into Sunday’s contest, San Diego’s defense was the worst in the NFL in third-down efficiency. But the Chargers held the Raiders to 3-of-15 on third downs. The Raiders punted nine times.

Solid return for Mathews: In his first game after missing seven with an MCL knee strain, running back Ryan Mathews shook off some rust early. He finished with 70 rushing yards on 16 carries, including a long of 20 yards.

Stock watch -- Down: For a second straight game, Philip Rivers struggled to get into a rhythm. Rivers finished 22-of-34 for 193 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown pass to Malcom Floyd. Rivers did not throw an interception and was sacked twice. The Chargers have scored one touchdown in their past eight quarters of play.

Game ball: Inside linebacker Kavell Conner was all over the field and finished with a combined nine tackles, including a tackle for loss and a sack against the Raiders.

What’s next: The Chargers play the second of back-to-back games at Qualcomm Stadium on Nov. 23 against the Rams.

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