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CBA not as bad as advertised for NFLPA and players

DeMaurice Smith AP

It’s become fashionable to assume that the NFL clobbered the NFLPA during the 2011 labor negotiations.  And it’s easy to make that case persuasively.  Teams are doing well (as evidenced by the only publicly-available financial records, from the Packers), less money is being spent on rookies, less money is being spent on veterans who aren’t franchise quarterbacks or among the increasingly small slice who are overpaid early in free agency, and the salary cap is creeping up only via the periodic robbing of Peter to pay Paul.

On Sunday, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe became the most recent writer to raise the issue, complete with anonymous quotes from at least two of the more-than-a-few agents who don’t like NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and thus will seize on any opportunity to complain about him — especially if those complaints can be registered without attaching names to them.

But, as always, there are two sides.  We’ll shed light on the other side for now, with some information (not opinion) supplied by a source with direct knowledge of the agreement, from the NFLPA’s perspective.

First, any deal that was done by the NFLPA needs to be considered in light of the alternatives.  The owners were determined to crush the union in 2011, in order to offset a deal the NFL deemed to be a bad one in 2006.  The players weren’t going to win; the only question was the magnitude of the loss.

What’s that, you say?  The players could have held firm and pushed its legal challenge to the lockout while foregoing game checks during Sundays in September through December of 2011?  Sorry, but the players weren’t wired to lose any of their money two years ago in order to help future players earn more of it.  And the owners knew it.

Second, agents who complain about the CBA focus only on the salary portion of the salary cap.  Including benefits, the cap per team is roughly $150 million in 2013, with $27 million going to benefits.  Agents don’t care about benefits because they get no commission on them, “but for the players it is a lot more than a few extra thousand a month on a pension,” the source explained.

Third, the cash portion of the salary cap, while expected to “smooth” in coming years, will still increase.  By 2016, the source said it’s expected to be in the range of $140 million.  (That sentiment contradicts multiple reports regarding the expected slow growth of the cap.)

Fourth, while the rookie wage scale holds down compensation for players taken in round one, the players selected in rounds two through seven actually are doing better under the new system, according to the source.

Fifth, the players in the second half of round one will end up not very far behind what they earned under the old system, if teams exercise the year-five option for first-round deals.

Sixth, while draft picks now much wait at least three years to be eligible for second contracts, the deals undoubtedly will be better when done with only one year left until free agency as opposed to two.

Seventh, the minimum cash expenditure requirement (which for now compels teams to spend 89 percent of the unadjusted cap on a four-year rolling basis) will become more relevant as 2016 approaches, and the first four-year window becomes cemented in to place.

Eighth, after the 2013 season, high first-round picks who will become eligible for new contracts will begin to get significant new contracts.  Guys like Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith, and Colin Kaepernick (a high second-round pick in 2011) will demand — and receive — the money they didn’t get in 2011, due to the new rookie wage scale.  That will continue year after year, with the first-rounders who become star players demanding, and getting, new deals after three seasons.

Ninth, the Packers’ most recent profits are skewed by a variety of reasons, including minimal stadium investment.  “Green Bay is definitely one of the most  profitable teams, does anyone think teams such as the Raiders, Vikings, Bills, Bucs, Jaguars, Rams, Chargers, and a host of others you can think of are anywhere close?” the source said.

Besides, the Packers’ profits were skewed via the absence of the Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews extensions.  The source pointed out that Rodgers and Matthews will earn roughly $65 million in 2013, none of which shows up on the current balance sheet.  In 2012, they earned less than $11 million combined.

Tenth, and finally, the players very much wanted to obtain reductions in practice time and intensity, and they did.  While it was mentioned in Volin’s story, not enough emphasis was placed upon a term that prompted many football people to complain about the concessions made, with one front-office employee griping privately that the players all but secured the ability to have someone else play the games on their behalf.  Like the benefits portion of the salary cap, however, agents don’t give much credence to reduced practice time and intensity because the agents don’t get paid for that.

None of this means the players won the last round of CBA talks.  All things considered, they didn’t.  The owners got the better of the negotiations, five years after believing that they lost.  Unless people on both sides of the table realize that it wasn’t a blowout, it’ll be hard to avoid another work stoppage in 2021, which will be here faster than anyone realizes.

