Tag Archives: Eagles

Injuries Give Barner An Opportunity To Display His Skills

5 Aug
Kenjon Barner

Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenjon Barner (34) looks on from the sidelines as he watches the action on the playing field during a preseason NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, August 29, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Eagles defeated they Packers 39-26. (Scott Boehm via AP) Photo courtesy of the Philadephia Sunday Sun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

With Ryan Mathews and rookie Wendell Smallwood on the shelf nursing minor injuries, running back Kenjon Barner has been getting extra reps in practice in their absence.

Barner’s all-around game as a running back has been impressing Eagles coaches since the beginning of minicamp. On a team that’s looking for someone to be the featured back, Barner has been turning the heads of head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich.

“Kenjon [Barner], I think is a really good, all-around back. He can make you miss in the open field,” Reich said. “I like his vision. He’s doing great in protections. I’ve been very impressed with him the whole offseason. Of course, when we got here everyone was in my ear about how good this guy is going to be a player, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

Since his days at Oregon, Barner has always had the speed and elusiveness needed to be a good running back. Last season, Barner got some time at running back and had one 19-yard run. During last year’s preseason, he showed flashes of what he can do in the open field with a couple of long punt returns.

When former head coach Chip Kelly brought Barner to Philadelphia in a trade with Carolina, he was seen as another one of the guys who was familiar with Kelly’s offense and some even expected him to be gone once Pederson arrived.

But Barner is definitely on the new regime’s radar and it likes what it sees.

“He’s an explosive guy with the ball in his hands, and he’s pretty good out of the backfield as a receiver,” Pederson said. “I love the fact that anytime you put the ball in his hand, he has the ability to make some big plays for you. He’s shown that here in the first week of camp.”

With Smallwood and Mathews not on the field, Barner is getting valuable time in front of the team video camera so the coaching staff can evaluate his progress.

“I thought he handled it well. His conditioning is good. It’s improving,” Pederson said. “He got a little tired towards the end of practice, but, again, that’s just the nature of the camp practice. Overall, I thought he did a good job. This will be a good film for him to watch: a good practice tape for him to watch to be able to make the necessary corrections. He’s headed in the right direction.”

Prior to training camp, Barner told philadephiaeagles.com that he has spent the offseason doing everything from changing his diet to working on his footwork. He said he wants to do everything he can to put himself in the position to compete with the other running backs.

“It’s about me wanting to be the best me I could be and I knew that in order to the that I had to take the necessary steps,” Barner said back in June. “I lost a lot of body fat, gained muscle mass. It was a lot different than what’ve I done I in the past.”

Barner said he hasn’t had any difficulty learning Pederson’s offense during the course of mini-camp, something that’s coming through in the first week of training camp.
For him, it comes down the basics of being an NFL running back.

“Your job is to run the ball, make the right cuts, catch the ball out of the backfield and block,” he said. “The scheme may be different, but my mindset is the same.”

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The Running Man: Wendell Smallwood Hopes to be the Eagles Next Star Back

21 May
Wendell Smallwood

West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood (4) during the Cactus Bowl NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Phoenix, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri via AP)

By Chris Murray

For the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and the Chris Murray Report

At this time last year, Philadelphia Eagles fans were salivating at the prospect of former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, the league’s leading rusher at the time, leading the team to the Super Bowl Promised Land.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way.  Between a patchwork offensive line and an offensive scheme that didn’t play to his strengths,  Murray couldn’t duplicate what he did in Dallas. Throw in the fact that he really wasn’t happy with the Eagles and had no problem letting anyone, including team management, know it, he was ultimately traded.

While Murray’s departure leaves a pretty sizable hole for the Birds, it also gives a rare opportunity to the team’s fifth-round draft pick, former West Virginia star Wendell Smallwood to make some real noise, starting with this week’s Rookie Mini-Camp. If he plays his cards right, he could be the starting running back for the team.

