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Coach Munchak's Friday Press Conference

Posted Oct 12, 2012

 

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on if the day after a win is easier than the past couple of weeks)

Most definitely. We had a lot of excitement last night. It was fun to watch the guys play as hard as they did, I mean, they’ve been playing that hard every game, but to have success doing it at home after having a couple of tough weeks of not playing at the level we think we’re capable of playing against a good football team and finally winning a football game, so I think we felt really good about that. I think we needed that in a big way for our team going forward. There are a lot of challenges to come, and it came at a good time, especially when you don’t get a chance to play for about 10 days. So it’s nice to win one and you have some time to get a break.

(on offensive coordinator Chris Palmer calling the game from the coaches’ box and moving receivers coach Dave Ragone to the sidelines)

Well, in talking to Chris (Palmer) about that, we actually last year talked about it when we first got the coaching staff together and where they liked to call the game. He said he had done both. Last year it was an easy decision because it was a new offense, the coaches were still learning the offense, and we thought it was important to have him on the sidelines, we felt. This year, we kind of revisited it again in training camp and decided to start the season the way we did. (We) just kind of felt as we got going forward with Kenny (Britt) coming back and being healthy and having Kendall (Wright) being a young receiver that it was important to have Dave Ragone, the receiver coach, down with them during the game. So, it was something we talked about a little bit and decided to do it for that reason. Like I said, Chris is comfortable in both spots and (quarterbacks coach) Dowell (Loggains) is the guy the quarterbacks talk to all the time anyway, so it was easy for him to get the play in, especially with what Chris does with his system. It really doesn’t take very much time, even though you’re going through an extra step, the way he calls and with the wristband, it works well. Last night, we didn’t have any problems with the time on the clock or getting plays in with no issues at all. Chris calls a game quickly, he makes quick decisions, and I thought the sideline stuff was good because the players liked the way it was set up.

(on if that plan will continue in weeks to come since it was successful)

Yeah, I think that was the plan anyway, pretty much, we’d stick with it. We thought it would be better for everyone, and I think it went well last night. I’m sure we’ll keep it that way.

(on if Palmer can see the game better from the coaches’ box and if it paid off)

Oh definitely. I think it helps. You’ll have to ask Chris (Palmer) that when you guys talk to him this week. I’m not sure what the numbers are; I’m sure half the coordinators do it. Being here, I know (former coordinator) Les Steckel did it, I know (former coordinator) Norm Chow did it upstairs, so I think it’s a preference. It’s up to the coach, too, what he thinks. If you start with an offense or defense, it starts with what’s the best way for him to work? How does he feel best, most comfortable to do his job. Some guys have a preference there. Chris has felt comfortable doing it both ways, so then you look at the other factors: what’s best for the team, too? What’s the communication? What’s the best way to go from there? So that’s kind of what factored in, and right now, we think it’s the best way to do it.

(on how it pays off to have a coordinator in the box)

I think you see things quicker. You don’t have to rely on down and distance. You see exactly where the ball is. You don’t have to wait to see what the down and distance is. You get to see exactly what personnel is running out, if they’re putting another defense on the field, you get to see personnel, maybe quicker. You get to see coverage faster. You can see all those things from the vantage point you have. Calling a game, again you need to ask Chris (Palmer), because everyone takes information in different ways. When I was up there as a line guy when I was starting to get into coaching, yeah, you could see everything. I mean you could see it quickly, and there’s nothing hiding up there. It’s like watching film. I mean, you see a great view of everything they’re doing and I’m assuming it helps him make quicker decisions on what he wants to do next and exactly how they’re playing a certain coverage or how they’re attacking or those kinds of things, but like I said, it’s more, it’s probably a question he should answer.

