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John Harbaugh still thinks Steve Smith has something left

Steve Smith, Prince Amukamara AP

After 13 seasons with the Carolina Panthers, wide receiver Steve Smith will be putting on a different uniform for the first time in his career this fall.

Smith signed with the Baltimore Ravens earlier this month after being released by the Panthers.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera believes that after 13 years in the NFL, Smith is beginning to slow down and doesn’t have the top-end speed that used to set him apart. However, Baltimore head coach John Harabugh still has plenty left to help the Ravens this fall.

“He’s a competitive guy. He’s very successful. He’s one of the great receivers in the history of the game,” Harbaugh said in an interview with PFT from the owner’s meetings in Orlando, Fla. “You know, I think that Steve’s fully capable of being his best with the Ravens and that’s what he plans on doing, that’s our expectations I’m excited about it.”

For a smaller receiver, Smith has been remarkably durable over his career. Smith has played in at least 14 games in 12 of his 13 seasons with the Panthers. Last season, Smith caught 64 passes for 745 yards and four touchdowns as Carolina returned to the postseason for the first time since 2008.

With the Ravens, Smith expects to be a “complementary dude” in Baltimore’s offense.

“His role is going to be to help us score points, move the chains,” Harbaugh said. “You know, he’s unique, this whole thing about 3rd receiver, 2nd receiver, slot receiver, outside receiver he almost kind of debunks all of that. We’re going to try to put him in position to do the things he does well but he does a lot of things well.”

Being able to be a secondary option instead of the go-to guy could be the perfect fit for Smith at this stage in his career. Smith has frequently had to be the primary weapon for the Panthers’ passing game, which has lacked fellow play makers alongside Smith.

“He’s going to bring something to that wide receiver room, a little bit of experience,” Harbaugh said. “…The competitive fire, how to meet competitively, how to practice competitively. He’s going to help those guys.”

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Jaguars list Julius Thomas as questionable for Sunday

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks to elude Morgan Burnett #42 of the Green Bay Packers during their game at EverBank Field on September 11, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars are set to get a couple of players back in the lineup after they missed last Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, but it won’t be until Sunday morning that we know if tight end Julius Thomas will be ready to go against the Colts.

Thomas, who has 11 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown, was listed as questionable on the team’s injury report for Sunday’s game. He was a limited participant in Friday’s practice after missing the first two days due to an elbow injury.

Linebacker Dan Skuta is also questionable due to a hip injury. Defensive end Jared Odrick will miss another week with a tricep injury and tight end Ben Koyack has been ruled out with a knee issue.

Cornerback Prince Amukamara is set to play for the first time since the season opener as his hamstring injury cleared up enough for two full practices to close out the week. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum is also good to go after missing last week with a concussion suffered against the Chargers in Week Two.

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Bill O’Brien takes over playcalling in Houston

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 14:  Head Coach Bill O'Brien of the Houston Texans looks on during pregame warm ups prior to playing the San Francisco 49ers in a preseason game at Levi's Stadium on August 14, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The J.J. Watt injury diminishes the Houston defense, which puts more pressure on the offense. In response to that pressure, coach Bill O’Brien is rolling up his sleeves even farther.

Via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, O’Brien will assume responsibility for playcalling, from offensive coordinator George Godsey.

O’Brien called plays in 2014. Last year, however, O’Brien delegated the responsibility to Godsey. A slow start to the 2016 season, punctuated by a shutout last Thursday night against the Patriots, has prompted O’Brien to add the task to his existing responsibilities.

The move may be regarded by some as desperation. Regardless, O’Brien is doing what he believes he needs to do to turn around a team that has high expectations for 2016 — and that will be expected to perform well even without Watt.

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Colts rule Donte Moncrief and Darius Butler out for Jaguars game

Roy Helu, Donte Moncrief AP

The Colts are gradually getting healthier, but considering where they started from, it’s going to take some time.

Via Mike Chappell of FOX 59, Colts coach Chuck Pagano said that cornerback Darius Butler (hamstring) and wide receiver Donte Moncrief (shoulder) were out for this week’s game against the Jaguars in London, along with center Jonotthan Harrison (illness).