Of course, running backs Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles might have something to say about that, but what bodes well for Smallwood is that he appears to be a good fit for head coach Doug Pederson’s West Coast offense.

Playing for a usually pass-happy West Virginia squad, Smallwood led the Big 12 in rushing, gaining 1,512 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry and ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Smallwood also caught 26 passes for 160 yards and has experience as a pass blocker.

“When you look at his numbers this year (2015) and you watch the tape, it’s like doubles all the time,” said Howie Roseman, Eagles vice-president of football operations. “Fifty-eight 10-plus yard runs and it’s play after play. He runs with a determination. You see the speed on tape and you see the speed in testing.”

Smallwood fits into Pederson’s offense the way Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles or former Eagles running back Brian Westbrook fit into Andy Reid’s version of the West Coast offense because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

But Smallwood comes into his first rookie camp with some minor baggage. In July 2014, he was arrested for allegedly trying to get a witness to change a story that implicated his friend in a robbery attempt.  No criminal charges were filed.

Smallwood also got noticed here in Philadelphia for some offensive statements he made about the city in 2011 on, you guessed it, Twitter. He has since apologized and deactivated his Twitter account.

Most of Smallwood’s first press conference with the Philly media was spent fielding questions about his past social media activities and his arrest. To his credit, he handled the onslaught well and said he was happy that Eagles picked him.

“This organization trusted and believed in me and had confidence in me to know that’s not the person I am,” Smallwood said. “I think the impression that I left with the Eagles was good enough to get me drafted.”

While the scrutiny is understandable on one level, they amount to youthful indiscretion and bad judgment. If folks got judged on the stupid things that they did and said they were 18 or 19 years old,  a lot of people wouldn’t have jobs.

Did it have anything to do with why he was a fifth round pick? Not really. Had Smallwood stayed for his senior year at West Virginia, he might have been a Heisman Trophy candidate or Doak Walker Award candidate as the nation’s best running back.

Smallwood said he’s going to come into the Eagles camp with something to prove in the way he did in his final year at West Virginia.

“I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder since I started playing the game,” Smallwood said. “That’s because I wasn’t getting the respect that I deserved. Just wanting to work for everything and wanting to prove to people that I’m better than whoever put me against. I’m a competitor and I love to compete.  I approach the game that way and its paid off that way in getting me here.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Guys The Eagles Drafted

7 May

Sure, Carson Wentz got a lot of the attention as the Philadelphia Eagles first round draft pick. But the team picked up a few other pieces in the 2016 NFL Draft.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Wendell Smallwood

Can Wendell Small be the next great running back for the Eagles. Photo by wvusports.com

The 2016 NFL Draft will obviously be remembered for the Philadelphia Eagles wheeling and dealing into the No. 2 spot to get quarterback Carson Wentz, the man they hope will be the Birds next franchise quarterback.

But I thought that there were a few more things that the Eagles needed to do in the draft on the offensive side of the ball in addition to getting a new number one quarterback.

I think they addressed the things that they needed. The only problem is, we won’t really know for quite some time how good the pieces they picked up in the draft will be.

That said, I thought the Eagles did a good job of adding some depth on their offensive line and finding a running back that would fit head coach Doug Pederson’s scheme.

Perhaps the most intriguing Eagles draft  pick in is former West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood (5-11, 208).  When you look at what he did at the collegiate level, Smallwood, a back similar to the Kansas City Chiefs Jamaal Charles is an ideal fit for Pederson’s version of the West Coast offense.

In 2015, Smallwood led the Big 12 in rushing, gaining 1,512 yards and scoring nine touchdowns. He averaged 6.4 yard per carry and ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Smallwood also caught 26 passes for 160 yards and has experience as a pass blocker.

Smallwood has a good shot to get some playing time alongside guys like Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. He’s definitely a good three-down back and reminds me of, dare I say, LeSean McCoy.