(on if it is an advantage to have extra time off after winning a Thursday night game)

I think ours came at a good time, after six weeks, and unfortunately, some tough weeks. You know, we have a break now, kind of a small break, and then we have four weeks to go and we get another break (when) we get our bye and then we finish up with six games, so our schedule worked out, I think, when I looked at it beforehand, it was a nice place to have it the way it plays out. The thing about playing (on Thursday) is it’s shorter (preparation time) before, but there’s so much excitement. It just takes on a level of excitement like when you go from the preseason to the regular season, you get a real boost. I think when you’re playing on a Thursday night game, it’s cool out, it’s at home, a lot of energy, all your friends and family are going to be watching, so I think it gives you that little boost. So even though it’s a short week, a shorter week, I think the excitement makes up for the lack of recovery time, with the type of game it’s going to be. So I think that helps, and I think it helped last night without a doubt, and it’s a great atmosphere to play a football game in and I think you saw both sides respond that way. The flip side is, the injuries you do have, you have extra days to catch up. Some guys get almost a week off. I mean you’ve got Thursday to Thursday, it’s almost like you have a full week of rest for guys who are nicked, which you can’t do during the season, obviously, so that’s the other big plus to it. Winning was huge for us because we needed it so badly, and something we can go back and build off and now look at, OK, we’ve got these next four games coming up and we’ve got another break, so we’ll see if we can suck it up and build on this and find a way to put a winning streak together.

(on if players have the whole weekend off)

They’ll be off Saturday and Sunday and be back on Monday like a normal Monday.

(on using Akeem Ayers in a spy role on Ben Roethlisberger on third downs)

We got off the field and did a pretty good job; they had been leading the league at staying on the field, so I thought we did a nice job of making plays. (Defensive coordinator) Jerry (Gray) changed up the rush, three-man rush, four-man rush, five-man rush. We showed a lot of different things. They made a play or two, obviously, at spots, but the last one of the game, to me, if they get a first down, they might end up winning the football game. They had two shots to get five yards, and we stopped them: one on a run, one on a pass, got pressure on the quarterback, he scrambled, he didn’t think he could make it, threw the ball incomplete, and all of a sudden, they’ve got to kick a long field goal. That, to me, is the most important third down of the game, and we found a way to make a play. If we don’t make that play, then we’re not standing here, we’re not as happy as we are, and I think there’s a good chance we wouldn’t have gotten the ball back, so we did a nice job. I thought we competed well there and we sacked him once: (Derrick) Morgan got the sack, he harassed him, had a couple of hits, some pressures, did a good job in the run game. I mean he really stood out as far as, I mean, he’s been playing hard week after week, and the same with (Kamerion) Wimbley. I think he was right there, a lot of times, breathing down his neck and putting pressure on him and making him aware of it. So, I think we did what we need to do as a defense, and the best part of it, I think, is that we gave up a couple of big plays, and we didn’t let it bother us. We responded back, this team, and found a way to make plays to win that game.

(on if Chris Johnson ran more decisively against the Steelers)

I think he played well. I think it was the fact that we actually stayed in our game plan like we had been talking about. We were able to, from start to finish, do what we thought was the best way to move the ball and have success, and I think that helps him stay in his game, just like you want the quarterback to be in his game, (Chris Johnson), unfortunately, in too many of our games, we never got him in the game. He was out of sync, he didn’t have a feel for the game, the offensive linemen didn’t have a feel for it because we were passing too much, so those things are all important. Most people don’t see the importance of that as much, but I thought we came out, had some decent runs early, we were able to run when we wanted to throughout the game, kind of like how we did in Houston, but we were able to stay within the plan, I thought, better than we had been able to, and the play-action pass was there. You saw that because they had to worry about the run, so now, (Matt Hasselbeck) is dropping quite a few balls in the middle of the field, over the top of the linebackers but in front of the secondary; it allowed CJ to have some runs, and I think when you do start running and have some success and see that you’re a big part of the offense, you do run harder. Everything, you just see things coming together and the confidence grows for the team and for the players, so I think he felt like he was a big part of the game last night. Some games, I don’t think he felt like he was part of it because he wasn’t getting carries — 10 carries—and really couldn’t get in a flow. I thought last night Chris (Palmer) did a great job of mixing up the plays, the run; we started the game with a play action in the formation that they saw us run out of the last couple of weeks. They played the run, and we got the big completion to Nate (Washington). I thought we did a nice job of things like that throughout the game on offense. Just the way they put together the drive at the end. We got held back on some field goals, and we were down 23-16, and we put together a great job to tie it. We mixed the ball up, Kendall (Wright) made some great catches, Nate had a catch, Kenny (Britt) caught the touchdown pass, we had some good runs on that drive. A lot of guys contributed, so that was fun to watch.