He wasn’t ready to make a declaration about offensive linemen Joe Reitz and Denzelle Good, saying there was still time to decide whether they’d be able to play.

The Colts have been playing with a patchwork secondary and offensive line all season, and could be in a position to activate four rookie offensive linemen this week.

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Sean Payton suggests Terron Armstead injury not a long-term one

Terron Armstead, Brett Ingalls AP

Saints coach Sean Payton doesn’t say much about injured players, but what he said about a healthy one gives some indication of how long a key absence might be.

Via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Payton was asked if playing Andrus Peat at left tackle was related to a long-term injury for Armstead, and the coach “quickly said no multiple times.”

Asked for a timeline on Armstead’s return, Payton said: “I’ll keep you posted.”

Armstead missed the Week Three game against the Falcons with a knee injury, and hasn’t practiced this week. He’s been dealing with quad and knee problems since before training camp.

But Payton made it clear the long-term plan was to play Peat next to Armstead when he returns.

“When Terron comes back, he’s back at left guard,” Payton said of Peat during a conference call.

The 2015 first-round pick started the first two games at left guard, after they experimented with him at right guard during OTAs. But he’s more comfortable on the left so they moved him back to the left during the preseason.

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Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Robert Kraft buy a part of the UFC

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 02:  New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (L) and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Kraft Group and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sits ringside at "Mayweather VS Pacquiao" presented by SHOWTIME PPV And HBO PPV at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for SHOWTIME) Getty Images

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft are now minority owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The talent agency WME-IMG recently purchased the UFC for $4 billion, and today the UFC announced that as part of that purchase, a number of athletes, entertainers and businessmen have bought small stakes in the mixed martial arts promotion.

“Our new investors bring an incredible depth of knowledge and experience to help us continue to elevate this brand and capitalize on its entertainment and sports crossover appeal,” UFC President Dana White said in a statement.

In addition to Newton, Brady and Kraft, minority owners of the UFC include actors Sylvester Stallone, Ben Affleck and Mark Wahlberg, late-night hosts Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel and tennis players Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

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Receivers get some time at safety during Giants practice

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 11:  Dwayne Harris #17 of the New York Giants carries the ball during the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Nat Berhe appeared on the Giants injury report with a concussion on Thursday, leaving the team with two healthy safeties for practice.

Berhe and Darian Thompson, who has a foot injury, may both be out for Monday’s game against the Vikings and the team was also working without cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, forcing them to do a little improvising. Wide receivers Dwayne Harris, Geremy Davis and Darius Powe all saw scout team time at safety and Harris said the coaches have told him that he might get time there in Monday’s game as well.

“They mentioned to me, ‘We might possibly need you on defense.’ But they haven’t really said anything to me like it’s set in stone right now,” Harris said. “So I don’t know what way they’re going, what they’re going to do about it. As far as right now, I’m just keeping an open mind with it. If they need me, they need me. If not, I’ll continue what I’ve been doing. … I’m pretty sure I could do it. I’m pretty sure it’s not that hard — tackle somebody and if the ball comes to you, intercept it. Sounds easy.”

Harris said he last played defense for four snaps in middle school, so it may be a bit more difficult than that. For now, Landon Collins and Andrew Adams are the safeties, although there might be one other offensive option.

Odell Beckham has more recent experience playing safety as he got some snaps at the position during last February’s Pro Bowl, although opinions will vary about whether or not that amounts to more than a middle school level of intensity. Coach Ben McAdoo said, via the New York Post, “never say never” when asked if Beckham could be out there again.

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Brock Osweiler: Criticism of play is “hilarious”

Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) passes against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) AP

Quarterback Brock Osweiler has started his Texans career with three touchdown passes and four interceptions in his first three games, which isn’t quite the ratio that people in Houston were hoping to see from their big-ticket free agent acquisition.

That’s led some to criticize Osweiler’s ability to read defenses and make the right choices in the face of defensive pressure, but Osweiler said he isn’t losing any sleep about those opinions.