Then again, for the players to take a stand in eight years, they’ll need to have the same willingness to forego game checks that they didn’t have two years ago.  Unless they do, the owners will at least emerge with the same deal they have now, if not something better.

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Dan Snyder pays for funeral of Redskins’ super fan “Chief Zee”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Washington Redskins Getty Images

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder stepped up to cover the funeral expenses of one of the team’s biggest supporters.

According to Carol Maloney of NBC 4 in Washington D.C., Snyder was the anonymous donor that paid for the funeral of Zema Williams, a.k.a. “Chief Zee.”

Williams, who passed away earlier this month, would attend games in full Native American-style headdresses while decked out in team colors.

Snyder isn’t exactly the most revered figure in the D.C. sports scene. The Redskins have won just one playoff games since Snyder assumed ownership of the franchise in 1999. He’s meddled with personnel decisions, had eight different head coaches in 17 years and been involved in several questionable lawsuits during his ownership of the team.

However, the gesture to cover the funeral costs of one of the team’s most visible fans is a nice one to make.

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Eric Berry may skip all of training camp, preseason

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 27:  Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs enters the field at Arrowhead Stadium during pre game against the Cleveland Browns on December 27, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the Chiefs not signing safety Eric Berry to a long-term deal before July 15, the franchise-tagged player remains without a contract. Under the terms of the tender, he can show up just a few days before the start of the regular season and still get the full amount of his $10.8 million salary.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Berry may do just that, skipping most if not all of training camp and the preseason, losing no money to fines but still getting the full $10.8 million salary.

The sole risk comes from the team’s ability to rescind the tag — something Chiefs coach Andy Reid did not once but twice during his time with the Eagles. Doing so would make Berry a free agent, and he would be hard pressed to get a deal on the open market that averages $10.8 million per year.

Under prior Collective Bargaining Agreements, the franchise tag for a given position was driven by the average of the five highest cap numbers in the prior year. Under the 2011 CBA, the tag is determined by the five-year average percentage of the overall cap that the franchise tag has consumed. With the growth of the cap outpacing in recent years the growth of the market at most positions, some franchise-tagged players — like Berry — instantly become the highest paid player at his position, albeit for only one year.

If the Chiefs would remove the tender, would another team pay Berry $10.8 million for 2016, or a multi-year deal averaging that much? Probably not.

It would be an unpopular move, to be sure. Berry has become a national inspiration given his recovery from cancer and his performance last season. But with Berry due to make more than any other safety and with the prospect of Berry showing up not fully prepared for Week One while still making $10.8 million, the Chiefs have to at least consider doing what Reid previously did with linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and defensive tackle Corey Simon.

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Browns OLB Armonty Bryant pleads guilty to drug charge

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Armonty Bryant pleaded guilty on Wednesday to lesser charges stemming from an arrest last December.

According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, Bryant pleaded guilty to attempted drug possession – a first-degree misdemeanor – after being initially indicted on two charges of felony drug possession.

Bryant had pleaded not guilty to the prior two charges back in February.

Bryant has already been suspended for the first four games of the season due to violations of the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. Further discipline could be levied from the league for his guilty plea in this case. Per Ulrich, a league spokesman said the incident “will be reviewed under our policies.”

Bryant appeared in 14 games for Cleveland last season and finished the year with 5.5 sacks.

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“Bronco for life” Von Miller says everything is back to normal

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 13:  Outside linebacker Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos performs a "dab" pose as he is introduced during player introductions before a game against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 13, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the dust settled on his record-setting six-year, $114.5 million contract, Broncos linebacker Von Miller met with reporters on Wednesday in conjunction with the opening of training camp. Less than two weeks after the protracted negotiations ended, Miller provided an assessment of the situation.

“It’s back to normal,” Miller said, via comments distributed by the team. “I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go play football. I talked to John [Elway] this morning and I told him that I get to play with [receiver Demaryius Thomas] for about nine years. I get to play with [cornerback] Chris [Harris Jr.] for 9-10 years so that’s some of the stuff that I’m excited about. I’m aware of the expectations, but we have high expectations for all of us. I’m ready to get back to work and contribute to the locker room, the same stuff that I’ve been doing.”

On several occasions, Miller reiterated his sentiment from the day the contract was signed — that he’s a Bronco “for life.” But it’s really not a “for life” arrangement. Even under the interpretation of Miller’s deal from those who negotiated it, the commitment may be as little as four years. The Broncos think the minimum duration is only three years.

