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WP: LaCanfora chat (10-28-05)


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Jason La Canfora: Hello everyone. Hope all is well. Dare I say it has been a controversy-free week at the Park? First one since I've been on this beat, and a welcome relief. No diatribes at the Monday press conference. LaVargate is fading. Team is winning. Fun stuff.

Okay, let's have at it ...


Richmond, Va.: Now that Arrington is back, does that put to rest the rumors about the Skins trading or cutting him in the offseason?

Also, can you confirm what some cap genius posted on the internet? He says Arrington really costs $7m against the cap next year, but $12.5m if he's traded and $5m if he's released. Is that right?

Jason La Canfora: I would still be shocked if LaVar is here next season. You don't give a $6.5 million roster bonus to a reserve player. As for the cap hit, it is essentially around $12 million. If there is a en extension to the CBA, then it could be spread out over two season post June-1, but that is not a certainty. If he is traded, the $12-million figure is immediately thrust on the Skins for 2006.


Allentown, Pa.: I notice the media is much more Redskins-friendly now that they're winning. I bet if they were 2-4 instead of 4-2, we'd see more of the nasty little articles we've gotten used to over the past few years.

Are sportswriters just bandwagon fans, jumping on and off with wins and losses?

Jason La Canfora: Interesting. I always find this kind of logic amusing. Do you think that maybe there is less sniping, back-biting and controversy being written because it is not going on? For the first time in, oh, say at least 6 years the team is not underachieving.

Trust me, it is much easier to cover a team when it is winning, everyone is in a good move, the roster is relative stable, no offseason coaching switches to monitor, no players ripping the team, no owners threatening to send plasmas to players, no wild forays into free agency, etc.

It has nothing to do with being a "fan," or any bandwagon.

I have covered various teams in various sports, and there is nothing more challenging than when a high-priced team flops, because turmoil is constant.

Hope that makes sense.


Charlotte, N.C.: Hi Jason-

Can you talk about John Hall's contract status after this season? With all the injuries this guy has had, he's become very unreliable. I wouldn't be too upset to see him go and for the team to sign Novak or somebody else who can stay healthy. Just wondering what kind of cap hit they would take by cutting Hall.

Looking into the future again, do the Skins have a first round pick this year, or did they trade that to get Jason Campbell? Either way, do you think they'll finally draft one or several defensive lineman in the first couple rounds? You could say this about a few positions, but they haven't added an impact player on the d-line through the draft in a REALLY long time. It'd be nice to have a little pass rush from somebody other than a linebacker or corner every once in a while. Thanks - love the chats.

Jason La Canfora: I think much depends on how Hall kicks down the stretch here, but I could see the Skins in the market for three proven vets at all three specialist spots in 2006 - kicker, punter and return guy.

Skins traded the 2006 first rounder in the Campbell deal, but stay tuned. They could always package a few more picks to get back in the first round, and that would not surprise me in the least.


Upper marlboro, Md.: Jason - Is it me, or do you notice you never get the feeling that we are going to break a punt return or kickoff return for a TD???? A. Brown, before he was cut, seemed like a legitimate "take it to the house" returner, and before him Eric McCalf. James Thrash and/or Rock Cartwright does not strike fear into anyone. Could you please explain to me, or better yet, use one of your "inside connections" to find out why they do not at least "try" Taylor Jacobs (because of his "supposed" 4.3 speed) to break one??? By the way, here's to LaVar's Return!!!! Calmer heads finally prevailed........!!!!

Jason La Canfora: I think you may see Jacobs get a shot or two. They have the game-breaker in Moss, but to me he is simply too valuable at this point to expose back there. To piggyback off my last answer, I see them addressing this in the offseason.

Thrash and Rock are solid, but you're right, they're not going to go Dante Hall on anybody.

Brown had bad hands, and that was his downfall. The rest of the package was there, but these coaches will not tolerate special teams turnovers, and rightfully so.


Shaw: Great coverage Jason, Tell me why this game to me seems like a "no brainer." Skins Offense and Defense really show they are capable of playing well as evident in all games, minus some turnovers and opposing big plays. The Giants have NO defense that is threat and their Offense is run by a "good" second year QB...If the D can get in the face of Eli early on, do you think that will throw off his concentration, forcing him to make the mistakes expected out a second year QB throughout the game. Or do you feel that Eli is that far along in his skills, not lose his concentration against a D like ours. I feel we should be able to really dominate against this NY team. Thanks again J.