“I think that’s hilarious, to be honest with you,” Osweiler said, via the Houston Chronicle. “The critique comes from a whole lot of people that don’t know my read on that play. They’ve probably never actually sat in an offensive meeting in their life, let alone a quarterback meeting in the National Football League. … I’m very comfortable with my reads. Certainly, I know I need to clean up my ball security issues of having four interceptions through three games, and that’s something I will clean up.”

Osweiler added that he feels he’s doing a “great job” of progressing in Bill O’Brien’s offense and it hardly seems like a controversial opinion to suggest that things will run more smoothly the longer he’s been in the system. A good start to that process would be cleaning up the mistakes from last week’s 27-0 loss to the Patriots at home against the Titans this week.

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Julio Jones insists he’s not hurt, or unhappy with one-catch game

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) runs past Oakland Raiders cornerback Sean Smith (21) to score on a touchdown reception during the first half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif. After the All-Pro shared the NFL lead with 136 catches in 2015, it’s notable when he had only one reception last week against the Saints. His quiet day came after he was limited all week by a calf injury. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File) AP

Julio Jones missed some practice time last week because of a calf injury, and then responded with an unusual one-catch night against the Saints.

But the Falcons wide receiver insisted those two facts weren’t related.

I’m not injured or anything like that,” Jones said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He was targeted seven times against the Saints, but only had one catch for 16 yards. But he said he was fine with that, because it meant other people were open as the Falcons rolled to a 45-32 win.

“That’s my job,” Jones said. “[Defensive] coordinators are going to try to take me away or they are going to put two guys on me or three guys depending on who we are playing. So, I’m doing my job. That’s all that I can do and we are winning.

“As long as we are winning football games and they are doing that, I’m happy with it and playing my role.”

That’s all well and good, but the Falcons are going to need Jones to be more than a decoy this week, as the level of competition increases dramatically with the Panthers and bringing an actual NFL defense with them.

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Friday morning one-liners

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Head coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field on September 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

LB Zach Brown finds himself in the starting role he hoped to have when he signed with the Bills.

Are the Dolphins playing for now or evaluating players for future teams?

CB Logan Ryan’s importance to the Patriots has grown over time.

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is “thankful” that the Jets picked him up.

The Ravens may need a new left side of the offensive line this week.

A lack of touchdowns was the only negative for the Bengals on Thursday night.

Browns K Cody Parkey is confident he’ll rebound from last week.

Some new faces will have a chance in the Steelers defense.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien is looking for improvement on special teams.

Living in London as a kid had an impact on Colts QB Andrew Luck.

Jaguars RB Chris Ivory has played well in past games in London.

What would Kendall Wright’s return mean for the Titans wide receivers?

Michael Schofield has been a jack of all trades for the Broncos offensive line.

The Chiefs were missing a pair of cornerbacks at Thursday’s practice.

Will the Raiders defense turn in another good performance this week?

Chargers T Chris Hairston is trying not to let anger get the best of him on the field.

It’s unclear if the Cowboys will have T Tyron Smith in the lineup this week.

Is Ereck Flowers the long-term answer at left tackle for the Giants?

With the Eagles 3-0 in Doug Pederson’s first year as coach, here’s a look at other coaches who have won their first three games.

Illness kept CB Josh Norman out of Thursday’s Redskins practice.

Young members of the Bears defense know more progress is needed.

The Lions are on the other side of the field from RB Joique Bell this week.

P Jacob Schum is settling into life with the Packers.

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph has become a favorite target of QB Sam Bradford.

The Falcons have some injury issues at running back.

Panthers LB Thomas Davis won’t miss the Georgia Dome.

The Saints don’t think T Terron Armstead will be sidelined for a long time.

The Buccaneers are preparing for the Broncos pass rush.

WR Michael Floyd hasn’t picked up where he left off for the Cardinals.

Rams DE Robert Quinn looks like he’s back on form.

Carlos Hyde will be one of two Ohio State running backs on stage when the 49ers play the Cowboys.

RB C.J. Spiller went through his first practice with the Seahawks.

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Vontaze Burfict: I think I did alright in return

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 29:  Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals calls a defensive play during the first quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium on September 29, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said before Thursday’s win over the Dolphins that linebacker Vontze Burfict “raises the level” of the team’s defense as part of a discussion of Burfict being thrown back into the lineup at the end of his three-game suspension.