(on Mike Martin’s development)

Yeah, I think like all those young guys, the young tackles, I think when we drafted him we felt really good about him. I think we all thought he’d contribute right away like (Jurrell) Casey has, like (Karl) Klug did. With Jurrell getting his shoulder injured last night a little bit, he had to play more, Mike (Martin) had to play more, and he did a really good job. He’s hard to block, that’s why we liked him. He beats double teams, he’s hard to block in the zone game. When the backside guard is trying to reach him, they have trouble with that. He’s going to be a very good football player for us. You saw flashes of that last night, him showing up making plays. Those guys were doubled a lot. I just think our defensive tackles, really all year, played pretty good in that group.

(on the ruling on the sack and forced fumble by Mike Martin and Kamerion Wimbley)

That’s the rule, so I guess we’ll deal with it. We all knew it was probably going to be called back. They usually let that thing play out, don’t blow the whistle, see what happens so they can watch it on replay. It’s something that they talk about every year, about what to do with it. Nothing has changed. Obviously, we would like the ulterior motive, that the ball was a fumble. We had two good rushes there. We felt that would have been a fumble all the way, but like you said, it followed a rule.

(on if he feels like the team is on the verge of doing what they want to on offense)

I think so. When you’re not winning, people aren’t really worried about you, what we have on offense. People watching tape are, they say, ‘We don’t want (Chris Johnson) to bust open against us,’ or ‘Hey, (Kenny) Britt is getting a little healthier.’ But until we do it on film…I think you’re seeing glimpses of that happening in Jared Cook catching two huge balls, making two big plays for us. Before the half, he set up the field goal pretty much, and he set up the winning field goal at the end with two of his plays. We’ve got a lot of weapons, and we have to continue to use them right. Like you said, we’re making mistakes. We just have to be more consistent. The good thing is Kenny (Britt) drops the ball for a touchdown, we go right back to him and we get the touchdown. That’s fun to watch for me, the fact that we don’t give up on him, that you know what? He dropped one. He should have had a touchdown the play earlier, we come back and Chris (Palmer) calls the same play, goes back to it and he makes the play. Kendall (Wright), again making catches, he’s just getting better every week I think with the plays he’s making. He made a huge catch on a third down in that drive for the touchdown. I just think we have some very good talent here, it’s just a matter now of us week in and week out, proving that. I think these guys are going to get excited when we do have success and they’re all contributing. Guys get worried when we have so many guys that we feel can make plays, but whoever is open is getting the ball. Matt (Hasselbeck) does a great job, Jake (Locker) did a great job when he played in the Detroit game of spreading the ball around. If we can keep the running game tied in with it, I think we’re going to be hard to deal with.

(on if he thinks one game can provide a spark for a turnaround)

Yeah, I do. I told the players the afternoon before the game yesterday, my last year in the league, we were 1-4. We were thought to be a good team, and we played horribly. We had the bye week after Week 3, and we were 1-3. We played in Buffalo, thought we were ready to play, and we lost 35-7. We were 1-4 going to New England, a place that no one thought we’d win. We won that game, and we won 11 in a row. We were 12-4 that year, and we were tied for the best record in football. I think anything is possible. Does that mean because we won this game, we’re going to beat Buffalo? No. But I think it gives you that kind of confidence, and you need that sometimes. There’s no doubt, it’s just human nature to wonder, when things aren’t going your way, really how good are we? How good am I as an individual? Are we doing it the right way? Everyone has an opinion. They open a paper, they turn on a TV, everyone is saying the same thing to them, questioning what kind of team we are, what kind of individuals we are. So I think one game does kind of get you back on track, refocuses you at least for weeks. Hey, we were pretty good, we beat a good football team. We could have done this and this better, but we still won the football game. You hope that carries something into the Buffalo game, which is our next one. We’re going to have to work just as hard as we did, or we’re not going to beat Buffalo. We know that. I think it can provide a spark, you hope it does. I think it will, and we’ll see what happens.

(on if he anticipates that Jake Locker will be back at practice next week)

We hope so. It’s falling like we talked. We’ll see how Monday and Tuesday go. He’ll get rechecked by the doctors on Monday to see where he’s at. If he gets the OK, then he’ll start throwing—pretty much what he did for the San Diego game where he was throwing on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then we’d go from there. If there are no setbacks, then he’d continue on. He’s progressing the way we’d hoped, now it’s just a matter of seeing how he does come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Then we’ll decide.