Jason La Canfora: Thanks Shaw.

Can't say I see anyone "dominating" this game. Giants D has been bad, but I think they will be highly motivated between the division game, being at home, playing a rival, having Antonio Pierce keyed up for the game of his life and the memory of their recently deceased owner in their minds.

I see this game being decided by a field goal, given all of the intangibles involved.


Washington, D.C.: Won't it be possible to extend LaVar's contract again to reduce the cap hit? If he continues to play like he did last week and proves that his knees are healed, why wouldn't we want to keep him? Don't we hemorrhage enough homegrown players already (Champ, Smoot, Pierce, Stephen Alexander, Stephen Davis, etc. etc. etc.)? It would be nice to keep a player we've drafted and who is productive for once.

Jason La Canfora: They could convert the roster bonus to a signing bonus and pro-rate it out, saving some in 2006 but that adds more guaranteed money and ensures he is on the roster in 2006. I think the team is heading towards moving on, and I know LaVar, at 27, still feels like he can start and play every down in this league.

Again, we'll see how the next 10 weeks play out, but I do not see this being a long-term marriage anymore, given all that has gone down the last 2 years.


Piedmont, S.C.: How much of an advantage will the Giants have in both pre-game planning and on the field decision making now that they have Antonio Pierce and Tim Hasselback.

Jason La Canfora: To hear coach Gibbs tell it, it's a massive advantage.

They will certainly be clued in to some tendencies, but I think the offense has changed significantly from last season and the defensive coaches thrive at altering the game plan significantly each week, so I don't see it being a huge deal.


Arlington, Va.: Jason - I just read that at Giants stadium when the visiting team is kicking a field goal that there are doors on the lower part of the stadium that are opened and thus wind gusts are allowed to come in and affect the kick. But when the Giants are kicking the doors are closed and thus giving the Giants a unfair advantage. To me this seems like cheating and the NFL should step in and stop this - why hasn't the league stepped and and done something to prevent this unfair advantage? Haven't opposing teams complained to the NFL officials?

Jason La Canfora: Where did you read that? I'd like to track down the dude who wrote that ...

From talking to some players, it seems like they are resolved to it being a bit of accepted gamesmanship.

Kind of like when the Patriots brought out the snowblower for a game-winning field goal years ago, or what some baseball teams do with he grounds crew to play to their team's strengths.

I don't see it changing, but I'll tell you this - I'll definitely have the binoculars focused on that should the Skins line up for a big field goal Sunday.


Los Angeles, Calif.: Two quick questions:

One, what is the Redskins' chain of command on offensive play calling these days?

Two, regardless of whether or not we make the playoffs this year, isn't it safe to say that all those who thought the game had passed Joe Gibbs by were dead wrong? The offensive turnaround has been spectacular this year, and those who said the man knew nothing about evaluating personnel -- whether the issue was Brunnell vs. Ramsey, Moss vs. Coles or Rogers vs. Smoot -- have a lot of crow to eat.

And thanks for participating in these excellent chats.

Jason La Canfora: Thank you for participating as well. Without good questions this is pretty futile.

There are some coaches stationed in the press box who call down thoughts - Jack Burns chief among them - but Gibbs has final authority over the offense.

As to your other point, this amazing turnaround has ended all of that talk. Brunell said most of the players are shocked that the O has been this good this soon, and I don't think anyone would have thought they would be ranked 2nd in the NFL after 6 games.

The eye for personnel, something Gibbs did not have to monitor as closely in the past when he was not team president and head hancho as well, has really been telling.

Moss and Rabach have been huge, huge additions. Really key to everything on offense. A lot of execs thought the Moss decision would backfire, but it has been genius so far.


New York, N.Y.: Jason, clearly you haven't been around the NFC East long enough. That story about the doors at the Meadowlands has been around since the 80s, and Ethan Albright mentioned it again this week.

Jason La Canfora: Dude, I was being sarcastic a few answers. I asked Ethan and John Hall and others about it and wrote about it in today's paper.


