NFC North: Evan Rodriguez

Chicago Bears draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
May 10
6:05
PM ET
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A wrap-up of the Chicago Bears’ draft. Click here for a full list of Bears' draftees.

Bears general manager Phil Emery likes to say a team can never expect to fill all of its needs via the draft. Well, eight draft choices later, the Bears actually came close.

Best move: Taking defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton with consecutive picks on Day 2. We don’t know if Ferguson or Sutton will pan out, but the Bears had to keep strengthening the defensive line after last season. Ferguson and Sutton join new faces Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Austen Lane, Trevor Scott and Israel Idonije, who is back for his second tour of duty. The Bears also re-signed tackles Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins to help fortify the trenches on defense.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Casey
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsArizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, a fourth-round pick by the Bears, has some question marks in terms of off-the-field incidents.
This reminds me of how Emery & Co. rebuilt the offensive line last offseason.

Riskiest move: Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey’s (fourth round) on-field production speaks for itself: 4,239 yards, 48 rushing touchdowns and 77 receptions for 679 yards in three years for the Wildcats.

However, there are questions about Carey that extended beyond the football field. The 5-9, 207-pound tailback reportedly had multiple run-ins with the authorities, including a charge of assaulting his pregnant ex-girlfriend that was later dismissed.

Carey depicted himself as a high-character individual when he spoke to Chicago media members following his selection by the Bears at No. 117.

“As you guys are going to get to know me over the years; I’m an outgoing [person] who loves kids and is light-hearted,” Carey said. “I would never do anything to harm people. I’m a loveful cat.”

Emery is not afraid to draft or acquire players with questionable character. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall has rewarded Emery’s faith in him by posting consecutive Pro Bowl seasons. On the flip side, 2012 fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez lasted only one season before being cut after multiple run-ins with the law last offseason.

Most surprising move: Emery told reporters before the draft that he rejected the notion of drafting a developmental quarterback in the later rounds with the intent of grooming him to be a future starter.

The Bears selected San Jose State quarterback David Fales in the sixth round (183).

Go figure.

File it away: Time will tell if the Bears regret passing on a safety in the first round.

The organization continued its longstanding tradition of waiting until the later rounds to address the position when they moved back into the fourth round and traded away a pair of fifth-round selections to grab Minnesota’s Brock Vereen at 131. Vereen does have an excellent NFL pedigree. His brother, Shane, a standout running back, was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. Their father, Henry, was drafted by the Bucs in 1979.

Vereen is a versatile player who lined up at all four defensive back spots over the course of his career with the Golden Gophers. He started 36 games and registered 200 tackles, four interceptions, 7.5 tackles-for-loss and one blocked kick.

“Brock is one of the smartest and most versatile players I have ever had the privilege of coaching and is an outstanding young man,” Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said. “He is the ultimate team player and will do whatever is needed to help the Bears win. I know he is going to make Chicago a better team and will also be a great teammate in the locker room.”

But you can argue the Bears are in this mess at safety because the organization doesn't put a high enough value on the position.
The Chicago Bears released their first unofficial depth chart of the summer Monday, creatively declining to answer two of their biggest questions. The team listed co-starters at right guard (James Brown/Kyle Long) and left defensive end (Corey Wootton/Shea McClellin), but it appears that its biggest depth chart news of late is the fast rise of first-year cornerback Isaiah Frey.

The Bears' sixth-round draft choice in 2012, Frey spent last season on the practice squad. Veteran Kelvin Hayden's hamstring injury prompted the Bears to push Frey into the nickel cornerback role, and he continued his good work by opening Monday's practice with an interception of quarterback Jay Cutler.

Frey is a nearly-forgotten member of the first draft class of general manager Phil Emery, one that includes McClellin and receiver Alshon Jeffery but has already seen one prominent member -- tight end Evan Rodriguez -- released after repeated off-field incidents. Another member of that class, third-round safety Brandon Hardin, missed 2012 because of a neck injury and was listed with the third team on Monday's depth chart.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Good morning from Day 2 of the Green Bay Packers' mandatory minicamp, which will be the last day of on-field activities for this event. (Thursday is a "team-building" exercise for players and coaches). My plan is to continue stockpiling information, post some of it Wednesday afternoon and then speed back to NFC North headquarters to resume normal blog activities Thursday. For now, a quick tour around the division after a busy Tuesday:
We're Black and Blue All Over:

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The No. 7 overall pick of the 2008 draft has drawn interest from half of the NFC North. Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, who spent five seasons with the New Orleans Saints, has visits scheduled with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions this week, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Saints are transitioning to a 3-4 scheme, leaving them to part ways with several mainstays of their previous 4-3. Ellis started 70 games for the Saints, but recorded only a half-sack in the two seasons after notching a career-high six in 2010.

