AFC West: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Running back Peyton Hillis signed with Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The 27-year-old spent last season with the Chiefs, but the new Kansas City regime had no interest in bringing him back. The Chiefs took running back Knile Davis (from Hillis’ alma mater, Arkansas) in the third round as a backup for star Jamaal Charles.

The previous regime brought Hillis to Kansas City on a one-year deal, with the idea of him being a dynamic backup to Charles. Hillis, a former standout in Cleveland, had 309 yards on 85 carries last season.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs suffered a blow on the first day of rookie training camp. The Kansas City Star reported that the team's fifth-round pick, defensive back Sanders Commings, fractured his left collarbone and will likely miss all of camp. He has a chance to help this season, but this is surely a setback. Commings had a strong offseason session.

In other AFC West notes:

The Raiders cut cornerback Coye Francies and linebacker Travis Goethel -- Francies because of a failure to disclose a physical condition. Both were backups last year. Goethel was once considered a promising prospect, but injuries derailed his Raiders career. He will most be remembered in Oakland for a disastrous night as a long-snapper in the opening loss to San Diego last season, after standout Jon Condo was hurt.

Buffalo cut pass-rusher Mark Anderson. He was injured last season. He had 10 sacks for the Patriots in 2011. Oakland needs a pass-rusher badly; perhaps it could show some interest in Anderson.

ESPN.com columnist Jeffri Chadiha thinks the Broncos can handle a four-game NFL suspension of star linebacker Von Miller.
On the day the Denver Broncos cut veteran running back Willis McGahee, they signed his replacement.

Denver signed running back Montee Ball -- the team's second-round pick -- and cornerback Kayvon Webster -- the team's third-round pick. Denver’s lone remaining unsigned draft pick is first-round pick Sylvester Williams.

Ball is expected to be the team’s starter, though, he was sorry to see McGahee go.

“It’s a business. I had nothing to do with it,” Ball said. “The couple days I had with McGahee were kind of special because the guy is a great man. He’s a great man and I most definitely wish him the best. Like I said, it’s a business and this program is going to most definitely stay on track.”

Meanwhile, McGahee told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that San Diego and Oakland are on his initial list of his preferred teams to play for. Denver cut the running back Thursday morning.

In other AFC West notes:
  • There are a total of five unsigned draft picks in the AFC West. In addition to Williams, they are Kansas City tackle Eric Fisher and Oakland cornerback D.J. Hayden, tackle Menelik Watson and quarterback Tyler Wilson. All should easily be signed by the start of training camp late next month.
  • Oakland signed third-round pick, linebacker Sio Moore. The Connecticut product has a chance to start, or at least be a major contributor. He is the seventh of 10 Oakland draft picks to sign.
  • Like the Broncos did last year, the Chiefs are putting their playbooks on iPads for players. It was received with rave reviews in Denver last year. It is just a matter of time before every NFL team uses the system.
  • Former Oakland receiver Derek Hagan signed with the Buccaneers.
Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Kansas City left tackle Branden Albert wants a contract in the range that former Miami left tackle Jake Long recently signed with St. Louis. Long signed with the Rams for $34 million over four years. Yahoo! reports the Dolphins will not continue to pursue a deal unless Albert lowers his demands.

While it could be a holdout, I think the situation is fluid and the demands are just part of the process. I could see Albert lowering his price to get a deal done before or during this week’s draft. A potential trade would very likely involve one of Miami’s two second-round picks, so the deal will be made by Friday night if it happens.

In other AFC West news:
  • According to Todd McShay and Mel Kiper , the first round of the draft doesn’t change much for the AFC West because of the Darrelle Revis trade from the Jets to the Buccaneers.
  • Washington is visiting with San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer. The Chargers have mild interest in bringing Jammer back.
  • Former Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested for the third time in the past year and a half in his Alabama hometown. McClain was recently cut by the Raiders and signed by Baltimore. He was the No. 8 overall draft pick in 2010.
  • Here is an ESPN video with former Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell. He is trying to come back after being cut by the Raiders three years ago.
  • It seems Denver pass-rusher Von Miller is looking forward to the Chiefs drafting his former Texas A&M teammate Luke Joeckel.
  • Denver safety Rahim Moore seems to have a good handle on things as he prepares bounce back from a colossal playoff gaffe.
With the Darrelle Revis trade from the New York Jets to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the books, trade attention turns to Branden Albert.

