NFC North: Lambeau Field

[+] EnlargeLambeau Field
Courtesy of Tyler Gajewski, packers.comA recent photo of the addition to Lambeau Field.
Thursday brought the official ribbon-cutting ceremony to the most recent phase of the Green Bay Packers' Lambeau Field construction, one that brought another 7,000 or so seats to the south end zone underneath a massive new scoreboard and HD video screen. As we noted earlier this week, the stadium now has the third-highest capacity in the NFL (80,750).

My understanding, based on conversations with sources, is that a picture is worth 1,000 words. So as a public service, I wanted to give you a chance to see the new section for yourself, courtesy of Packers.com.

You'll notice the section has actual seatbacks, as opposed to the traditional bleachers throughout most of the stadium bowl. My understanding is that quite a few season ticket holders opted to move into the new section, for that and other reasons.

All told, the project cost $146 million. The next phase of construction will include an enlarged Pro Shop and Packers Hall of Fame.

This slideshow on Packers.com provides additional glimpses of the new sections.
To answer a question many of you have already asked regarding plans for Lambeau Field's pending expansion: Yes, the team is considering a stock sale to help finance what in total will be a $143 million project.

[+] EnlargeLambeau Field
Courtesy of Green Bay PackersThe expansion of the south end zone will add about 6,600 seats.
The Packers currently have 112,158 shareholders. They don't receive dividends but do have access to a yearly shareholders meeting and help elect a Board of Directors. Plus, you get a fancy certificate!

The last stock offering came in 1997 as the team prepared its most recent renovation of Lambeau Field. This time, the Packers will add 6,600 seats in a four-tiered addition to the south end zone of the stadium. The project will be complete in time for the 2013 season.

The expansion will bring capacity to just under 80,000. Currently there are four NFL stadiums with a higher capacity. For perspective, consider the current capacities of NFC North stadiums:

  • Lambeau Field: 73,128
  • Ford Field: 65,000
  • Metrodome: 64,111
  • Soldier Field: 61,500
  • Proposed Vikings stadium: 65,000

For me, the best part of Thursday's announcement is that the Packers have funding sources for an entire three-year project that has already led to the installation of a new sound system. (The sound system counts for $12 million of the $143 million.)

According to the team, the Green Bay/Brown County Professional Stadium District's capital improvement fund will fund some of the project. The team will also take out traditional loans, implement user fees for new season ticket holders and could be eligible for NFL loans as well. The league will have to approve any stock sale.

The list doesn't include a request for taxpayer money from local or state government, which might have been a non-starter in the current economic climate anyway. I'm glad the Packers didn't even try to go there.

Your thoughts on the artist rendition accompanying this post are welcome.
I didn't really need the help, but I would like to thank NFC West colleague Mike Sando for inciting the masses this week with his post on the NFL's toughest venues. Mike suggested that I turned a "cold shoulder" on Lambeau Field by ranking it fourth out of 32 NFL stadiums.

As you probably know by now, I ranked Qwest Field, Heinz Field and the Superdome ahead of Lambeau. I was away for the week and couldn't provide an explanation, opening the door readers such as Jeff of Milwaukee, who wrote: "You're toast. ...That shows a lack of respect and definitely signs of being out of touch."

So to the extent that anyone's interested, let me at least set forth my thinking before we move on to next week's exciting installment of the Power Rankings. (Clue: It rhymes with "beft backles.")

  • Both on the blog and in our SportsNation chats, I've noted that Lambeau Field is my favorite NFL stadium to watch a game. But this week's Power Ranking wasn't intended to list our top 10 favorite stadiums. Nostalgia, history and emotion weren't parts of the question. My understanding of the assignment was to rank stadiums based on their potential for impacting the outcome of games.
  • In that vein, I considered three criteria: Noise, field conditions and weather -- in that order. Of that trio, to me, Lambeau Field's biggest imposition is weather. No NFL team, except perhaps the Chicago Bears, would be unfazed in frigid December/January temperatures that can come in Green Bay.
  • Crowd noise is clearly subjective, and Lambeau Field is clearly loud. But I've never noticed, or heard, that opposing players were unable to hear a quarterback's signals or were otherwise discombobulated by the volume at Lambeau. I have most definitely heard it about games at Qwest Field, Heinz Field and the Superdome.
  • In 2010, opponents committed nine false start/delay of game penalties at Lambeau, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That total was tied for the fifth-fewest in the NFL. Qwest Field tied for No. 7 with 15 such penalties. Last year, opponents committed only nine false start/delay of game penalties at the Superdome. But based on personal experience, the volume levels at the Superdome and at Lambeau don't compare.
  • [+] EnlargeLambeau Field
    AP Photo/Mike RoemerThe field conditions at Lambeau Field hold up pretty well-year round.
  • From everything I can tell and have heard, the field conditions at Lambeau Field are pristine during the early part of the year and, thanks to a unique mixture of grass and artificial turf, doesn't deteriorate much as winter approaches. The "frozen tundra" mystique really isn't in play anymore. Lambeau Field has heating coils and a playing surface that remains relatively well-footed. You can't say the same about Heinz Field or, for that matter, Soldier Field. Because the Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers are more accustomed to playing on loose sod, the field is a distinctive advantage to me. In fact, players ranked Lambeau Field as the fifth-best grass playing surface in the NFL in a recent poll.
  • I'm sure many of you know that the Packers have the best home record in the NFL since 1992, when their resurgence began under general manager Ron Wolf and coach Mike Holmgren. Their record at Lambeau over that span is 114-38. But I think it's fair to ask if that sparkling .750 winning percentage is a function of the venue or if it is a simple reflection of good, consistent teams. Over the same stretch, in fact, the Packers have the seventh-best road record in the NFL (74-78). I consider that a telling comparison.