Miller has played five years; unless he plans to retire after only eight or nine seasons, there’s a chance he’ll eventually be playing somewhere else.

For now, though, all is well.

“Everything is great,” Miller said of his relationship with Elway, whose negotiating tactics at times privately angered Miller. “Everybody know the type of respect that I have for Mr. Elway. I was his first draft pick here. We’ve always had talks. Not only this year, but my first year, my third year, my fourth year; all of the way up until this point. I don’t expect anything to change.”

Will Miller be in shape after skipping the entire offseason program?

“I never got too far away from working out or grinding,” Miller said. “I worked the same as I would during the season or during the offseason. I just had a lot of stuff in between to do, but I feel that I’m in shape. We got a great strength and conditioning staff with Luke Richesson. I’m going to follow their lead. They got me to this point to where I am now. I feel totally confident in my ability to get back on the football field.”

Despite a contract that makes him the highest paid player on the team by far, Miller resisted the notion that he’s the face of the franchise.

“I feel like our locker room should be the face of this franchise,” Miller said. “We got a great locker room. There’s not a locker room like this in the National Football League. Talking to the guys in the locker room that have come from other teams, that’s the first thing they say, that, this locker room is ‘second-to-none’ type of camaraderie that we have in the locker room. The leadership that we have, you just don’t get in the National Football League so that will be the strength of our football team and I’m a part of that.”

Miller definitely will be part of that for at least the next three or four years. And the pressure will be on him more than any other player to chase down and secure about Lombardi Trophy or two.

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Report: No NFL interview scheduled with James Harrison

John Brown, James Harrison

The NFL has not scheduled an interview with Steelers linebacker James Harrison regarding the Al Jazeera report accusing him of using performance-enhancing drugs, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Wednesday.

Harrison had posted a letter on social media from the NFL last month that informed him an interview would take place July 28, the first day the Steelers report to training camp. But the Post-Gazette story quotes NFLPA spokesman Carl Francis as saying no interview is scheduled to take place.

Earlier this month Harrison provided a sworn affidavit in which he denied any wrongdoing and any charges brought about by the Al Jazeera report.

The NFL had said it still wanted to talk with Harrison and other players named in the report, and Harrison originally said he’d love to talk with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell — if Goodell came to Harrison’s house for the interview.

Retired quarterback Peyton Manning, one of the players named in the report, cooperated with investigators and was recently cleared of any wrongdoing.

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Boykin, Daniels sign with Bears

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback B.J. Daniels #5 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field on September 3, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears signed cornerback Brandon Boykin and wide receiver B.J. Daniels on Wednesday.

Boykin played for the Steelers last season after being traded by the Eagles. The Panthers signed Boykin in March but cut him in May. He’s since worked out for several teams and has denied that injury issues have threatened his career.

Daniels has been both a quarterback and a wide receiver in his NFL career. A seventh-round pick of the 49ers in 2013, Daniels played in eight games last year — two with the Texans and six with the Seahawks — as a backup wide receiver, gadget player and special teamer. The Texans waived him in April, and the Giants waived him in June.

The moves bring the Bears’ roster to the preseason max of 90 players.

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Pessimism swirls regarding Le’Veon Bell’s chances on appeal

Pittsburgh Steelers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Yes, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell has vowed to not miss any games after reportedly missing several drug tests. No, no one beyond a very small circle should have even known about the potential suspension until the appeal process had concluded.

Regardless, the cat has escaped from the bag — and based on information PFT has gathered there’s a strong sense Bell won’t be escaping the suspension.

Even with neutral arbitration now available in suspensions arising under the substance-abuse policy and the PED policy, none in the know believe Bell has a strong chance to win the appeal.

It’s been suggested that Bell changed phones and didn’t receive notice of the tests. If that’s his defense, it’s hard to imagine it flying. For a guy in the program, surely an obligation exists to notify all appropriate persons of a change in cell service. Otherwise, a guy could avoid testing simply by buying a new phone.

Bell’s appeal possibly will be finalized before Week One. For now, the smartest move for the Steelers will be to assume that DeAngelo Williams will once again carry the load early in the season after Bell makes his exit following the fourth preseason game.