(on if he’s tempted to leave Matt Hasselbeck in at quarterback to give Jake Locker another week to recover)

If Jake (Locker) isn’t ready, we would. Our thing on Matt (Hasselbeck), even though last week against Minnesota we didn’t win and this week we won, Houston we didn’t win. To me, Matt is a very good quarterback, and we know we can win the football games with Matt. We said that from the beginning, that as a head coach, we’re in a great situation, because not many teams can say that, that they have two quarterbacks we know we can win with and feel we can make a playoff run with. That’s the benefit we have. If Jake is healthy this week and we feel he’s ready to play, he’ll play. Or if it’s next week or whatever it is. We’d still have him in there.

(on if he’s concerned about chemistry at the quarterback position)

Hopefully it’s not going to happen anymore with the injuries, we’ve been through it. I think they’re familiar with both guys. You want one guy in there, without a doubt. We would have rather had Jake (Locker), obviously, in there for Houston and Minnesota and this week. That is what has been upsetting about it because you want your starters in there. Again, we’re lucky we have guys…It goes like that for any position. There are injuries that happen. But yeah, we’d like to have our guy in there week in and week out to get better. If Jake is ready to play this week or next week, then he’ll be the guy in there.

(on if Kendall Wright’s reduced snaps had to do with other receivers creating better mismatches)

No, just rotating positions. Kenny (Britt) is back, so Kenny is starting at ‘X.’ If you have that package out there, then Kenny is out there. I think Kenny played 45 plays. I think we had 70 plays total, or 72, something like that, as an offense. I think they did a good job of alternating them. We don’t want guys tired in the fourth quarter. (Kendall Wright) made a huge catch in third-and-five, that if we don’t get that, we might have to punt there late in the game. We kept guys fresh. That’s the point, is to keep these guys as fresh as we can, especially for the fourth quarter, in this type of game. I think they did a good job of rotating them, even (Jared) Cook. He caught two big balls, and rotating him with (Craig) Stevens and (Taylor) Thompson, so guys weren’t worn out in the fourth quarter. I think it played out well.

(on if he expects that Jurrell Casey and Tommie Campbell will miss extended time)

No, (Jurrell) Casey should be OK. He’s sore, I mean, (he hurt) his shoulder. There’s nothing that would make us think he shouldn’t be ready for Buffalo. Tommie (Campbell), he’s more questionable because of an ankle. They’re just hard to tell. It’s probably something like, Monday, Tuesday we’ll kind of know to what level he’s at.

(on Jason McCourty’s ability to bounce back and make plays after the long touchdown pass from Roethlisberger)

I’ve enjoyed his development as a player, as a starter, a team captain now. He’s a guy that feels comfortable standing up in front of the team and saying things, in front of the defense. I think that’s what makes the player special. When you play corner, that’s going to happen. You know what? You’re going to have a bad play or two, guys are going to make plays on you. There are some pretty good receivers in this league. You have to have a short memory, which I think he showed you last night that he had. He had about five or six tackles, he broke up a couple of their passes, he made a huge interception. I think that’s an example that we need everyone on our team to see. You know what? You’re going to make bad plays, man. You’re going to get run over. You’re going to get embarrassed in this league. I don’t care who you are, you’ve been through it. But how do you respond to that? How do you respond when you have a bad play, and everyone knows you had a bad play? By that, by the way he did it. He’s the perfect example for that. He came out and had a strong game.

(on how to get better at tackling)

It’s hard. I think last night we did a pretty good job at the line of scrimmage in the run game. I guess it’s keeping them off the field. I think what’s been hard for us, has been that the defense has been on the field so much. We’ve been getting them tired, and I think we’ve been taking some bad angles, especially with the secondary and have missed some tackles in the open field that we just can’t miss. You can work on drills, do things, but obviously you can’t simulate a game, no doubt about it. Again, you just work angles in practice and wrapping up and technique. You have to do it on a sled, and you do it on players. You do all those things, which we do like other teams do. But it has to come down to hopefully where we don’t keep the defense on the field like we had the first part of some of those games where those guys were out there 80, 90 plays. We didn’t have a play like last week. I thought we tackled very well last week in parts on the running back, when all of a sudden we have four missed tackles on one of (Adrian) Peterson’s big runs where we could have put him down. I think last night we limited that part. But it’s a work in progress. We’re not as consistent there as we need to be. Hopefully, again, we can have more game tackling. We have to be careful going for the ball, the strip until we have them under control. Last night I think they got 10 extra yards because everyone was trying to pull the ball out on one of the runs. We have to make sure we have them wrapped up and stopped before we start on the ball, unless it’s just one of those ones from behind—things like that we can do to hopefully improve it. Again, it’s going to be something we’re going to need to keep working on.