Many of you consider these long explanations as an indictment of my original decision. All I'm trying to do is take you through my thought process. (And yes, there was one.) In brief: Lambeau Field is a beautiful stadium with the potential for the coldest weather in the NFL. But its noise level doesn't impact opponents the way others venues do, and its field condition actually limits the home advantage, in my assessment. Take that for what it's worth.

BBAO: Will Suh get more than Stafford?

July, 17, 2010
7/17/10
12:12
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

Chicago Bears

The National Football Post's Greg Gabriel wonders if supplemental draftee Harvey Unga will make the Bears roster.

Breaking down the Bears tight ends.

The Chicago Tribune's Sean Jensen asks the question: Is left tackle Chris Williams ready to make the Pro Bowl?

Cook County Associate Judge Joseph M. Claps called former Bears lineman Tank Johnson a coward while handing down a sentence against a man accused of the 2006 shooting death of Johnson's friend. Claps said Johnson showed "cowardice" for how he acted during the investigation.

Winners have been chosen in an essay contest run by Chicago Bears offensive guard Roberto Garza.

Detroit Lions

Will 2010 No. 2 draft pick Ndamukong Suh command a bigger deal than 2009 No. 1 pick and teammate Matthew Stafford?

Veteran Dennis Northcutt has to fight off several younger players for the final two receiver spots on Detroit's roster. While Nate Burleson is almost guaranteed a starting job, he has to Lions fourth-round pick Jason Fox is ready to do ... whatever. "They've told me that throughout training camp I'll get reps at both sides," Fox told the Detroit News. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team. If they want me to play special teams, if they want me to play on the right side, if they want me to play left tackle, I'm going to do whatever it takes to help contribute."

Former NFL quarterbacking great Terry Bradshaw is impressed with Lions quarterback Matt Stafford and thinks the team is "on the right track."

Green Bay Packers

Green Bay was prepared to lose Johnny Jolly. The defensive end was suspended for all of 2010 on Friday.

The Packers have have agreed to a four-year contract with third-round draft pick, safety Morgan Burnett.

Could the Big Ten Football Championship be headed to Lambeau Field?

Minnesota Vikings

Four Vikings fans drove 1,100 miles from Minneapolis to Hattiesburg to thank Brett Favre for 2009.

As part of his 20 burning offseason questions, Sports Illustrated's Don Banks has a query about Favre.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NFL has become such a dynamic digital commodity that owners are spending part of this week discussing how to maintain the distinction of actually buying a ticket and attending games.

That’s why teams are looking more aggressively at Kangaroo devices, a hand-held television that offers up to 14 games and The NFL Network’s Red Zone channel for fans in the stands. And speaking to reporters Tuesday, Green Bay president/CEO Mark Murphy said the Packers are investigating the possibility of displaying real-time highlights and fantasy-level statistics on their video board during games at Lambeau Field.

“By a couple different measures, we’ve been judged to have -- if not the best -- one of the best game-day experiences in the league,” Murphy said. “So we don’t want to take away or cheapen that in any way. But technology is evolving so quickly that there’s some things we can do now that I think would really enhance the experience.”

Eventually, that initiative could result in replacing the current video boards with high definition screens along with a new sound system. Murphy said that project is “more of a long-term” issue, but it will be done eventually.

Now, if we can only figure out how to get one of these into the stands, we’ll really be talking.