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Jets, Fitzpatrick finally stop the madness

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27:  Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets jumps on the back of  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets during a television interview after their 26-20 overtime win against the New England Patriots  at MetLife Stadium on December 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

At times, the drama reminded me of George Costanza’s house in the Hamptons. He knew it was fake. The parents of his dead fiancée knew it was fake. He knew they knew it was fake. They knew he knew it was fake. But they continued the ruse as George drove two hours toward the place with two solariums and horses named Snoopy and Prickly Pete because neither side was willing to say what both knew each other knew.

The Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finally realized that, even in the absence of a hard deadline to get a deal done, the practical deadline had arrived. If Fitzpatrick was going to start for the team in 2016, he needed to be ready. With Fitzpatrick already missing the offseason program, the two sides needed to do what they could have done weeks ago — compromise toward a deal.

The Jets definitely compromised. They were willing to pay Fitzpatrick $12 million in 2016, but as part of a three-year deal with lower salaries on the back end and a much lower cap number in 2016. Instead, the Jets are paying $12 million, carrying the full amount on the cap (unless there’s a phony second or third year that automatically voids, which is entirely possible), including incentives that could bump the value to $15 million, and not retaining the ability to keep him around beyond this season.

Fitzpatrick compromised, too, perhaps realizing that his market value as to the other 31 teams was a lot lower than what the Jets were willing to pay him. So even if he had much more value to the Jets than to any other team, his options were to take the money from the Jets or to sit.

In the end, the Jets needed Fitzpatrick and Fitzpatrick needed the Jets and with camp opening they needed to get it done to part ways. They finally got it done.

Maybe it was my “pinch-or-get-off-the-pot” line that did it. Probably not, but as I’ve learned during the current political season that doesn’t prevent me from believing it did.

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Jets sign Ryan Fitzpatrick to one-year, $12 million deal

Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

The Jets and their starting quarterback finally have a deal.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has signed a one-year, $12 million deal to return to the Jets for the 2016 season, according to multiple reports.

This ends a long negotiation that spanned the entire offseason and got contentious at times, with Fitzpatrick seemingly upset that the Jets weren’t willing to give him the kind of money that quarterbacks who had lesser seasons last year — like Brock Osweiler and Sam Bradford — received.

In the end, however, they’ve come to an agreement that will bring Fitzpatrick back, and put back together a passing game that was surprisingly effective in 2016. The Jets think they can compete for a playoff spot this season, and now they have their leader.

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Saints GM: “No progress” on talks with Brees

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks to pass during the third quarter of a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Saints arrived in West Virginia for training camp Wednesday, general manager Mickey Loomis told reporters that the sides “have not made any progress” an a potential contract extension for veteran quarterback Drew Brees.

Though Loomis going on the record with that means it’s news, it’s no surprise to those who have followed the story. Brees recently said he hasn’t heard from the team regarding a possible extension in three months.

Considering Brees set a deadline of the start of the regular season for cutting off talks, this thing could get sticky.

Loomis said he doesn’t think the situation will become a distraction for the team, and Brees has been a good soldier. But the Saints have been hurting for salary-cap space, and getting a deal done earlier could have lessened the $30 million cap number Brees is carrying and helped the team in areas besides goodwill with its most important player.

Because Brees has already been given the franchise tag twice in his career, the Saints would have to guarantee him a 44 percent raise to franchise him next year, which would mean a franchise tag of $43.2 million. That’s not going to happen, so the Saints have to get a deal done in the next five weeks or risk losing Brees next March.

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Shark bites Warren Sapp (then presumably spits and gargles)

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 25:  The teeth and jaw of a Great White Shark are displayed after research into the biological mechanics of the predator July 25, 2007 in Sydney, Australia. Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) including Dan Huber from the the University of Tampa, Florida in the USA, plan to remove muscles from the head of several sharks in order to create a digital shark, to help determine it's bio mechanics and potential "bite force".  (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images) Getty Images

Warren Sapp is now even for biting his ex-girlfriend.

According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle was bitten by a shark Wednesday.

Sapp was lobstering on a charter boat off the Florida Keys, when the shark reached out and did what Timmy Jernigan, his creditors and a pair of Phoenix prostitutes would probably like to do.