New York, N.Y.: Sorry Jason, we're not buying that line about your love of a controversy free football team. A boring 8-8 team that doesn't make any roster moves or have anything going on off the field leaves you nothing to write about. The sports media, just like the general news media, thrives on tabloid journalism.

Jason La Canfora: Guess we'll have to agree to disagree. Let me guess, you subscribe to the NY Post. I know you've got a Page Six jones, I can just tell.

I didn't say I want boring - and these games have been anything but boring - but if you think I get off spending entire weekends on the phone with law enforcement people in Miami, or having to make 9,000 calls to Drew Rosenhaus because his client won't return the coach's calls, or keeping up with a team chasing seemingly every free agent on the planet, rather than covering a team with a sense of normalcy and playing with my baby daughter a little more, you've got me all wrong.

Stop reading the back page.


washingtonpost.com: Ill Winds Blow For Kickers in Giants Stadium (Post, Oct. 28)


The Next Stretch: Jason,

These next ten games are paramount for the Washington Football Club. We play some really tough running backs out of the next 7-10 games. Excluding the Eagles (2 games) who can't run to save their lives and the Cardinals. The cowboys would fall into the tough running back teams if Julius Jones comes back.

My concern has been this teams susceptibility to giving up the big play and the fact our run defense is slipping a bit. Since the Dallas game we have given up 11 tds and 5 have been on big plays.

What are your thoughts on this issue as we encounter games some pretty good offensive teams in the upcoming months.

Jason La Canfora: I think they have already faced the best runners and O lines they will get. Barber always seems to rise to the occasion against them, and LT will be tough when SD comes to town, but to me, the 3 in a row against Seattle, Denver and KC is as tough as it gets against the run.


Funkytown: Are Jon Jansen's thumbs healed yet? Does he still have casts?

Jason La Canfora: He still wears a small brace on one hand but says that might be off shortly. He is right handed, and the left came off first, but Jon said he learned to be a lefty pretty quick.


Fredericksburg, Va: Jason,

Two questions.

1. Will Gregg Williams be back next year? The Tennessee Titans would be a temptation for him should they replace their head coach?

2. What influence has Bill Musgrave had on the resurgence of Brunnell?


Jason La Canfora: He is still pretty tight with Fischer, but would be very interesting, I think Gregg will be near the top of many coaching wishlists.

As for Mark, I think being healthy and in a more modern system are the two biggest factors. He has thrived in the shotgun, and Musgrave got the staff to go back to that formation, so that alone is a significant contribution.


A.J.: Mathias Kiwanuka is coming into the draft next year do you see the Redskins moving up in the draft to get a Juliuss Peppers body type with Jevon Kearse speed to add pressure to these quarterbacks? Also how do you feel about the Antino Pierce thing I feel like because you have one good year doesn't meant you should be paid with the likes of your own teammate such as Marcus Washington. Look he is over there and they have the second worse D in the Nfl so is there investment working...No

Jason La Canfora: I think that getting a super-athletic defensive end will be one of the top priorities, whether through the draft or free agency or even trade.


Rockville, Md.: Jason, did you just call someone a "dude?" Yeah, I have heard about this door thing for like 20 years! I believe that if you can have an advantage you should take it. There was a college game in Miami where the Hurricanes switched sidelines when it was like 100 degrees to let the other team roast! It was great!

Jason La Canfora: Dude, of course I just called him a dude. We're not big on formalities in the chat room.

I'm with you on this one. It's part of what makes a home field advantage. Maybe the Skins can get that crazy old guy from the Six Flags commercials to jump around on the crossbar when opposing teams line up for big kicks.


Easton, Md.: I think you are wrong about Lavar. He's the face of the franchise, and clearly its most popular player. there is a huge cap hit associated with trading or releasing him. And if any player has the attitude to put these issues behind him, it is Lavar.

As for your point about him being just a backup - we'll see about that in a few weeks. Besides "starter" and "backup" certainly mean a lot less on a Gregg Williams coached defense.

My bet is that a good season heals the wounds between the coaching staff and Arrington and his cap figures tip the balance to him staying.