Thursday night was a very good one for the Bengals defense, which turned around from a shaky outing against the Broncos to shut down the Dolphins outside of one play on the first drive of the game. Burfict can’t take sole credit for that turnaround, but the upgrade in play speaks well of his impact even if Burfict had a modest review of his efforts.

“Football shape is different, but I think I did alright,” Burfict said, via the team’s website. “I felt I could have done more, but the coaches had a plan for me and switched me in and out with Vinny [Rey] and Karlos [Dansby] and they did a good job of that. At the end of the game, I started to feel my wind catching up, but every game I’ll feel like I’ll get better and better and get my legs up under me.”

Burfict had three tackles and knocked away a pass intended for Jarvis Landry, but the most important stat is the zero flags thrown against him during the game. Burfict is a big plus for the Bengals defense when he’s on the field and he needs to continue to avoid the personal foul penalties that kept him from being there to open the season.

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Russell Wilson: “No doubt” he plays against Jets

FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, file photo,Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson walks off the field after being brought down against the San Francisco 49ers in the second half of an NFL football game Seattle. Despite spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee last Sunday against San Francisco, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is expected to start against the New York Jets. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) AP

Some may wonder whether back to back ankle and knee injuries might be enough to keep him off the field, but Russell Wilson does not.

“No doubt,” the Seahawks quarterback told reporters on Thursday. “No doubt.”

He’s been listed as a full participant in practice the last two days, and is wearing a brace on his left knee (in which he suffered some degree of MCL sprain last week). But Wilson said prior to yesterday’s practice he wasn’t limited in any way.

“I feel great,” he said. “I feel great, feel strong. Obviously practiced yesterday, practiced the full practice and everything like that. I’m excited about this week.”

Last week was the first time he’s missed so much as a snap because of injury, so it’s normal for him to want to push through. It will remain interesting to see how effective he can be, because when his mobility is compromised, it takes away a large chunk of the Seahawks offense (as in their touchdown-less loss to the Rams).

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Darrelle Revis “not going there” on Richard Sherman questions

LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 19:  Cornerback Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets celebrates his 1st half interception against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on August 19, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. The Redskins defeated the Jets 22-18.  (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images) Getty Images

Several years ago, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman took aim at Darrelle Revis in an attempt to make the case that he was the best cornerback in the league.

Revis wasn’t a big fan of that approach, saying Sherman ran his mouth like a girl and the two continued to snipe back and forth through the Super Bowl between the Seahawks and Patriots. Sherman had a laugh at Revis’ expense in that game, but Revis got the last one and a Super Bowl ring.

Revis is back with the Jets now, which means that he and Sherman will be on the same field for a game for the first time since that Super Bowl. Revis isn’t interested in rehashing the past issues between the two players, passing on several questions about Sherman on Thursday while saying he was willing to talk about the Seahawks he’ll be facing off against on Sunday.

“No opinion,” Revis said, via ESPN.com. “We’re not going there. We’re not going there. Seahawks’ offense.”

Revis’ play has been well scrutinized already this season without any commentary from or comparison to Sherman and the reviews haven’t been good, which doesn’t make getting into a slap fight about who’s better seem like too good an idea. Perhaps the feeling will be different if Revis’ side comes away victorious in his second “must-win” game against a team with Sherman in the lineup.

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Panthers will be without running back Jonathan Stewart again this week

FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2016, file photo, Carolina Panthers' Jonathan Stewart (28) warms up before an NFL preseason football game against the New England Patriots in Charlotte, N.C. The Vikings and Panthers will be counting on their backup running backs when they meet Sunday in Charlotte. Both teams lost their “featured backs” last week to injury, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus, while Stewart is dealing with a pulled hamstring.  (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File) AP

The Panthers are going to be without running back Jonathan Stewart for at least another week, as his hamstring injury keeps him off the field.

Via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said yesterday that it’s clear Stewart won’t play this week against the Falcons, which will mean another week of Cameron Artis-Payne starting and Fozzy Whittaker in relief.