But the downside for Smallwood, a native Wilmington, Delaware, is that he’s had some off-field incidents that have raised more than a few eyebrows. In July 2014, he was arrested for allegedly trying to get a witness change her story implicating a friend in a robbery attempt.  No charges were filed against Smallwood. He’s also made a few offensive statements on social media.

But from most accounts and from the Eagles extensive background checks, Smallwood is a mature young man who has stayed out of trouble since  and is looking to do the right thing.

“We spent a lot of time with him and we feel that this is a good kid,” said Howie Roseman, Eagles vice president of football operations. “He’s got to prove it on and off the field, but we have no doubts about what kind of player and person he is.”

After former coach Chip Kelly inexplicably refused to bring in more offensive linemen last season via the draft last season, Pederson and Roseman made sure that the Birds brought in some beef on the offensive line after the team struggled in that department last year.

Third round draft pick Isaac Seumalo (6-4, 303) played just about every position on the offensive line during his collegiate career at Oregon State.  He will probably challenge Allen Barbre for the left guard spot and some observers are saying that Seumalo could be the team’s next center.

According to Pro Football Focus.com, Seumalo is a solid pass protect who can locate and knock down opposing defenders while on the move. More importantly, Seumalo is probably better than anyone the Eagles currently have on the roster.

Former TCU tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (6-6, 320), is big enough to block out the sun and most opposing defenders. He has played at both left and the right tackle. He will probably back up veteran Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jason Peters, who’s at the tail end of his career.

Vaitai will eventually be playing at one of those tackle positions if Peters retires or gets hurt during the season. If that does happen, Vaitai would move to the right tackle slot while Lane Johnson would take Peters’s spot.

But let’s not put the cart before the horse here, Vaitai and Seumalo both have to show that they can beat out guys who are already immersed in the Eagles offensive scheme.

But at the end of the day, having solid depth at the offensive line position can only help an offense that couldn’t block many people last year.

 

 

Eagles Wheeling, Dealing and Erasing the Chip Kelly Era

15 Mar
HowieandDougie

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, left and Eagles VP of Football Operations, Howie Roseman have done their share of altering the roster. Photo by Webster Riddick.

In the first week of free agency, the Philadelphia Eagles have started the process of re-making the team in the image of head coach Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman, the team’s vice president of football operations.

The high-profile guys that former head coach Chip Kelly brought in via trades and free agency last season will not be with the team in 2016, most notably running back DeMarco Murray, who was traded to the Tennessee Titans for a fourth-round draft pick.

After leading the NFL in rushing in 2014, Murray gained just 702 yards, averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and was frustrated in Kelly’s system because it didn’t utilize his strengths as a downhill runner. Even with the coaching change, Murray was still not happy and he was sent packing to play with Kelly’s former quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The Birds also acquired former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel to compete with Sam Bradford for the starter’s position.

Two more of Kelly’s acquisitions from last season were also sent packing via the trades. Linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell were sent to the Miami Dolphins to clear some salary cap space and to swap places with the Dolphins in the 2016 Draft. The Eagles will now have the eighth pick instead of the 13th.

The Eagles haven’t had that high a draft pick since 2013 when they used the fourth pick to draft solid right tackle Lane Johnson.

The Eagles could use that pick on a variety of things. With Murray’s departure, they could use it to  pick a running back, possibly Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliot or Alabama’s Derrick Henry.

But the smart use for the pick would be an offensive tackle. In a draft that will be heavy on linemen on both sides of the ball, the Eagles have a couple of possibilities.  Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley (6-7, 312), Michigan State’s Jack Conklin (6-7, 315) and Ohio State’s Taylor Decker (6-7, 315) are possibilities.

With 34-year-old Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters on the downside of his career, the Eagles could cut him as soon as this year. At some point, the Birds are going to have to find a replacement for him.

“The O-line is a priority period,” Roseman said during a press conference last  week. “It’s a priority today, it’s a priority tomorrow, it’s a priority next week, it’s priority in April. Every day we’re looking for an offensive lineman. I think the good news the lines in this draft are very strong.”