Jason La Canfora: We'll see. I think the part people forget is, take the cap hit part out of it. If he is on the roster July 15, Dan Snyder has to cut him a $7 million check ($500,000 of which is his 2006 base salary). I don't see that happening for a guy who the team essentially benched for the first five games and still had a top-5 defense. Just my opinion. Been wrong before and will be wrong again.


Pgh, Pa.: Are you kidding, any other team would LOVE to have #56 ... he's difference maker ... doesn't this prove that even a solid "D" needs a game changer at every level, Dline, LB, and in the secondary?

Jason La Canfora: There will be plenty of teams interested in a trade or signing, never said otherwise. But would he get a contract resembling the one these guys signed him to in '03? Doubt that as well. Not that he won't get paid, but not 8-years, $68 million.


Silver Spring, Md.: Jason-

How about having Jansen back at right tackle? Would you say that's another huge reason the offense is taking off?

Jason La Canfora: Absolutely vital. Samuels is playing great football, too. With those two tackles and an anchor in the middle now with Rabach, the line is finally getting to the level many people have expected from them.


Dallas, Tex.: The Skins face a hellish offseason -- they'll have Titans-style cap cuts because they've overspent so badly. Because there's no CBA extension, they can't restructure their existing contracts.

Does this mean Arrington and Brunell and a bunch of others are gone?

Jason La Canfora: Actually, I don't think it will be too hellish at all. They already bit the bullet on a few things (Coles, Barrow, Morton) and I think the last one will be LaVar. Ramsey will be gone; I don't see Brunell going anywhere and they do not have any big free agents to re-sign (Holdman, Ryan Clark, Betts are the biggest guys). They may cut a few vets free, but if they don't get a first rounder that saves some space, too.

Most people think there will be an extension, but if not 2007 would be uncapped, which would make things really interesting.


Richmond, Va.: The Redskins have no first round pick and they're supposed to draft Kiwi? Good luck with that.

It's probably a good thing that they don't have a first round pick. They have to be the worst-drafting team in the league. The only starter on defense that they drafted is Sean Taylor. That's embarrassing.

Jason La Canfora: The draft has been pretty bad around here for a long time. If they could ever find a way to regularly get good cheap talent in the late rounds they might really be on to something. Would curb the need to spend, although the zany go-go days of free agency appear to be over for a while, anyway.


Honolulu, Hawaii: Aloha, and now that the Redskins are looking like a Super Bowl contender what do you expect will be peoples newest gripe about the team? I.E., Brunell is a shadow of himself. Portis is too small and not a good fit. Santana Moss is not a no. 1 receiver and is injury prone. Gibbs is too dated. Williams is an egomaniac. Harris can't replace Smoot. Marshall can,t replace Pierce. Springs is injury prone and can't replace Baily. No legitimate pass rusher. Snyder is too intrusive. The Redskins need a G.M. and the list goes on. So what now?

Jason La Canfora: FedEx Field does not enough seating capacity.

The team's pre-game stretching routine is outdated.

Too many 1 pm kickoffs.

Anything else?


Washington, D.C.: How has Lavar reacted to the comments from Williams and the other defensive coaches recently? Williams makes it sound like Lavar is just some flunkie who has finally begun to apply himself. ("He had a good week of preparation...especially in meetings and in the classroom.") Seriously? If I were Lavar, I'm not sure I would appreciate the implication that he was not putting in the effort before last week.

Jason La Canfora: LaVar is going to be pretty low key about this the rest of the way, but, like I've been saying here, I don't see these two parties being long for each other in 2006.


Miami, Fla.: The Skins are facing a rough patch in their schedule. -- Giants, Eagles, -- Bucs, Raiders, Chargers. I can easily see them losing 3 of those five. If they're at 6-5 after that stretch, are they still in the hunt for the playoffs?

Jason La Canfora: I think 6-5 in the NFC will still have them in the hunt. If they win 1 of the next 3 - hardly impossible and still not ideal - I think they will be right there to the end, with a bunch of home games coming up and, at the risk of providing "bulletin board" material some softer teams to face on the road in the 2nd half (Arizona and St. Louis) outside the division, plus 2 of the final 3 at home within the division.