With the weekend brought finality to the long Revis process, Albert’s potential trade from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Miami Dolphins is still in the works.

The Chiefs and Dolphins have been talking about a trade involving the left tackle for several weeks. Last week, the Chiefs granted the Dolphins permission to talk to Albert about a contract. Those talks remain ongoing.

While both sides are interested in getting a deal done, I think it’s about 50-50 that a deal actually gets done. I wouldn’t be surprised if the talks extend until Friday when the second round of the draft occurs. The Dolphins have two second-round picks, No. 42 and No. 54. The Dolphins would like to trade the second of the two picks.

The Chiefs would rather have the No. 42 pick. But I wouldn’t be surprised that, in the end, the Chiefs take the No. 54 pick because they want to get back into the second round after dealing the No. 34 pick to San Francisco for Alex Smith last month.

This story is ongoing and will be monitored as the week goes on.
The Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers made some compensatory picks news Monday.

The Chiefs are newsworthy for what they got. The Chargers made news for what they didn’t get.

The Chiefs received the No. 96 overall pick in the third round -- the second highest comp pick given this year. They also got a pick in the sixth round.

San Diego did not get one of the 32 extra picks even though they lost free agent prize, receiver Vincent Jackson last year when he signed with Tampa Bay. It makes former general manager A.J. Smith's decision not to trade Jackson when he could have a couple of years ago even more difficult to digest for San Diego fans.

Oakland was the only other team in the AFC West to get a pick. They received one in the sixth round.

Compensatory picks are issued based on a formula that involves salary, playing time and postseason honors. San Diego brought in several free agents last year. Released players do not factor in the equation.
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This has been a foregone conclusion for months, so the cheering from Chiefs fans in Kansas City may be somewhat muted.

But make no mistake; this is not a sad day in Kansas City. Matt Cassel is officially a former Chief as the team cut him Thursday morning. Again, no surprise here. The Chiefs agreed to trade for Alex Smith to be the new starter weeks ago. But Cassel’s time in Kansas City actually expired last season when he was replaced by Brady Quinn.

The once-hopeful franchise quarterback bottomed out in 2012, and his failure to become the Chiefs' answer was a primary reason general manager Scott Pioli was jettisoned after the season.

Cassel was Pioli’s first big pickup in 2009. The two had success together in New England. Cassel became hot when he played well in 2008 as an injury replacement for Tom Brady. Cassel did play well in Kansas City in 2010 as he led the team to the AFC West title, but he did little to progress following that season. In 2012, he was a turnover machine (12 interceptions) and he seemed to lose his teammates' confidence.

A nice guy off the field (he once alerted a Kansas City neighbor to escape her burning home), Cassel just didn’t seem like he could lead his team, and he became the center of the fans' disdain. It was a national story when right tackle Eric Winston (who was cut last week) passionately ripped some fans who he accused of cheering when Cassel went down with a concussion. All the negative attention was nothing new for Cassel, as he once was booed at a Major league Baseball All-Star event in Kansas City last summer.

The new Kansas City regime truly had no intention of keeping Cassel, but he was kept around in a futile attempt to get a late-round draft pick for him. When that dream ended, Cassel was cut.

He will get some looks as a backup with Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Arizona, all teams who have been mentioned as possible destinations.

As for Kansas City, Cassel's tenure will be nothing but memories of a failed experiment.

Chiefs add Donnie Avery to mix

March, 13, 2013
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Alex Smith has another weapon to work with in Kansas City.

