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Monday’s Locker Room Talk

Posted by Taylor Price on November 23, 2009 – 4:20 PM

A day after his team dropped its fifth game of the season by less than seven points and sixth overall, 49ers head coach Mike Singletary hinted personnel changes were on the horizon.

“I am confident that there may be one or two [changes], but I am still looking at the film,” Singletary said.

Although he would not show his cards on the potential changes, Singletary vowed his players would perform better in the remaining games.

“I am confident that this season will be a good season,” Singletary said. “We’ve got six games left. I am convinced that we will play better.”

Despite dropping another game behind the division leading Arizona Cardinals and the rest of the NFC teams muddled in the Wild Card race, Singletary believes the 49ers can still reach their goals.

“At the very start of this season, our goal was to win enough games to go to the playoffs. That is still our goal. That has not changed, will not change. In my mind, we’re good enough to do that,” he said. “We just have to get it done.”

Singletary’s press conference included several questions pertaining to the shotgun formation that the team predominantly used in the second half against Green Bay to score three touchdowns.

“I think, as we go forward, we have to really look at what’s working for him and what works for the offense and continue to do more of those things,” Singletary said of tailoring the offense to quarterback Alex Smith.

Smith too was asked a high volume of questions regarding the shotgun attack, but insisted that the second half rally had more to do with desire than the shotgun formation. (You can watch video from his interview right here.)

“When you’re down that much, there wasn’t much left to do but to go after those guys and try to mount a comeback,” Smith said. “We finally made a few plays and got ourselves going.”

The one play that clearly kick-started the 49ers offense and the entire team for that matter, was Smith’s 38-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree on a third-and-20.

“I think it did a lot,” Smith said of Crabtree’s first NFL touchdown. “That whole drive, we made a couple of plays and then we were in third-and-long and Crabtree made a big play for the score – I think that got us going. That’s a little bit of what we needed.”

The 49ers added two more touchdown passes in the second half, but never could get the run game going because they were trailing heavily for most of the game.

Looking back at the film, one could infer that the team is best suited to throw the ball from the shotgun formation on every play – but not so says Smith.

That would require the 49ers entering another ‘world.’

“It’s easy to say let’s go live in that world [spread offense] – but I don’t think it’s realistic. I don’t,” Smith said. “That’s something you evolve to down the road maybe. Right now, it’s about finding that balance. Maybe it’s something you go in and out of, but you still have to have balance.

“We have one of the top running backs in the NFL and we need to find a way to continue getting him the ball and put him in situations to succeed.”

Gore rushed for 59 yards on just seven carries, with his best run coming on a 46-yard gain on a delayed draw with Smith not in the shotgun formation, but rather under center.

More Monday Notes:

-The 49ers had their longest injury report of the season following Sunday’s defeat. (Note that names with a * next to them will undergo an MRI Singletary said). *Michael Robinson (stinger), Michael Lewis (quad), Arnaz battle (leg strain), Jason Hill (left ankle sprain), Delanie Walker (forearm contusion), David Baas (right ankle sprain), Patrick Willis (trap spasm), *Marcus Hudson (back strain), Tarell Brown (left knee contusion) and Reggie Smith (abdominal strain) were all named by the head coach to start his press conference.

-According to Singletary, Smith’s injury was not related to the groin injury that has hampered him all season.

-Josh Morgan’s 76-yard kickoff return late in the game impressed Singletary but wouldn’t commit to naming Morgan as the team’s starting kick returner. “Obviously we liked what we saw yesterday. If Josh Morgan is the kickoff returner, then hopefully he’s not returning too many of them in a game so we don’t have to worry about it too often. I just think that yesterday, he did a nice job when called upon. We’ll have to look at that a little bit more.”


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Sims is Playing ‘Outstanding’ Football

Posted by Taylor Price on November 17, 2009 – 3:31 PM

Coach Singletary had a pretty direct answer in responding to a question regarding the play of Barry Sims.

“Outstanding. It’s a pleasant surprise,” the 49ers head coach said of the 11-year veteran who has filled in nicely at left tackle for injured tackle Joe Staley. “I think he’s done a great job. I’m really excited about what he has been able to bring to that position. I think he’s done a phenomenal job.”

Outstanding, check. Great, check. Phenomenal, you can check that too.

Definitely some high praise for Sims, who has given up just a half sack in two starts this season. Sims practically had three starts, considering that Staley was injured on the first play of the game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Sims’ experience (129 starts in 159 games) has been a big plus in helping the 49ers offense the past couple of weeks.

Upon learning that his coach had called Sims’ play ‘outstanding,’ quarterback Alex Smith agreed with his coach’s opinion.