The place on the offensive line where the Eagles really struggled was at the guard positions. That’s why they signed 6-5, 335-pound offensive guard and former Houston Texan Brandon Brooks.

For the past three seasons, Brooks has been the starting guard for the Texans, playing in 44 of 50 games. The Eagles singed him to a five-year, $40 million deal. Considering how badly the Eagles guards played last season, Brooks is a definite improvement and they’re going to need somebody to protect quarterback Sam Bradford.

The Eagles also bulked up their secondary by signing former Buffalo Bills cornerback Theodis McKelvin to a two-year deal. McKelvin has been in the league for nine years and has 12 career interceptions. The Birds also signed McKelvin’s teammate, former LSU star safety Ron Brooks, who’s been a backup since coming into the league in 2012.

Former St. Louis Rams safety Ron McLeod (5-10) also came to terms with the Eagles this week. A proven starter in 48 straight games, McLeod has the ability to cover receivers in the passing game as well as play the run.

In just a short period of time, Pederson and Roseman have basically disassembled everything Kelly put together.

Considering how many Eagles fans felt about the changes Kelly made during his tenure, they probably think that’s a good thing.

 

Can Doug Pederson Rescue the Eagles?

22 Jan
pedersonphoto.

Doug Pederson, who served as an assistant under former Eagles head coach Andy Reid, will try to put the Birds on the right track as the team’s head coach.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

The Philadelphia Eagles began the transition from the Chip Kelly era to the Doug Pederson era when they introduced him as the team’s new head coach on Tuesday.
But before the ink was even allowed to dry on his contract, jaded Birds fans were looking at the new coach with a side-eye that suggested that they’d already been down this particular road.

Because Pederson’s last job was Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City, Eagles fans on social media were having flashbacks to Super Bowl XXXIX when the Birds offense moved with no urgency even though they were down 10 with about six minutes left in the game.

Those flashbacks weren’t triggered by Pederson’s presence on the podium with team Jeffrey Lurie on Tuesday, but by his last game as the Chiefs offensive coordinator, a playoff game against the New England Patriots that raised a few eyebrows with some “say-whats” and some “what the entire hells” throw in for good measure.

In the Patriots game, the Chiefs were down by two touchdowns late and got the ball back with about six minutes left in the game. Instead of acting like they were down two scores and needed to get points quickly, the Chiefs took nearly all of the 6:29 remaining to get one touchdown and lost 27-20.

When Pederson was asked about that drive, he gave an answer that probably raised even more questions.

“It took us time because number one, we did not want to give Tom Brady the ball back,” he said. “We knew we were going to score and we knew we had timeouts and the time. We were also limited with the number of receivers we had. Jeremy Maclin was out of the game.”

The Chiefs scored with just 1:13 left and three timeouts, but the onside kick failed and the Patriots ran out the clock. If the Eagles get into a clock management situation during the 2016 season and they lose, fans will revisit this. Count on it.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that Pederson did call plays in the second half of games during the Chiefs 11-game winning streak that got them into the playoffs and led quarterback Alex Smith to his best year as a pro.

Smith passed for a career-high 3,486 yards and had a career-high 498 yards running the football. He threw 20 touchdown passes and during the Chiefs 11 game-winning streak, had a run where he threw 312 passes without an interception.

During the news conference, Pederson said that he believes Eagles starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who will become a free agent in March, is a good fit for the offense he wants to run, something that probably resembles the West coast offense. Bradford passed for 3.725 yards with 19 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.

“I think Sam’s a quality quarterback. I think he’s a top notch quarterback,” Pederson said. “Look at what he did the last half of the season, the numbers he was able to put up, I feel like he’s a quarterback that would fit perfectly into the system that I’m going to bring.”

You would think Pederson as the head coach would also bode well for running back DeMarco Murray. In Kansas City, Jamaal Charles and the running game thrived under Pederson and Reid. Charles gained over thousand yards in 2013 and 2014.