The busy Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to terms with receiver Donnie Avery, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Avery is a nice player who can stretch the field. He had 60 catches for the Colts last season.

He should be a solid No. 2 option behind Dwayne Bowe. I expect 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin will be the No. 3 receiver and the team also has the likes of Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie. All three of those players have potential.

Avery does have issues with drops, but he can also make big plays. He is a solid addition in Kansas City, which appears serious about improving from a disastrous 2-14 season in 2012. The Chiefs have been one of the busiest team in the NFL in recent weeks.

In other news, NFL Network is reporting potential trade partners with Kansas City for quarterback Matt Cassel are Minnesota, Arizona and Tampa Bay. All the Chiefs would get is a late-round pick. If a trade is not made, he will be cut.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs released a statement from Smith about coming to Kansas City.

“I’m happy to be joining the Chiefs family,” Smith said. “I’d like to thank the Hunt family, John Dorsey and Coach [Andy] Reid for giving me the opportunity to play football for such a proud franchise. I know from experience that Chiefs fans are among the greatest in the NFL, and I’m really looking forward to Sundays at Arrowhead Stadium.”

No AFC West Hall of Fame shockers

February, 2, 2013
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There weren’t any AFC West surprises Saturday when the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced.

Curley Culp and Warren Sapp were the favorites of the four finalists with AFC West ties, and they ended up in the Hall of Fame class. Former Oakland receiver Tim Brown and former Kansas City guard Will Shields did not get into the final 10. They were both considered long shots.

Culp, a senior committee nominee, played his first seven of a 16-year career in Kansas City. Sapp played his final four seasons in Oakland. Sapp did little with the Raiders and will always be remembered as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

Culp does have legitimate AFC West ties. He was a key part of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV-winning team. He was considered the first real 3-4 nose tackle. Culp is in the Chiefs Hall of Fame, and he participates in alumni programs. His election Saturday will be embraced and celebrated in Kansas City.

“On behalf of the entire Chiefs family, we’d like to congratulate Curley Culp on his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said in a statement. “Curley was a dominating force on the defensive line for the Super Bowl IV championship team and one of many great players that helped build the tradition and foundation of the Kansas City Chiefs. … We look forward to seeing him take his rightful place in Canton.”

Saturday’s developments are disappointing for Brown and Shields, but there are silver linings for both. Cris Carter finally gained election, so the receiver logjam lessened. I still think Andre Reed might get in before Brown.

There has been some chatter that Brown’s recent comments that former Oakland coach Bill Callahan “sabotaged” the team’s Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers 10 years ago might have hurt his chances. Brown was considered a long shot prior to causing that firestorm.

Shields was likely blocked by first-year nominee Larry Allen, who gained election. With Allen in, I can see Shields getting elected in the next couple of years.
The NFL world was waiting for Bill Callahan to respond to serious allegations levied against him by former Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown.

Tuesday night, Callahan -- now an assistant coach in Dallas -- came back with a response in a long statement. This wasn’t a typical stale, robotic statement. Callahan expressed deep sadness and anger -- and used a couple of legal buzzwords as well.

Brown suggested that Callahan "sabotaged" the Raiders' chances of winning Super Bowl XXXVII. Brown said Callahan essentially tanked the game because he wanted his good friend and former Oakland coach Jon Gruden, in his first season in Tampa Bay, to win. The Buccaneers won 48-21. ESPN analyst Jerry Rice backed Brown's claims based on Callahan changing the game plan late in the week before the Super Bowl. A number of Oakland players, including former quarterback Rich Gannon, have taken Callahan's side.

Here is Callahan’s statement via ESPNDallas.com:

“There are many people who are disappointed by the outcome of Super Bowl XXVII, but none more than me. While I fully understand a competitive professional football player’s disappointment when a game’s outcome doesn’t go his team’s way, I am shocked, saddened and outraged by Tim Brown’s allegations and Jerry Rice’s support of those allegations made through various media outlets over the last 24 hours.