(on if Kendall Wright’s drops are due to lack of concentration or getting used to timing)

I think sometimes he’s surprised when the ball is there, the timing, how quickly the ball is there. I think sometimes young receivers think that maybe they’re not going to be the main target, and all of a sudden, the ball is on them. I think it’s getting better at route running, reading coverage, all of those things for a young guy. Matt (Hasselbeck) on the other side has to read his body language and get a feel for what he is doing on the route when they’re not maybe on the same page. I just think sometimes you’re just surprised by the ball, and maybe that’s why you have a drop or two here or there. The more you run some of these routes, the better feel you get for them. I think you saw that as the game progressed. They see certain coverage in a way, certain technique that is being played against them. A young guy like him made some great adjustments. You can come to the sideline and say, ‘Hey Kendall, look at this.’ All of a sudden, he goes out there and makes the adjustment, and makes a big play, after maybe making a mistake earlier in the game. Same with Kenny Britt, Kenny hasn’t played in a year. Kenny is still learning this offense also, for the most part. He’s played in a handful of games here in his last two years in Chris (Palmer’s) system. He’s learning how to locate the ball. He hasn’t done it in so long, so it’s a lot of the little things. At times, we look like we’re a little off, dropping some balls, maybe not on the same page, but that’s going to be some of the growing pains that we’ve been going through over the last few weeks.

(on Tim Shaw’s blocked punt)

When you get one blocked…We got them last year. We blocked one last year on them up there in Pittsburgh, at the end of the third quarter I think. You go in every game trying to figure out a plan to block one. Alan (Lowry) is going to have something every week. If we have to go for a block, here’s the best way to do it, and here’s what you work on. You always work on one, just like you work on the onside kick or a fake punt. You’re always going to have something in, it just depends on how much you like it. Like for me as the head coach, it’s more like as I watch at work during the week and I watch tape, is how much we like it, if we think it has a chance of working, and what’s the downside of trying it and where in the game would I do this? It just so happened that it was something we thought had a shot to work the way they did certain things. Obviously, Tim (Shaw) and the defense did a great job carrying it out, or the special teams I should say. That’s a huge play. That’s a huge play in that score. They didn’t score it, but they pretty much gave us the ball on the one-yard line, and we scored because of it. That’s my point, our special teams is the one phase that’s been consistent since last year of making plays and playing hard. We’ve had punt returns, kickoff returns, blocked punts, fake punts. These guys are executing things which are a big part of us winning football games. That’s the exciting thing about a team. Even though we’re not winning, on that team it’s offensive and defensive players on those special teams. The effort is there, those guys are working hard and they’re playing well. That was a huge play.

(on if Jamie Harper will get more opportunities in short-yardage situations)

We may as we go. I think we had in the past. I think last year we had him in for certain packages like that, like we had (Javon) Ringer in for more third-down situations. You’d like to find a spot where you can give (Chris Johnson) a rest. There are ways of doing it, like when CJ first came in with LenDale (White), when we were just rotating series every so often. Then it got to where we did third-down and goalline with LenDale, so it’s kind of similar. You’re going to try to find a way to take advantage of what Jamie (Harper) does well, add another weapon and another change of pace to our offense, rather than it being CJ only. You’ll see Darius (Reynaud) is in there sometimes also at running back. I think we just have to find his niche for now, other than just getting carries at the end of the game or things like that. If we feel having a bigger back on short-yardage or goalline is helpful, then you’ll see us do more of that.