Neither the Bears nor the Lions have obvious openings for a starter, especially in the three-technique role Ellis is said to prefer. The Bears plan to start Henry Melton and Stephen Paea as their two defensive tackles, while the Lions have Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. But depth is an issue for both teams. Ellis visited the New England Patriots last week.

Continuing around the NFC North as we gear up for the start of the Green Bay Packers' minicamp:
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Friday, I wondered if a second offseason arrest for tight end Evan Rodriguez would end his tenure with the Chicago Bears. Based on a statement released by the team Sunday afternoon, it appears that no immediate action is planned and that Rodriguez will remain on the roster.

Rodriguez was arrested for driving under the influence, speeding and improper lane change early Friday morning. In the statement, Rodriguez apologized for the incident and pledged to "make positive changes in my life so that this doesn't happen again." That portion of the statement implies the Bears have given him another chance.

In March, Rodriguez was arrested for resisting an officer without violence and disorderly intoxication in Miami Beach, Fla. Prosecutors ultimately dropped those charges. Rodriguez was drafted last year as a tight end but mostly played fullback in the Bears' offense. The assumption is that he is on the shortest leash imaginable with the franchise, and the NFL will by rule review both arrests for possible discipline.

Continuing around the NFC North:
It's fair to wonder whether the Chicago Bears will part ways with tight end/fullback Evan Rodriguez amid reports of his second arrest this offseason, this time for driving under the influence early Friday morning.

As Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com notes, the Illinois State Police also charged Rodriguez with speeding and improper lane change. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Rodriguez's blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.17.

Charges were ultimately dropped after a March arrest for resisting an officer without violence and disorderly intoxication, but Bears general manager Phil Emery said he was still disappointed with the arrest and that he had "re-educated" Rodriguez on expectations for Bears players.

As far as I'm concerned, finding trouble two months after a dressing-down from the general manager is asking to get fired. It almost certainly will bring some level of discipline from the NFL, which reserves the right to punish for incidents even if charges are dismissed.

The Bears invested a fourth-round draft pick in Rodriguez last season despite a number of off-field incidents in college. He is a good blocker and has potential as a receiver. The team issued a statement saying it was still gathering information on the latest incident, but how many chances will a backup tight end/blocking fullback get? We'll soon find out.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette made important points in analyzing the new contract of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers will count $12 million against the 2013 salary cap, an increase of only $2.25 million more than what he was due to count under his previous deal. That leaves the Packers with $13.5 million in salary-cap space remaining in 2013.

So what will the Packers do with that money?

Silverstein estimates it will cost the Packers between $5 million and $6 million to sign their draft class, leaving about $7 million in surplus. NFL rules allow teams to push any leftover cap space into next season, which would give them a $7 million head start on 2014. It could also be used to sign other players to extensions. Cornerback Sam Shields and/or defensive tackle B.J. Raji could be squeezed in this year as well if the Packers want to.

This season, Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews, who signed a five-year extension earlier this month, will count $18.71 million against the Packers' salary cap.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com doesn't mind that Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery is willing to add players who have been considered character risks in the past.
  • Bears free-agent defensive lineman Israel Idonije visited the Tennessee Titans on Monday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Bears fullback/tight end Evan Rodriguez was cleared of wrongdoing for his role in an incident in Miami last month, notes Dickerson.
  • The Detroit Lions had pre-draft interaction with nearly every player they drafted this year, according to Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.
  • It's fair to expect Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah to be a force off the edge as a rookie, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • The Star Tribune presents some clues about the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium design culled from a recent environmental impact statement.
  • Could Chris Kluwe's activism play a role in getting released by the Minnesota Vikings? Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press looks into it.
  • The Vikings released punter T.J. Conley on Monday, two days after using a fifth-round draft pick on UCLA punter Jeff Locke, notes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.

Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
11:30
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After the Chicago Bears' 32-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Free Head Exam
    ESPN.com

  1. The Bears' intent on offense was pretty clear. They opened the game with an extra tackle, Jonathan Scott, and rookie Evan Rodriguez lined up at fullback, and desperately wanted to establish the run with quarterback Jay Cutler sidelined. I get that. But that approach provided no alternative when the 49ers took the early lead, and I remain stunned at how poorly the Bears adjusted. Forced into passing situations, they put tackles J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi in matchups they had already proved they couldn't win. It was absolutely criminal to stand by and let 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith beat them for 5.5 sacks. There is no doubt Smith is an elite pass-rusher, but the Bears needed to suck it up at some point and double-team him. Each sack came when the 49ers sent four or fewer rushers, meaning there was always someone available to help out if assigned. Instead, the Bears let Smith have a better game against them than any opponent in their history. In fact, Smith's sack total has been bested in a single game only four times in NFL history. Reggie White never had 5.5 sacks in a game. Neither did Bruce Smith, Lawrence Taylor, nor Mark Gastineau. Why? Because even on their best days, they faced more opposition than Smith did Monday night. I'm not sure any adjustment on Smith would have changed the outcome of the game, given how well the 49ers' offense played, but yikes. That was an eye-opening red flag from offensive coordinator Mike Tice, who was promoted in part because his background as an offensive line coach figured to minimize such jailbreaks. The Bears' scheme was as much, or more, to blame for Smith's night as was the poor play of Webb and Carimi.
  2. Jason Campbell's performance gets something of a curve given the pressure he faced. All told, he was sacked six times and hit on five other occasions. But in the bigger picture, I wouldn't say the Bears got their $3.5 million out of him Monday night. The point of making such a commitment on a backup quarterback was to give themselves a chance to win a tough game under adverse circumstances when the starter isn't available. Based on their initial game plan, the Bears didn't appear interested in putting the game in Campbell's hands. And when they had no choice, Campbell fell far short. He threw two interceptions, fumbled twice, and per his career history, rarely pushed the ball upfield. Of his 22 attempts, only six traveled more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. He completed two of them for a total of 24 yards. Again, Campbell was in a tough spot Monday night. But the bottom line is the Bears are now 1-7 in the past eight games that starter Cutler has either missed or has left early. It appears Cutler is on track to return for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. He is scheduled to host his radio show on ESPN 1000 at 1 p.m. ET.
  3. Cutler has alluded on several occasions to his role in keeping receiver Brandon Marshall mentally engaged and emotionally in check, and it was instructive to see how quickly Marshall got chippy and eventually combative without Cutler on the sideline with him. Television cameras caught center Roberto Garza putting him in a bear hug to settle down an altercation with an unnamed Bears player late in the game. "I have to a do a better job when I am frustrated of not letting it show," Marshall said. In the end, Marshall only saw four passes thrown his way. He caught two of them, including a 13-yard touchdown. Six of Marshall's eight touchdowns this season have come when the score differential was at least 17 points.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
What happened to the Bears' defense? Part of me wants to tip my cap to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It was fair to expect a conservative game plan and a few mistakes when facing a quarterback making his first start. We all thought Kaepernick would give the Bears a chance to add to their long list of takeaways this season. But Kaepernick was poised and stunningly accurate downfield against a Bears team that only blitzed on nine of his 23 attempts. Kaepernick gashed the Bears' standard pressure by completing 10 of 14 passes against it, including two that gained at least 30 yards. The 49ers also burned the Bears' defense by rushing for 94 yards between the tackles. Time will tell, but the Bears' defense -- like most -- was not nearly as good when it couldn't cause turnovers.

NFC North Friday injury report

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
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Getting inside an uneventful Friday injury report:

Chicago Bears: Tight end Evan Rodriguez (knee) has been ruled out for the second consecutive week. Receiver Earl Bennett (hand) is questionable, but all other players will be available for Sunday's game at the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Green Bay Packers: Receiver Greg Jennings (groin) had already been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. Safety Sean Richardson (hamstring) is also out. Cornerback Davon House (shoulder) is questionable. All other players on the 53-man roster should be available. Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters he has not decided whether to activate defensive end Mike Neal, who has a one-week roster exemption following his four-game NFL suspension.

Minnesota Vikings: Safeties Mistral Raymond (ankle) and Andrew Sendejo (ankle) are out and won't play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. Linebacker Marvin Mitchell (calf) is doubtful, but Erin Henderson (concussion) is questionable and likely to be available to resume his starting role, coach Leslie Frazier told reporters. Receiver Michael Jenkins (rib) is questionable, but he had full participation in Friday's practice.
The Chicago Bears have officially listed tailback Matt Forte as questionable for Monday night's game at the Dallas Cowboys. But Forte (ankle) practiced for the third consecutive day Saturday, albeit on a limited basis, and seems to have a pretty decent chance of playing.