"To leave no doubt, I categorically and unequivocally deny the sum and substance of their allegations. Like every game I ever coached on the professional or collegiate level, I endeavor to the best of my professional ability to position my team to win. To suggest otherwise, especially at this time when it involved the Super Bowl, is ludicrous and defamatory.

"I have always honored the spirit of competition that drives us to sport as children and, for the lucky few, sustains us in adulthood. Any suggestion that I would undermine the integrity of the sport that I love and dedicate my life to, or dishonor the commitment I made to our players, coaches and fans, is flat-out wrong. I think it would be in the best interests of all including the game America loves that these allegations be retracted immediately.

"I want to extend my personal and my family’s deep appreciation to the coaches, players and fans that have come forward and thoughtfully spoken out against these ill-conceived allegations.”


The fact that Callahan used the word “defamatory” and asked for the allegations to be “retracted immediately” leaves open the question of whether Callahan plans legal action. Unless Brown can prove his allegations in a court of law, Brown could have created a headache for himself.

Now that Callahan has struck back hard, it will be interesting to see if Brown continues to make the claims or if he backs off.

The reaction is pouring is after Tim Brown made powerful accusations against his former Oakland head coach, Bill Callahan.

The often outspoken Brown told SiriusXM NFL Radio that Callahan “sabotaged” the team before its 48-21 thrashing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl 10 year ago. Brown said Callahan changed the team’s offensive game plan late in the week and the team couldn’t adjust. Brown suggested Callahan did it because he wanted his friend and former Oakland coach Jon Gruden to win the game instead himself and his team.

So far, most of the reaction from people close to the situation does not back up Brown’s claims.

Former Oakland linebacker Bill Romanowski said Brown was “delusional” to think Callahan would sabotage his own team.

Former Oakland running back Zack Crockett said the game plan was “tweaked” from a run-first to a pass-heavy attack as a result of center Barrett Robbins disappearing from the team. Brown, however, suggested that Robbins went missing after the game plan was changed.

Former Oakland running back Jon Ritchie seemed to be on Brown’s side, according to a text to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

"I've said it for years. What we practiced heavily during the week is not what we ran in that game. Could have been due to Barrett's absence. It was never explained to me. I believe I said it on the record every year we talked about the Super Bowl [when he was with ESPN for four years]. I always thought it would get sensational like this," Ritchie wrote in the text.

However, another former Raiders offensive player who didn't want to be named, told ESPN that he did not agree with Brown.

"No, he [Tim] isn't right. While there was always dysfunction, that didn't happen. If anything Bill wanted to kick Jon's a--. Nobody would do that. Brutal. We got out-played and out-coached. Period," the former player wrote in the text to ESPN.

I tend to believe what Crockett said, that Callahan changed the plan because of Robbins leaving. That is believable. The idea of a head coach tanking an entire year’s work and jeopardizing his own future to help a friend win the Super Bowl is simply not believable.

Callahan lasted another year in Oakland after the Super Bowl flop. If the late Al Davis had any suspicion that his own coach threw a Super Bowl, there would be no chance Callahan would have kept his job.

UPDATE: On his SiriusXM show, the quarterback of that Oakland team, Rich Gannon, said he doesn’t believe Callahan would have done what Brown accused him of doing.
In a stunning accusation of his former head coach, former Oakland Raiders star receiver Tim Brown told SiriusXM NFL Radio that former Oakland coach Bill Callahan “sabotaged” the team before its 48-21 thrashing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Super Bowl 10 years ago.

This story will never reach the level of the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal or the New England Patriots’ videotape scandal. In the end, it is just an old football player venting. Brown is a finalist to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Feb. 2; this is his fourth year of eligibility.

[+] EnlargeBill Callahan
AP Photo/Lenny IgnelziTim Brown accused former Raiders coach Bill Callahan of sabotaging Oakland's chances in Super Bowl XXXVII.
But because of Brown's stature, the magnitude of the Super Bowl, and the unique nature of his complaints, the story will be around for a while. Expect Brown’s words to put former teammates, Callahan, now a Dallas Cowboys assistant coach, and Callahan’s predecessor, Jon Gruden, in the spotlight for the next couple of days.