(on if the game plan changes when key opposing players are injured during the game)

I think you look at things, yes. Obviously, you know if a corner gets hurt. Looking at an offensive player, you’re going to say, ‘Well they’ve got so-and-so in there. OK, let’s try this, this and this.’ There’s no doubt. You’re looking for a competitive advantage anyway you can, I think. For us, with protection, same problem. Someone gets (hurt) as a defensive lineman, we’re going to try to take advantage. Let’s run at him, let’s go at it. You’re trying to do it on that side of the ball. Same thing, if the offensive line is struggling in some way, you try to get matchups where you get one-one-ones on that side. You know you’re going to probably do some chip help, things like that. But you have to figure out, if you can, how you can get some one-on-one battles with someone you think is the weak link, if there is one. So yeah, you’re going to try to if you can. A lot of times, you have to be careful getting caught up in trying to beat one guy and lose track of the big picture and what the plan was for that game. There’s no doubt you’re looking at it as the game is progressing.

(on if he thought that Colin McCarthy would play every snap on defense)

I knew it would be close. He probably would have stayed in the Minnesota game the whole way if we didn’t force him out because we were behind, and I think he finally realized he better get out of the game. He played 60 snaps last week, and I think he played almost the same amount. I think we had somewhere around the same number this week. The way he plays, yeah I definitely think, he’s a hard guy, he’s stubborn, he wants to be out there. He thinks he makes our team better and he does. Heck, he’s the guy out there on seven-on-seven the other day diving for an interception on a Friday. The guys were all cheering for him. He does that kind of stuff, he makes that kind of difference with his teammates. Some guys just have that, and he has that. I think he feels, even though we all know he’s not 100 percent, the other intangibles he brings to our team is worth him being out there not 100 percent.

(on how close Colin McCarthy is to being 100 percent)

I think as the game wears on, there are probably parts where he can’t cut the way he wants. Probably covering is a little more difficult, obviously, because of running more. That’s something he’s fighting through. I think this week he felt a little bit better than last week, and hopefully with the 10 days, he’ll feel better in the Buffalo game than he did this past week. I think it’s just something you have to continue to work through. Everyone is different, everyone’s tolerance for pain or what they can accomplish is different. His has been good so far. We just have to be careful, we can’t afford to lose him. So we have to be smart with what we’re doing too. As bad as you want a player out there, there is a lot of football. There are 10 games to go. We don’t want to lose him for another month, like we did. Like I said, I thought he was a huge part of why we struggled on defense in parts of the game early in the season because of him being out since the Patriots game. I think you see that in a lot of ways, not just on the field, but in the locker room, on the practice field. He makes a difference.

(on if his on-camera reaction after the win will dispel rumors that he isn’t emotional enough)

I don’t know. If it makes people feel better, then I hope it does, if that’s what we needed. I never looked at it that way. I’m excited as anyone when we do well. We all work hard. I’m proud of the team when they win, when you watch them come together and work hard and persevere over what they’ve been through the last couple of weeks. It’s our own doing when you’re not winning football games, but it’s nice to see guys put that behind them, work hard in the short week and come out and work as hard as they did in that game, and win the game, finally finish the job with the field goal kick. That was more of my feeling for them, for what we accomplished as a team, as the guys that sit in this room every day and have to listen to me talk about why this is going to work out and try to sell them on what the thinking is, and here’s what we’re all about, and here’s why it’s going to happen, and the fact that it worked. As a group, we got it done. You’ll see that all the time. I try to hide some of it because when things aren’t going well, you don’t want it to be so obvious that we’re upset, that the other team is in our head or making a difference on us. I hope we have a lot more weeks like that so I can show a lot more emotion in a positive nature.

(on if the coaches will have time to relax this weekend)

Yeah, the coaches will finish up today also, and take Saturday and Sunday off. Go home, and just get out of the building for a couple of days. Like I told these guys, be careful going home. Families aren’t used to them being around, especially for coaches. We kind of start getting in the way real fast. I think we need a break, we all do. That’s what is nice about the Thursday, everyone can get a break. They need it. It will be a couple of days. I think we’ll come back Monday ready to go. I’m excited we can do that. That’s the part we like about Thursday night games, we all get to play one, so we all get the advantage that other teams maybe have had. People always say, ‘Well, it’s a disadvantage.’ I think it’s a big advantage. It’s nice to change up the routine. It’s a nice change of routine for the players and the coaches. If you have injuries, you have 10 more days to get healthy. There are a lot of pluses, I think. So yeah, we’re looking forward to a couple of days out of the building.

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