Washington, D.C.: Wouldn't you agree that the Redskins have the best offense, the best defense, the best special teams and the best coaching staff in the NFL?

Jason La Canfora: I don't think you can make those kinds of statements with any authority until after the final game of the season is played in Motown. Proof will be in the February pudding, not in Week 6.


Stafford, Va: Jason,

Not a Redskins question but a comment on Teddy Bruschi.

If one has had a stroke, then that person has got to be on blood thinners for the rest of his life and I would imagine he is on them now. If you're on blood thinners, the slightest bump creates a bruise and I can't image the bruising that he has or will have on his body. Do you see Teddy really making a difference?

Jason La Canfora: Honestly, I was shocked Kraft did not step in right away and put the guy on IR in the summer for the good of all involved. Take a year to get well, figure this thing out and then make a decision about the future. I am certainly no doctor, and don't even play one on TV, but this whole thing has seemed a little risky to me.


Milford, Del.: If the Redskins don't make the playoffs this year or the next do you think that Dan Snyder will ever fire Joe gibbs.

Jason La Canfora: I don't see it happening at this point. I think if somehow this team fell apart or something and were struggling after year 3, maybe Joe would decide to go. But given the turnaround of this offense, I would be pretty surprised to see a scenario like that.


Richmond, Va.: The article about the Giants officials closing the doors and opening them to affect field goals was written by you! I hope you were joking when you asked that!

Jason La Canfora: Who me? Actually, I have a staff of about 5 who do all of the real reporting and writing and I just get my name put on the story. It's kind of like an Andy Warhol thing. Pretty cool, eh?


Lavar: I thought trading him was impossible due to the salary cap hit? Or is that only if they traded him this season?

Jason La Canfora: Trading him before the Oct. 18 deadline would have been impossible, but in the offseason it is, dare I say it - highly likely.


Stadium Doors: Didn't RFK have this same feature, and didn't Gibbs use it (back in the day)?

Jason La Canfora: Indeed. I believe they had a few quirks that could be utilized to the home team's liking.


Washington, D.C.: Has the coaching staff indicated that Arrington will now get regular playing time, or was he possibly put in because it was the 49ers and they figured they could take the risk of playing him?

Jason La Canfora: They used the 3-4 a ton in the second half in large part because of the injuries to the D line, but also because of the blow out and to give LaVar a good run and assess his status. I don't know that it gets used quite as much this week, but I also don't seem him getting 2 or 5 plays like before. I think he is being integrated more, but I don't see him getting in the base set any time soon unless there are injuries or the D just stops being effective (after 22 games of consistent football, I don't see that happening).


Norfolk, Va.: Will those three TDs open the floodgates for Portis? Is he going to eat up the Giants this weekend?

Jason La Canfora: I don't know about opening the floodgates, but the newfound balance in this offense has the potential to pay big dividends for the backs and receivers.


Conspiracy theory: Skins finally turn Arrington loose against an awful team with a rookie QB, and predictably, he does very well.

Was it just a well-timed moved to boost his trade value?

And quit trying to invade my TV with your brainwaves. I'm wearing aluminum foil on my head.

Jason La Canfora: You're wearing foil on your head? I've got lettuce on mine! Great minds think alike.


Alexandria, Va.: What do the Redskins do in the quarterback situation do they try and work Campbell in next year or continue with Brunell and how long do you see Brunell playing?

Jason La Canfora: If Brunell stay healthy and keeps playing like this, he is the guy no question. Gibbs loves veteran QBs. Campbell is the future, but if the present ain't broke, it won't be fixed.


OBX : How big of a home field advantage do you think Fed Ex field will become if the skins keep winning?? Certainly not RFK like...right?

Jason La Canfora: Can't be RFK, but 92,000 screaming people could become a real influence on some big games down the stretch. Seems to me the atmosphere there has started to turn a corner this season.


Suitland, Md.: Could you imagine Joe Gibbs shoving away an assistant coach during a game? Of current coaches, I can't think of anyone but Parcells doing so. In years past, maybe Ditka.

Jason La Canfora: What do you mean, he beat the heck out of Breaux and Bugel in the meeting rooms for years. Once tossed Dexter Manley out of a window ...