I’m sure we will hear denials and we may see some folks back up the often-outspoken Brown, who last week took shots at former Oakland offensive coordinator Marc Trestman when he was named the head coach in Chicago.

Via ProFootballtalk, Brown said this about Callahan in the radio interview
We get our game plan for victory on Monday, and the game plan says we’re gonna run the ball, Brown said Saturday. We averaged 340 [pounds] on the offensive line, they averaged 280 [on the defensive line]. We’re all happy with that, everybody is excited. [We] tell Charlie Garner, "Look, you’re not gonna get too many carries, but at the end of the day we’re gonna get a victory. Tyrone Wheatley, Zack Crockett, let’s get ready to blow this thing up."

We all called it sabotage .. because Callahan and [Tampa Bay coach Jon] Gruden were good friends, Brown said. And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, only came because Gruden made him come. Literally walked off the field on us a couple of times during the season when he first got there, the first couple years. So really he had become someone who was part of the staff but we just didn’t pay him any attention. Gruden leaves, he becomes the head coach. ... It’s hard to say that the guy sabotaged the Super Bowl. You know, can you really say that? That can be my opinion, but I can’t say for a fact that that’s what his plan was, to sabotage the Super Bowl. He hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl so his friend can win the Super Bowl. That’s hard to say, because you can’t prove it.

But the facts are what they are, that less than 36 hours before the game we changed our game plan. And we go into that game absolutely knowing that we have no shot. That the only shot we had if Tampa Bay didn’t show up.

Brown also said the switch had an effect on Oakland center Barret Robbins. He famously left the team shortly before the game and he did not play in the game.
Barret Robbins begged Coach Callahan, "Do not do this to me. I don’t have time to make my calls, to get my calls ready. You can’t do this to me on Friday. We haven’t practiced full speed, we can’t get this done."

Now, should Barret have manned up and tried to do it? Absolutely. But everybody knew Barret was unstable anyway. So to put him in that situation -- not that he was putting him in that situation -- but for that decision to be made without consulting the players the Friday before the Super Bowl? I played 27 years of football. The coaches never changed the game plan the Friday before the game. I’m not trying to point fingers at anybody here, all I’m saying is those are the facts of what happened. So people look at Barret and they say all these things, but every player in that locker room will tell you, "You’d better talk to Bill Callahan." Because if not for Coach Callahan, I don’t think we’re in that situation.

These are powerful accusations, but, again, there won’t be any real consequences. The Buccaneers will always be the winner of the game. The Raiders will always be the loser.

Brown did forget one key factor to all of this: the late Al Davis. He was heavily involved in every aspect of his team and I’m sure he was aware of the change. If he didn’t know, do you really think an owner known for having a quick hook when it came to his coaches would have kept Callahan if he thought the coach sabotaged his chance of winning another Super Bowl ring?

Nothing was more precious to Davis than winning the Super Bowl. He kept Callahan on as coach for one more season after the Super Bowl debacle. There is no way Davis would have kept Callahan if he thought he was disloyal.

With Brown making these comments, all we can do is wait and see if this is a royal case of mudslinging.

Greg Olson is Oakland's new OC

January, 19, 2013
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The Oakland Raiders' search for an offensive coordinator -- their most important hire of the 2013 coaching season -- is over.

Oakland has hired Greg Olson as its offensive coordinator, according to an NFL source. The Raiders are expected to formally announce the hire in the coming days.

Olson was Jacksonville’s quarterbacks coach in 2012. Olson has had an extensive coaching career and will run an offense better adapted to Oakland’s talent base than that of Greg Knapp, who was fired after one season with the team. Knapp became Denver's quarterbacks coach Friday.