Not feeling a Vikings-Packers swap

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
1:08
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


DETROIT -- I guess stranger things have happened, but I haven’t been able to find anyone who can corroborate Major League Baseball’s claims that Minnesota and Green Bay might swap home games to accommodate a potential Twins playoff game Oct. 5 at the Metrodome. (Original post here.)

In fact, I’ve been told by multiple people that a swap isn’t an option at all -- from a logistical or financial standpoint. The Vikings and Packers will play at the Metrodome in Week 4 and at Lambeau Field on Nov. 1

Because the Vikings have scheduling priority over the Metrodome in all cases except for the World Series, one possible solution calls for the Twins to move their potential playoff game to Oct. 5. (The playoff game would only be necessary if the Twins finish the 162-game regular season in a first-place tie in the American League Central, and it would only be at the Metrodome if the Twins win the head-to-head series in their regular season with the team they’re tied with.)

As we touched on Saturday, the Vikings acquiesced scheduling priority to the Twins in 2006 when the possibility existed of a baseball playoff game on the Sunday of a Vikings-Lions contest. In that scenario, the Vikings agreed to push back the timing by one day and play Monday night at the Metrodome if necessary. (Ultimately, the Twins were eliminated from the playoffs and the Vikings-Lions game was played as scheduled.)

For agreeing to push back if needed, the Vikings received $150,000 from the government entity that runs the Metrodome. Had the game actually been moved, the Vikings would have received up to $350,000.

But that was only to move the day of the game, not change locations. Both the Packers and the Vikings would face major logistical hurdles to pull off a home-date swap, not to mention the headaches it would cause to fans who have planned to attend each game.

I suppose something could change, but as of now there is no chance that either Vikings-Packers game is moved this season.

Posted by ESPN.com staff

Chicago Bears

  • ChicagoBears.com's Larry Mayer goes one-on-one with general manager Jerry Angelo.
  • In his countdown to training camp, the Chicago Sun-Times' Brad Biggs notes the Bears are still more than $17 million under the salary cap.

Detroit Lions

  • Considering the Lions will have a new "all-you-can-eat" section at games this season, The Detroit News' Terry Foster ponders the following question: What is the perfect food for football?
  • Despite being traded to a team coming off a 0-16 season, Dennis Northcutt maintains he is excited about the move.

Green Bay Packers

  • Can Aaron Rodgers repeat his success from 2008?
  • Lambeau Field checks in as the No. 1 stadium experience in professional sports, according to ESPN The Magazine's recently released standings.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Protecting his legacy should be the least of Brett Favre's concerns if (when) he returns to the NFL, writes The La Crosse Tribune's Dave Myers.
  • Don Banks says don't underestimate the role money will play in Favre's decision.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Oh yeah. It feels like summer here in Green Bay, with high humidity and temperatures expected to approach 90 degrees. So what else would you want to do other than watch some football practice?

That's what I'll be doing twice Tuesday over at Lambeau Field, where the Packers' minicamp continues with two scheduled practices. We brought you up to date Monday on safety Nick Collins and defensive end Aaron Kampman, and Tuesday morning Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has this report: Receiver Greg Jennings said he and the Packers are close to an agreement on a contract extension.

Here is the key quote from Jennings, which he couched with an appropriately vague timetable:

"We've been working on some things. We're coming pretty close, as far as my understanding is, to some type of deal. But when I say close, we could still be far ... if that makes sense. But I think we're coming close. You just never know how long 'close' can take to actually closing the deal."

That jibes with everything that has been evident from afar this offseason: The Packers are making steady progress toward locking up their top business priority of the offseason. Jennings' contract expires in the spring of 2010, and the Packers want no part of having to compete for him on free agency or even applying their franchise tag on him.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette looks at the Packers' defensive line duo of Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji. I'll have more on Raji later this week.
  • Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler said he spoke to Denver receiver Brandon Marshall about Marshall's desire to be traded from Denver, according to Marty O'Brien of the Newport News (Va.) Daily Press. Cutler, visiting a summer camp at William & Mary, said: "Just checking in on him and seeing how he's doing, because I went through a similar thing that he's going through."
  • Teams with new coaches are allowed to hold an additional minicamp, so Detroit will open minicamp No. 2 Tuesday under coach Jim Schwartz. This camp will be about job competition, according to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Terry Foster of the Detroit News profiles new Lions linebacker Larry Foote, a Detroit native. "Foote returns home with a dual mission. He wants to help his hometown team become good again and he wants to improve his hometown by reshaping the minds of young people who too often fall victim to the streets."
  • Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press profiles former Minnesota defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who is the new head coach of the UFL's New York franchise.