No seriously, Joe is about as poised and stoic on the sidelines as you can be for the most part. Don't foresee him throwing any jabs at his assistants anytime soon.


Jason La Canfora: Well guys, looks like my time is up. Been a blast as always and thanks for all of the questions. Seems the proportion of LaVar questions is declining, which is good news, because I'm sick of buying lunch for Len Shapiro all the time.

Hope everyone enjoys the game and has a great weekend. If you can't be there, maybe you can swing open your backdoor while watching on TV, to duplicate the magic of the Meadowlands. If I didn't cover your question, or if for some reason you can't get enough of this wacky interaction, drop me a line at lacanforaj@washpost.com



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Jason La Canfora: I think they have already faced the best runners and O lines they will get. Barber always seems to rise to the occasion against them, and LT will be tough when SD comes to town, but to me, the 3 in a row against Seattle, Denver and KC is as tough as it gets against the run.


Jason seems to be unaware of this little tidbit:

RB Tiki Barber The Redskins were the only team to keep Barber from either posting 100 yards or finding the end zone in 2004. They stopped him twice. In fact, Barber has just one 100-yard effort and one touchdown against this NFC East foe in his entire career.

Edit: Source

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Dallas, Tex.: The Skins face a hellish offseason -- they'll have Titans-style cap cuts because they've overspent so badly. Because there's no CBA extension, they can't restructure their existing contracts.

Does this mean Arrington and Brunell and a bunch of others are gone?

Jason La Canfora: Actually, I don't think it will be too hellish at all. They already bit the bullet on a few things (Coles, Barrow, Morton) and I think the last one will be LaVar. Ramsey will be gone; I don't see Brunell going anywhere and they do not have any big free agents to re-sign (Holdman, Ryan Clark, Betts are the biggest guys). They may cut a few vets free, but if they don't get a first rounder that saves some space, too.

Most people think there will be an extension, but if not 2007 would be uncapped, which would make things really interesting.

clearly this cowboy fan knows nothing about the redskins....


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Well, I sent an e-mail to Jason LaCanfora regarding my comment above and this was his reply:

Thanks Ogden. Good point.

I knew he had never scored a rushing TD on the Skins, and no one ran much on them last season. I'm pretty sure he's averaged about 99 total yards per game against them the last 3-4 years (about 77 rushing and 22 receiving, or something close) and he had some pretty good numbers against them in 2003 - 225 yards and 5.1 per carry over 2 games - so I was kind of basing it on that. Not saying he has ever owned them or anything like that, but in the context of being asked about the better backs the Skins will face, I thought it fare to point out he's had a degree of success against them.

I think overall the worst is over as far as the upcoming runners go, don't you? Arizona has nothing, Eagles going all-pass, Dallas has injuries, St. Louis has a good one there but don't seem to use him much and are always playing from behind, loved Lamont at Maryland but he's not in Alexander/Holmes territory, and LT is the real deal, but at least they get him at home in a 1 pm game - a little early for those West Coast guys.

Anyway, just my $.02.

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to write, and that's a great point. I'll keep it in mind when covering the game this weekend.


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I like La Canfora and all....but that "wild foray" into free agency in 2004 formed the core of the current team. Griffin, Washington, Springs, Brunell, Portis, Harris, Daniels, Thrash, Taylor, etc.

And 2005's offseason isn't looking too shabby either. Moss, Rabach, Patten, etc.

But you'd never hear that from the Post. They're too stuck in that anti-Snyder group think.

I'm still waiting for the Smoot or Coles feature like they did on Pierce. You know, all those core players of ours who we wouldn't be able to win without that we were so dumb to let go. Veritable Bruschi's and Troy Brown's those guys were.

The Post never got the memo that there's a new core group of Redskins that they should be covering, guys that Gibbs and co actaully brought in themselves, not the has beens on their way out (Arrington might be one of these guys btw) who do nothing but look for scapegoats. Those are the only guys complaining.

And leave it to the Post to focus on those guys because those are the guys they can make Snyder look bad with.

Which is why the Post has been such a crappy paper since Gibbs returned. Either they have an agenda against Snyder or they are just plain stupid and don't see what's really going on here. Because there's obviously a changing of the guard going on that the paper seems *totally* oblivious to...

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