Olson is expected to run a downhill, power-run attack in Oakland. Primary tailback Darren McFadden excelled in such an offense in 2010-11; Knapp ran a zone-blocking run scheme that did not succeed with the Raiders.

Olson, who coached on Jon Gruden’s staff in Tampa Bay, has spent six full NFL seasons as an offensive coordinator, holding the position in Detroit, St. Louis and Tampa Bay. He worked with Rams running back Steven Jackson and Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman.

Olson has a solid reputation in the NFL. He has pieces to play with in Oakland, beginning with McFadden and quarterback Carson Palmer.

I think the right first step is going back to a power running scheme. Using the zone-blocking scheme was a mistake Oakland couldn’t overcome last season.

Olson might not be the sexiest of picks, but as long as he fits the personnel and works well with head coach Dennis Allen and the rest of the staff, Oakland should be improved on offense in 2013 as it tries to build from a disappointing 4-12 season in 2012.

Oakland still needs to hire a special-teams coach, an offensive-line coach and a linebackers coach. Bobby April is a candidate to be special-teams coach.

Another fine for Von Miller

December, 7, 2012
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Denver linebacker Von Miller is one of the very best defensive players in the NFL.

But he is also becoming one of the most fined.

Miller -- a leading candidate for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award -- was fined $25,000 by the NFL for a hit below the knee on Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman last Sunday. Miller was fined $21,000 for a hit on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton last month.

Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, has been fined several times since joining the NFL. He has been fined at least $109,250 as an NFL player.

Still, Miller does not have a reputation for being a dirty player. I have seen him play a lot and his penalties and fines seem to be a byproduct of aggressive play and the NFL's strict rules on hitting the quarterback. Miller is a premier pass-rusher. He hits the quarterback often. Sometimes, he is going to have to pay the price as part of today’s NFL climate.

Now the question is, just how stiff a price might that be? Players who rack up big fines are often subject to an eventual NFL suspension.

Denver Broncos: Moving On

December, 3, 2012
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Here are some areas the Denver Broncos need to focus on after a 31-23 home win over Tampa Bay on Sunday:

Recap: The Broncos clinched the AFC West with a win over the solid Buccaneers. It is the first time Denver has won back-to-back division titles since 1986-87. The Broncos have won seven straight games, which is the longest current win streak in the NFL. Denver is 9-3 and tied with Baltimore and New England for the second best record in the AFC.

Biggest area to fix: First-half performance. Denver trailed 10-7 at halftime. The Broncos took over the game in the third quarter. But they have to start faster. Denver had issues in the first halves of games early in the season. That won’t fly in the playoffs.

Biggest area to build on: Run defense. The Broncos kept star Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin in check. He had 56 yards on 18 carries. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Martin did not have a single rush of at least 10 yards in a game. His 33 yards after contact were his lowest total since Week 6 against the Chiefs.

What to watch for: The Broncos go to Oakland on Thursday on a short week.

DENVER -- A look at a playoff-clinching victory for the Denver Broncos.

What it means: The AFC West is over. Denver just clinched it. It is the first time the Broncos have won back-to-back division crowns since 1986-87. The Broncos are 9-3 and have won seven straight games. It is their first seven-game win streak since the 1998 season.

Second half takeover: Tampa Bay led 10-7 at the half. Denver was sloppy in the first half, but the Broncos exploded for three touchdowns in the third quarter to run away from the Buccaneers. This continues an early-season trend of strong second-half play for Denver after slow starts.

Manning-Thomas combination shines: Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and receiver Demaryius Thomas are clicking at a high level. Thomas had eight catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Manning has thrown 29 touchdown passes this season, a team record.

Miller makes case: Denver second-year linebacker Von Miller had an interception return for a touchdown and forced a fumble. He continued to make a strong push for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. It was a good start to December for Miller, who was the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November.

What’s next: Denver plays at Oakland on Thursday night in a short week. Even with the West clinched, the Broncos have plenty to play for. They still hope to get a first-round bye in the playoffs.

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