They were able to survive that two weeks ago against the 49ers when Whittaker ran for 100 yards after Stewart was hurt (Artis-Payne was inactive that day). It was less effective last week against the Vikings.

When the Panthers offense is working correctly, they can use Stewart as someone to A) keep Cam Newton from having to run it so much himself and B) provide a rhythm to their offense which helps set up their deep passing game. Without Stewart, it’s harder for those slow-developing routes to come open, and Newton often takes more shots (as he did against the Vikings, who had eight sacks).

 

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Anthony Davis owes 49ers $1.235 million this year, $1.5 million next year

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

49ers offensive lineman Anthony Davis left the team over the weekend, without officially retiring. The designation won’t matter; he’ll owe the team the balance of the signing bonus money that he previously received in anticipation of future services.

Specifically, Davis owes $1.235 million for 2016. That figure represents 14/17ths of his allocation for the current year, since Davis was on the team for three weeks of the regular season.

The good news (is there is any) Davis earned $216,176 of his $1.225 million base salary for 2016, which originally was his base salary for 2015.

If he remains retired, he’ll owe the team another $1.5 million in 2017. That’s in addition to, per a source with knowledge of the situation, $1.667 million Davis repaid when he originally retired in 2015.

Unless Davis returns to the team and properly retires, he’ll be unable to play for the 49ers or anyone else in 2016. He has been placed on the exempt/left squad list, the team has sent Davis the so-called five-day letter, and upon the expiration of the five days he’ll be placed on the reserve/left squad list, which shuts the player down for the year.

That’s apparently fine with Davis, who as one source explained it simply isn’t inclined to endure the day-to-day demands of football season. It’s actually honorable that he walked away under circumstances that will force him to pay another $2.735 million on top of the $1.667 million he returned a year ago.

In 2015, Davis could have half-assed it and gotten cut, which would have allowed him for keep more than $4.4 million. In 2016, he could have milked the concussion that kept him out of two games, possibly resulting in placement on season-ending IR. Alternatively, Davis could have embraced his role as a backup, done the bare minimum, collected his full $1.225 million salary, and not paid back another dime.

Instead, he’s gone again. Once he lands on the reserve/left squad list, Davis won’t be permitted to play for the 49ers or anyone else this year. He could be traded to another team in 2017, but if he’s not inclined to play pro football in San Francisco it’s hard to imagine him ever mustering the will to play again.

It’s clear that Davis truly has no interest in continuing to play professional football. Unlike others who have walked away, Davis willingly will give back over $4 million for his freedom from the sport.

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Odell Beckham unconcerned by suggestions to tone it down

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) talks to officials before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) AP

Usually, when your head coach makes a direct suggestion, it’s wise to acknowledge it respectfully, at least.

But Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said he plans to make no changes to his demeanor after his latest outburst, even though Giants coach Ben McAdoo said he should work to keep his emotions in check.

“Nah, I’m not really … I’m in a great place right now,” Beckham said, via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. “Mentally, physically, spiritually, there is not really much that bothers me at all, to be honest. So I’m going to go out and play football the only way I’ve ever known how to play, try my best to be the best teammate you possibly can.

“At the end of the day, you play for the guys that wear the jersey. They’re the ones who take the field with you, who you share the blood, sweat and tears with. I’m just going to go out and be who I am.”

He was then asked if he was concerned he could be a distraction, as his boss said, Beckham blew that off.

“He said, she said,” Beckham replied. “I’m not really concerned about anything but the Minnesota Vikings.”

McAdoo seemed concerned about his team and its star player, after Beckham’s sideline freakout during last week’s loss to Washington, which included losing by TKO in a fight with the kicking net. And while veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie urged Beckham to “never lose that fire,” he also suggested there was a time and place for it.

“But on the sideline there are a bunch of guys and they’re already down and, if a guy looks at you the way we look at you as a leader, keep it in control until we get to the locker room,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “Throw your helmet all across the locker room so nobody can see. That’s fine. In an atmosphere like [the sideline during a game], keep your cool.”

Beckham seems unconcerned with the advice, so here’s some more for him: Don’t pick fights with equipment that might fight back.

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