Packers sign three draft picks

June, 16, 2009
6/16/09
5:22
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Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Green Bay broke the ice Tuesday and signed three members of their 2009 draft class, including both sixth-round choices and their seventh-round pick.

Defensive end Jarius Wynn, cornerback Brandon Underwood and linebacker Brad Jones are all under contract. They will join the rest of the team's rookie class and veterans at the Packers' mandatory minicamp next week at Lambeau Field.

For those keeping track, here is the tally of draft signings in the NFC North:

Chicago: All nine signed
Detroit: One of 10 signed (Quarterback Matthew Stafford)
Green Bay: Three of eight signed (See above)
Minnesota: None of five signed (See here)

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

One of the most consistent questions I've been getting this week, even on our new and wildly successful Facebook page, has been whether Chicago might pursue free-agent receiver Matt Jones.

(Jones was released by Jacksonville after he violated a court-mandated drug program. He was fined but will not be suspended by the NFL.)

Based on the words of general manager Jerry Angelo, I wouldn't expect the Bears to make a quick move. According to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune, Angelo sounded pretty neutral on the topic.

"He was a first-round draft pick and he is a very talented player," Angelo said, "but it's case by case. We're not quick to move on any player."

Angelo also said:

"Guys make mistakes, move on and become better people. Some guys have patterns of bad behavior and continue to have those patterns. I'm not saying that about Matt Jones. What I'm saying is we have to do our homework. And then you have to look at what value that person brings to your football team irrelevant of his off-the-field issues."

A more relevant name might be free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress. I'm not saying the Bears are a lock to pursue him, either. But if you're going to take a character risk, you want to have a good chance for a high reward. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times examines the Burress possibility.

Continuing around the NFC North:

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

We're fresh and raring to go here at Black and Blue headquarters. Thanks to the fellas at Scouts Inc. and my colleagues within the ESPN Blog Network for keeping things going here while I was out. I'm pretty much caught up on all things Favre, Cutler and Williams Wall -- the topics that seemed to dominate the headlines last week.

Many of you have been asking what the legal ruling means in the case of Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Ultimately, it seems the NFL's best case continues to be the portion of its policy that makes players responsible for what they put in their bodies. There are plenty of tentacles to this thing, but ultimately it keeps coming back to that.

Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune offers his analysis here of where the lawsuit might go in Minnesota state court. This situation isn't over yet. But if the Vikings hadn't already started planning for the four-game absence of their two Pro Bowl defensive tackles, they probably should now.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • It's interesting that Cleveland kick returner Josh Cribbs is using the contract Devin Hester received last summer as the basis for his negotiations, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. I wonder how Hester will feel if Cribbs gets the same money to be far less of an offensive factor than Hester is for the Bears.
  • If you didn't catch it over the weekend, here is an excellent primer on the 3-4 defense from Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Party houses near Lambeau Field are under attack by the Green Bay City Council, according to Paul Srubas of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Detroit coach Jim Schwartz recently purchased a home from a Detroit Red Wings executive, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News.
  • Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press on the Bill Ford Jr.'s rare outburst last fall preceding the firing of president/general manager Matt Millen: "Months later, I still don't know if that was a) Junior's attempt to force Senior's hand, b) a planned good guy/bad guy act, so Senior had an excuse to fire Millen, whom he liked personally, or c) Junior's attempt to pre-emptively distance himself from his father, knowing full well that the firing was coming."
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

On Good Friday, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune brings us the story of how Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and defensive lineman Israel Idonije helped a Nigerian girl travel to the United States for life-saving heart surgery.

The two players were part of a goodwill trip last month to the African country, where Ogunleye's sister is a congresswoman. After hearing about the girl's plight, Ogunleye had his sister get in touch with the girl's family. After learning more about her situation, Ogunleye and Idonije paid for her flight to Austin, Texas, where surgery was scheduled.

An organization called Heart Gift in Austin organized and performed the surgery, according to the story.

Ogunleye: "We both wanted to be a part of helping them. We checked out the organization [in Texas] to make sure it was legit and just took one look at her little girl and it was a no-brainer. We did what anybody in our position would do."