“It’s simple,” charter captain Jack Carlson said via text. “He was lobstering with me and a shark bit Sapp while he was grabbing the lobster. He’s OK.”

Carlson posted a photo of the bite on Instagram, writing: “Warren Sapp attacked by a shark while lobstering. #epicbattle. . . .

“The shark wanted the lobster just as bad as Sapp. Sapp got the lobster and the Shark got his lick in too.”

Sapp apparently hung up when Auman tried to ask about the incident.

The shark was unavailable for comment, though he’s probably considering going vegan.

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Ravens add a wide receiver, linebacker

Cedric Benson,  Kavell Conner AP

The Ravens handled some pre-camp business as players reported for training camp Wednesday, and in the process they signed wide receiver Dobson Collins and linebacker Kavell Conner.

Collins, 29, has played the last five years in the Canadian Football League. He previously spent time with the 49ers and Eagles.

The Ravens had previously announced that wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Breshad Perriman would start camp on the physically unable to perform list, and Mike Wallace did not pass his conditioning test Wednesday, so Collins should be in line for reps at the start of camp.

Conner, also 29, played the last two seasons with the Chargers and previously played four seasons with the Colts. He’s played in 78 career games, starting 46, and has three career fumble recoveries and two sacks.

Conner was a seventh-round pick of the Colts in 2010.

Their signings put the team’s roster at the preseason max of 90 players.

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Joe Flacco will wear knee brace, may not play much in preseason

Joe Flacco AP

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s recovery from last year’s torn ACL and MCL has gone well enough that Flacco avoided the PUP list to start training camp and all indications from the offseason are that he’s right on track for a return to the lineup in Week One.

It’s less clear whether he’ll be doing much in the team’s preseason games. Flacco met the media on Wednesday and said his focus is on the team’s September 11 opener against the Bills rather than on getting his feet wet during the exhibition season.

“The goal is to make sure I’m as healthy as possible, regular season, Game 1,” Flacco said. “I’m not ridiculously worried about playing a ton in the preseason.”

One plus to preseason action would be a chance to see how he responds to taking hits as that’s not something that will happen during Ravens practices this summer. The flip side of that is the risk of what taking the wrong hit could do to his health, so the Ravens will have to balance both before making a call. Whether his next game action comes in August or in the regular season, Flacco will take the field wearing a brace on his left knee.

“If it helps a little bit, that’s huge,” Flacco said. “I’m not going to leave it up to risk and then have something happen and say, ‘What if?’ I’m going to wear it. There’s no reason not to.”

Flacco said his knee has felt “really good” in the workouts he’s done with rookies and injured veterans over the last few days. Whatever he needs to do in regards to braces and preseason playing time to keep it that way will likely be just fine with the Ravens.

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Saints sign Hakeem Nicks

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 03:   Hakeem Nicks #88 of the New York Giants is tackled by  Chris Maragos #42 of the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on January 3, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Giants 35-30.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Hakeem Nicks is heading to New Orleans.

The veteran receiver is signing with the Saints, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports. Nicks worked out for the Saints in May, but there’s been little talk about him since then.

New Orleans has a very young and inexperienced receiving corps, so Nicks may provide some veteran leadership. But it’s fair to wonder whether the 28-year-old has much left: Last year he managed just seven catches for 54 yards in six games.

Overall, Nicks has played seven NFL seasons and caught 356 passes for 5,081 yards and 31 touchdowns.

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Mike Wallace didn’t pass Ravens conditioning test

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 25: Mike Wallace #11 of the Minnesota Vikings looks down field after a play during an NFL game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 25, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. The Vikings defeated the Lions 28-19. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens haven’t officially signed tackle Jake Long yet because he wasn’t able to pass a physical and he’s not the only member of the team whose fitness was found to be lacking as the team gets set for training camp.

The team announced Wednesday that wide receiver Mike Wallace, who signed with the team as a free agent following his departure from the Vikings, failed to pass his conditioning test. Wallace will need to pass that test before he’ll be permitted to practice with the team.

There doesn’t appear to be a major issue keeping Wallace from passing the test. The Ravens’ tweet announcing his failure said that they expect him to pass it in the next few days and coach John Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun, that Wallace passed five of the six benchmarks required by the team.

It’s not the best first step, but it should be forgotten fairly soon if Wallace is on the field soon and making plays down the field once games start.

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