Pederson said he thinks that Murray is also good fit for his offense in the way that Charles did with the Chiefs.

“I think there’s a unique style with him. When you look at his tape in Dallas, I think there’s some great opportunities with him. He’s more of a downhill guy, a physical running back,” Pederson said.

Rough 2015 for Philly Sports Pro Sports Teams

15 Jan
IQ2D0678 copy

A tough year for DeMarco Murray and the Eagles Photo by Webster Riddick.

Temple, Imhotep Charter CM Report/Philadelphia Sunday Sun Sports City Sports Teams of the Year

Serena Williams, Mizzou Football Team Female and Male Athletes of the Year

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
When it comes to sports, the year 2015 certainly had its share of exciting moments both on and off the field.
In the City of Brotherly Love, the sports year was awful. Not only did all of the city’s pro sports teams miss the playoffs, the Flyers, Eagles, Sixers and Phillies didn’t come close.
While it made sense that a coach of one of the teams would be fired by the end of the year, few thought it would be Eagles coach Chip Kelly.
But it was. And some fans are still praise dancing in the streets over the news.
The Birds were officially eliminated from the playoffs last Saturday when they lost to the Washington Redskins. Offensive coordinator Pat Shumur was named the interim head coach for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.
The reason for Kelly’s firing comes down to his making some personnel moves that can charitably described as questionable. From releasing DeSean Jackson outright to trading LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for a bag of magic beans to signing running back DeMarco Murray and grossly misusing him, Kelly, who was given the General Manager reigns no matter what he said during Monday’s press conference, made a hot mess of an Eagles team that wasn’t all that bad when he took it over from Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid..
At press time, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie was holding a news conference at Lincoln Financial Field. Kelly told ESPN that he’s hoping to catch on with another pro team.
But while the end of the Chip Kelly Era was 2015’s biggest local sports bombshell, it wasn’t the only one.
The Philadelphia Sunday Sun and The Chris Murray Report would like to introduce our Players Of The Year:

Philadelphia Sports Teams of the Year: the football teams from Temple University and the Imhotep Charter School.

TempleOwls2015

The 2015 Temple Owls Football team has been the only bright spot in a bad year for Philadelphia sports teams.

The only bright spot for Philadelphia sports above the high school level in 2015 was the Temple University Owls football team. The kids from North Philly finished with a 10-4 record, won the American Athletic Conference’s Eastern Division, a berth in the AAC’s championship game and a bid to the 2015 Boca Raton Bowl.
The Owls had some big wins along the way including the season-opener over Penn State. Middle linebacker Tyler Matakevich won several awards including the Nagurski and Bednarik Awards. He was also a first-team All-American.

imhotep charter state champs

Imhotep Public Charter School became the first Philadelphia public school to win a state championship.

The Panthers of Imhotep Charter School, located in Germantown, became the first city public high school to win a state football title when it defeated Erie Cathedral Prep 40-3 to win the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class AAA title.
Led by head coach Albie Crosby, the Panthers finished the year undefeated with a 15-0 record. In the win over Erie Cathedral Prep, Mike Waters and Aamir Brown combined to score five touchdowns for the Panthers.

Serena Williams –Female Athlete of the Year

Serena Williams

Serena Williams is halfway to tennis’s Grand Slam. She renews her chase for immortality at Wimbledon.

Outside of Philadelphia, Serena Williams was no doubt the Female Athlete of the Year.
The younger of the Williams sisters dominated the tennis world. Dating back to the 2014 U.S. Open, she won four majors in a row. After winning the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon, Williams fell short in her bid to win the calendar year Grand-Slam in a stunning upset in the semifinals of the U.S. Open.
Despite the upset, Williams was still the most dominant and compelling figure in the sport in 2015. At 34 years-old Williams is still the No. 1 player in the world. She had 21 Grand-Slam titles and is looking to do more in 2016.
Male Athletes of the Year: African-American Players-University of Missouri Football Team.