Ogunleye, Idonije and Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris were three of seven NFL players on the trip, which was organized by Houston defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. Six doctors and seven nurses also participated to hold free medical clinics.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times confirms that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is eligible for his full $100,000 workout bonus because the Bears' program started later than Denver's, which Cutler was skipping before last week's trade.
  • USA Today's Jarrett Bell looks at whether Cutler will transform the Bears into a passing team. Coach Lovie Smith told Bell: "In a perfect world, you want balance."
  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com reports Detroit quarterback Daunte Culpepper has lost more than 30 pounds since reporting to the team at 292 last year.
  • The Lions are trying to determine where linebacker Jordon Dizon, a second-round draft pick last year, fits into their defense. Dizon was a smallish 223 pounds as a rookie, notes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
  • Green Bay officials are pushing forward with plans to market Lambeau Field as a possible site for a first-round World Cup match even though its playing field isn't big enough for a standard soccer pitch (as we like to call it). Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains.
  • Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette takes a look at Missouri tight end Chase Coffman, the son of Packers Hall of Famer Paul Coffman.
  • Minnesota coach Brad Childress has left the door open for offensive lineman Ryan Cook to work at center this offseason, but Cook said no one has mentioned that possibility to him. Chip Scoggins and Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune report.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The forgotten man on Minnesota's quarterback depth chart remains convinced he will get a fair competition with incumbent Tarvaris Jackson. Sage Rosenfels, acquired last month from Houston, told Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune that the battle will make both players better.

Rosenfels: "He's going to push me, I'm going to push him. At the end of the day it's going to make the Minnesota Vikings better. But he and I, I think, have gotten along pretty well and I'm sure I'll learn some things from him and I'm sure he'll probably learn a few things from me as well."

Rosenfels and most of his teammates began working in the Vikings' offseason strength and conditioning program Monday. Other than learning the offense and working out, Rosenfels has been negotiating with receiver Sidney Rice to obtain his traditional No. 18 jersey.

I'm going to be fascinated to see how this plays out. I remain convinced that Jackson holds a distinct advantage as the incumbent. But Rosenfels has been in the league for eight seasons and knows this likely is the best opportunity he'll ever get to win a starting job. He won't make the decision easy.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press talks with second-year center John Sullivan, who is expected to take over for the departed Matt Birk. Sullivan: "Nobody has the starting job until you're actually out there on opening day. I just know there's a lot of hard work that comes first."
  • The Vikings are hosting about 30 draft-eligible players at their practice facility this week. Among them is Oklahoma offensive lineman Phil Loadholt, according to Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Lambeau Field and Soldier Field are two of 70 potential sites for the World Cup if the event returns to the United State in 2018 or 2022, according to this Associated Press story.
  • So is Ford Field, according to Scott Bell of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Detroit defensive linemen are pigging out at the team's cafeteria and loving every minute of it, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News. Coach Jim Schwartz is encouraging defensive linemen to get as big and as strong as they can this offseason.
  • New Chicago left tackle Orlando Pace is hoping his career can be revitalized in a new environment, writes Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy was kind enough to step into the Black and Blue late Monday afternoon here at the NFL owners meetings. We'll sprinkle his comments into the blog all week, but here are the newsiest portions of the interview:

McCarthy acknowledged that safety Nick Collins, who is entering the final year of his contract, hasn't yet participated in the offseason program. Collins is hoping to jump-start negotiations for an extension but thus far the Packers have not acquiesced. McCarthy predicted the sides will "work it through" but offered no timetable for Collins' return.

"He's got [the contract] on his mind," McCarthy said. "That's obvious to everybody. It's important, really, in my conversations with Nick, we both agreed you need to separate football from business. And that's what we're going to do here in the near future."

McCarthy said Collins has kept "everybody in the building" informed of his plans.

"What you always ask from players when you have disagreements is to make sure there is constant and open communication. He's done a very good job of that. He's talked with [safeties coach] Darren Perry. He's talked with everybody he's needed to talk to. I've talked to him a couple times."

McCarthy also provided some insight into the evolving situation at offensive line, confirming that free agent Duke Preston visited Lambeau Field last week. If signed, Preston would provide depth at guard and center.

Daryn Colledge is likely to wind up at left guard rather than right tackle, McCarthy said, and Jason Spitz is expected to compete with Scott Wells for the starting center job. Overall, McCarthy reiterated he plans to elevate the competition along the offensive line with the hope that it "will take a big step" in 2009.

"I've said it over and over again and I'm going to say it again," McCarthy said. "I do want to create competition upfront and let those guys do their jobs, and try to get a little more continuity in the way we practice and the way we play."

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Last summer's messy divorce notwithstanding, Brett Favre's No. 4 will still be retired at Lambeau Field some day.

That's the upshot of a statement released Wednesday by the Green Bay Packers. Here's the full text:

Congratulations to Brett on a remarkable career. The Packers organization wishes him and his family well. Brett always will hold a special place in Green Bay Packers history, and we remain committed to retiring his number at an appropriate time in the future.

The Packers originally planned to retire Favre's number last September, but his return and subsequent trade to the New York Jets changed those plans. I would imagine that no ceremony will be scheduled this time around until it is patently clear that Favre is finished playing.

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