The Bears are relatively deep at the position and could probably afford to give Forte another week without game-speed contact. But Forte has been a fast healer in the past, and it seems as though the Bears are counting on some level of participation from him Monday night.

The Bears also listed receiver Earl Bennett (hand) as questionable. Tight end Evan Rodriguez (knee) has been declared out.

NFC North Week 4 Friday injury report

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
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Getting inside the Friday injury report:

Chicago Bears: Tight end Evan Rodriguez (knee) missed practice and isn't expected to play Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys. Linebacker Brian Urlacher took his regular day off Friday. Receiver Earl Bennett (and) and tailback Matt Forte (ankle) were limited. The Bears will announce game statuses Saturday.

Detroit Lions: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (leg muscle/hamstring/hip) is listed as probable. He had full participation in Friday's practice and he'll start Sunday at Ford Field. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) is doubtful, but he never practiced this week and won't play. Running back Mikel Leshoure (groin) and tight end Tony Scheffler (calf) are questionable but expected to play.

Green Bay Packers: The only players who might not be available for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints are safety Sean Richardson and cornerback Davon House (shoulder). All other players, including running back James Starks (toe) are at least probable. Coach Mike McCarthy indicated that Starks is no better than No. 3 on the depth chart behind Cedric Benson and Alex Green, an indication he might not be active Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings ruled out linebacker Erin Henderson (concussion) and safety Mistral Raymond (ankle), as expected. Safety Andrew Sendejo (ankle) and defensive end D'Aundre Reed (calf) are questionable, and all other players are expected to be available. Quarterback Christian Ponder (neck) returned to full participation in practice Friday.

NFC North Thursday practice report

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
5:21
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Let's take a quick look at the Thursday practice report, which includes news of surgery for a starting defensive lineman and an addition for one starting quarterback:

Chicago Bears: Tailback Matt Forte (ankle) again participated in a limited portion of practice and appears to be no worse for the wear. Tight end Evan Rodriguez (knee) hasn't practiced the past two days. Long-snapper Patrick Mannelly missed practice Thursday because of an illness.

Detroit Lions: As we noted earlier, quarterback Matthew Stafford (strained leg muscle/hamstring/hip) returned to practice and appears on track to start Sunday at Ford Field. But defensive tackle Corey Williams won't play after having knee surgery earlier in the week. He'll be replaced by Sammie Hill and Nick Fairley. Tight end Tony Scheffler (calf) returned to practice after missing more than a week. Safety Amari Spievey (groin) was added to the injury report as a limited participant. Receiver Titus Young (knee) returned to practice.

Green Bay Packers: All players again participated in at least a portion of practice except for safety Sean Richardson.

Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback Christian Ponder (neck) was added to the injury report as a limited participant, but he is expected to start Sunday against the Lions. Linebacker Erin Henderson (concussion) has not yet been cleared to practice. Meanwhile, the Vikings waived tight end Allen Reisner to clear a roster spot for receiver Jerome Simpson.

Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

September, 10, 2012
9/10/12
1:00
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After the Chicago Bears' 41-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Free Head Exam
    ESPN.com
    After so much preseason talk about quarterback Jay Cutler's reunion with receiver Brandon Marshall, it's pretty amazing that Cutler was able to target Marshall on 15 passes. (He caught nine for 119 yards and a touchdown.) None went for longer than 24 yards, but you would imagine that any opponent's first priority will be to limit Marshall's touches. That seems to me an early commentary on the Bears' offensive diversity and balance. Too much attention on Marshall leaves some dangerous playmakers unattended, be it Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester or Matt Forte. Many of Marshall's routes were of the shorter, quick-hitting variety. You wonder if defenses ultimately will choose to give the Bears those plays to guard against bigger downfield passes.
  2. The 2012 draft paid immediate Week 1 dividends. Defensive end Shea McClellin broke free on a first-quarter spin move to rush Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who overthrew the ensuing pass. Jeffery caught three passes for 80 yards, including a 42-yard score on a post route that sealed the game in the fourth quarter. And tight end/fullback Evan Rodriguez proved a devastating blocker out of the H-back/fullback position, setting up a number of early plays. His kickout block in the first quarter set up Forte's 32-yard run down the left hashmarks. Rodriguez showed during training camp that he could be an intriguing target in the passing game, but I'm not sure if anyone realized how competent he could be as a blocker in space.
  3. Linebacker Brian Urlacher sat out the final 1 1/2 quarters to preserve his knee and cornerback Charles Tillman missed a good portion of the game because of a leg injury that isn't believed to be severe. But a number of defensive players stepped up in their absences. Cornerback Tim Jennings had two interceptions, and his leaping grab of an underthrown Luck pass reminded me of our discussion on the importance of the vertical jump for short cornerbacks. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Henry Melton recorded two sacks and had an additional tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
We noted that the Colts' outside linebacker duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis would prove a test for the Bears' recalibrated offensive line, and the early going was not encouraging. On the first drive alone, Mathis had a sack and right tackle Gabe Carimi was called for a false start. Cutler was less harried as the game went on, but it's worth asking how much of that was due to better pass protection and how much can be attributed to Freeney's ankle injury. It's a lot easier to protect against one elite pass-rusher. The jury is still out on that one.
Our Rookie Buzz series has had some hits and misses. It's lost two of the original four members to season-ending injury, but in the end, it appears that NFC North teams will be getting early-season contributions from a dozen 2012 draft picks, depending on health. Let's take a look at who the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings appear to be counting on:

Bears defensive end Shea McClellin
Likely role: Nickel pass-rusher
Comment: As we've discussed, the Bears could follow a playing-time model similar to what the San Francisco 49ers did with 2011 top pick Aldon Smith: Less than 50 percent, but hopeful of high production in small doses.

Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery
Likely role: No. 3 or No. 4 receiver
Comment: Has been productive in the preseason and is an especially big target down the seam.

Bears tight end Evan Rodriguez
Likely role: No. 3 tight end and/or H-back
Comment: Rodriguez has proved to be quick down the field and a nifty runner once he makes the catch.

Lions cornerback Bill Bentley
Likely role: Starter or nickel cornerback
Comment: Bentley's had a few roller-coaster trips on the Lions' depth chart, but if he is healthy he figures to be one of the Lions' top three cornerbacks.

Packers linebacker Nick Perry
Likely role: Starting outside linebacker
Comment: He's gotten almost every snap with the starters this summer, mostly to give him every opportunity to learn a new position. But his pass-rush skills are evident.

Packers defensive lineman Jerel Worthy
Likely role: Defensive tackle in the nickel
Comment: The Packers play their nickel defense more often than their base, which makes Worthy a quasi-starter.

Packers cornerback Casey Hayward
Likely role: No. 2, 3 or 4 cornerback
Comment: Like Bentley, he's made a few trips up and down the depth chart. But he has a chance to start soon opposite Tramon Williams.

Packers safety Jerron McMillian
Likely role: Nickel safety
Comment: McMillian is one of three players getting a chance to fill this role, competing against M.D. Jennings and Anthony Levine.

Vikings offensive lineman Matt Kalil
Likely role: Starting left tackle
Comment: This assignment has never been in doubt.

Vikings safety Harrison Smith
Likely role: Starter
Comment: He hasn't let go of a spot he earned midway through the preseason.

Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson
Likely role: No. 3 or No. 4 cornerback
Comment: Dealing with a concussion but has outplayed veteran Chris Carr to be the nickelback.

Vikings place-kicker Blair Walsh
Likely role: Starter
Comment: Has demonstrated a powerful and accurate leg this summer.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Sometimes you can get a sneak peak at roster decisions by examining player contracts. So it's reasonable to assume that Minnesota Vikings receiver Michael Jenkins -- who has struggled at times in training camp -- is more likely to make the final roster now that he has agreed to a pay cut that slashed his 2012 salary from $2.5 million to $1 million.

Jenkins agreed to the new deal last week, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com. That came after the Vikings lost rookie receiver Greg Childs (knees) for the season, and during a camp in which Jenkins has looked slow to recover from a 2011 knee injury. Of Jenkins' camp, Pelissero writes: "He moved like he had a flat tire as he has for much of camp, almost appearing to coast at a time he's in no position to do so."

At this point, the Vikings don't have a ton of options. With Jerome Simpson set to serve a three-game suspension to start the season, the Vikings have hoped Jenkins would form a receiver rotation with Percy Harvin and Devin Aromashodu. Jenkins' camp performance would put him on the bubble, but usually a veteran who accepts a training camp pay cut makes the team after the change is complete.

Continuing around the NFC North:

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