MIzzouProtest(KMOV)Finally, the Male Athletes of the Year are the 30 African-American players of the University of Missouri football team who threatened to boycott a football game to show solidarity with their fellow students protesting campus racism and calling for the president of the University to resign.
The African-American athletes of the Mizzou football team were moved to action by the hunger strike of a fellow African-American student.
What makes this protest unique was that those Black players were able to convince their white teammates and head coach Gary Pinkel to join them in the protest. University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe eventually resigned.

Temple Owls: Best Team in Philly in a Bad Year for City Sports Teams

28 Nov
TempleOwls2015

The 2015 Temple Owls Football team has been the only bright spot in a bad year for Philadelphia sports teams.

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

To say that this has been an awful year for Philadelphia’s professional sports teams would be an understatement.

The Phillies spent the entire Major League Baseball season in the National League East’s basement. The Flyers didn’t make the National Hockey League playoffs. We’re not even going to talk about the 76ers and the fact that they haven’t won a game yet this season.

Even the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that most sports fans have traditionally seen as the ray of light in the Professional Sports darkness here in Philadelphia, are giving fans fits. At the beginning of the year, these fans had visions of Super Bowl 50 dancing in their heads.

Now, nothing would make them happier than hearing the news that head coach Chip Kelly is heading back to the college ranks. Especially after the debacle that was last Sunday’s 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Eagles defense, the team’s lone bright spot, became part of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston’s highlight reel as he threw for five touchdown passes.

Right now, the only thing standing between Philly’s sports fans and collectively jumping off the Ben Franklin and/or Walt Whitman bridges is the Temple University Owls’ football team.

No, you read that right. The college football team that set the record for consecutive losses is the only team holding it’s own right now.

In a year when fans in the city of Brotherly Love have had little to cheer about, the Owls have been the best team in the city and the best FBS college football team in the state.

This weekend, Temple (9-2, 6-1) will be playing for the American Athletic Conference’s Eastern Division title when they take on the Connecticut Huskies (6-5, 4-3) Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

If the Owls win, they will take on the winner of the Navy-Houston game in the AAC Championship game. At the beginning of this season, no one would have thought Temple would be the best team playing at Lincoln Financial Field season.

No matter what happens on Saturday night, the 2015 season has been special for Temple and for the city because they’ve given normally cynical, angry fans something to cheer about in a bad year for Philly sports teams.

When the team upset Penn State in front of a packed house at Lincoln Financial Field, you had the sense that this was going to be a different season for Temple football. The team won it’s first seven games, and came within a play or two from upsetting sixth-ranked Notre Dame, another sell-out game that led to a visit from ESPN’s College GameDay and turned the City of Brotherly Love into the nation’s largest college town.

Led by head coach Matt Rhule, a guy who doesn’t come off as one of those college football coaches who cares more about his ego than his team’s success, the team has played with passion. You can’t coach football or any team for that matter in this city without wearing your emotions on your sleeve, and Rhule appears to understand that.

Temple quarterback P.J. Walker is currently the best quarterback playing at Lincoln Financial Field. He’s thrown 17 touchdown passes, only six interceptions, and has passed for 2,209 yards. He has the ability to make plays in the pocket and to extend plays with his feet.

Senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who was recently nominated for the Bednarik Award as the nation’s best defensive player, has been the Owls enforcer in the middle. He leads the team in tackles (107, 65 solo). Matakevich was tailor-made to be a linebacker for a Philly football team.

He’s tough, gritty and takes a blue-collar approach to the game making him a player former Eagles great Chuck Bednarik would appreciate.

Even if the Owls lose to UConn on Saturday or lose in the AAC Championship game, it’s still been a great ride and they’ll still go to a nationally televised bowl game.

But no matter what happens, the Owls have made Philadelphia a college football town again…which considering how the pros are playing, didn’t take a lot…