 “I think just that, he stepped right in and hasn’t missed a beat. He has played really well,” Smith said of his fellow University of Utah alum. “That’s hard to do, come in and play left tackle in this league where you are getting matched up every week against big-time pass rushers; the way he’s played has been great. I don’t think twice back there, I trust those guys up front.”

The rest of the 49ers offensive linemen also have a lot of trust in Sims.

“He’s a salty vet, so he knows what it takes to be successful,” said left guard David Baas, the man who lines up directly next to Sims on the line. “That’s what we expected out of him and we’re glad he’s doing well. We trust each other a lot out there, so that’s a good thing.”

Teammates like tight end Delanie Walker said Sims’ experience is exactly what the 49ers offense needed when Staley went down.

“He’s been doing a great job of executing his assignments and he’s been communicating well with the tight ends on certain blocks that we have to accomplish,” Walker said. “He’s been doing a great job. He’s been a leader for us.”

Walker said one of his favorite things about playing with Sims is how the 6-foot-5, 300-pound lineman enjoys what he’s doing on the field.

“He’s the same guy; he doesn’t change on or off the field. I think that’s what makes him a great person,” Walker said. “He goes out there and does what he has to do. I like to see how he acts, I’ve seen him on the field smiling after a big play and I think when other players see that – it puts a smile on your face.”

Losing a player like Staley might have damaged the mindset of some teams, but the 49ers felt confident in Sims, knowing they had a player who has experienced practically everything a player could experience in the NFL.

“It’s tough replacing Joe, because Joe is a great tackle and a big part of this offense,” Walker said. “But I think Barry stepped in and has done a great job. We know he could do it because he had been doing it for a long time. Nobody doubted him, we knew he was going to step in and take care of the big shoes he had to fill.”

More Tuesday Notes:

-Singletary announced on Tuesday that rookie running back Glen Coffee will return this week after missing the Bears game with a concussion. Defensive tackle Demetric Evans will also return to action against Green Bay after missing the last few weeks with a shoulder injury.

-Other injury news: Takeo Spikes is still day-to-day with a hamstring injury. If unable to play, linebacker Matt Wilhelm will step in as Spikes’ replacement. Only Staley (knee) and cornerback Nate Clements (shoulder) have been ruled out for Sunday’s game.

-Singletary said that veteran wide receiver Isaac Bruce would return to action this Sunday after missing the Bears game (ankle), but would be behind Josh Morgan, who will start opposite of Michael Crabtree against the Packers. The 49ers head coach was non-committal in naming Bruce as his No. 3 receiver, citing that the coaching staff would have to determine the usage of receivers based on the personnel package.

-Asked if having the weekend off was a good thing for his players, Singletary answered: “I think any time you have an extra day or two for guys to get their legs back underneath them, some of the pounding that they’ve taken, to heal and use it wisely, I think it can do nothing but help us.”


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49ers Make World Series Picks

Posted by Taylor Price on October 28, 2009 – 3:47 PM

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There’s only so many times you can get asked the same question during an open locker room period. But I know our guys enjoy an occasional question out of left field.

Having said that, today I asked a question about left field, well sort of.

I asked a handful of guys who they were picking to win the World Series which kicks off tonight between the New York Yankees and the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

And for fun, I asked which players in the locker room would make up the best 49ers baseball team. The answers I got were somewhat surprising:

-“I would definitely have B. Jones [Brandon] as my center fielder,” cornerback Tarell Brown said of his wide receiver teammate, who was a one-time draft pick of the Yankees organization. “I would be a shortstop because I have good range. All the quarterbacks would be our pitchers.”

-“Put me at catcher, I swear I’d be a great catcher. I’d be amazing,” cornerback Marcus Hudson explained. “I’d cover the plate and nobody would steal on me. I would gun them out if they tried to steal on me!”

-“I think Arnaz [Battle] might be a second baseman because he has quick feet and quick hands,” Jones said of the players who would play beside him. “I see Alex [Smith] and our other quarterbacks as our pitchers. We’ll go with a three-man rotation. And on offense, our cleanup hitter would probably be big Mo, Moran Norris.”

-“I don’t know about that – I don’t think Mo has any bat speed!” Battle joked in response to Jones’ opinion.

-“I think Justin Smith would be our first baseman. He seems like he’d be a power hitter,” long snapper Brian Jennings said.

-“Ooh, that’s a pretty good question! I don’t know if Justin could be our first baseman though. He’s a slugger, maybe a DH,” Shawntae Spencer said. “I’m not putting him on the field. I’d put guys with really good ball skills in my infield. Dre’ Bly, Nate Clements they both have good ball skills, the receivers do too.

-“Then, I would go with the coordinators as our bench coaches, because they are good with hand signals. Our base coaches could be special teams coordinator Al Everest and secondary coach Vance Joseph because they send in signals too.”

-“I would be a pitcher, because I’d want to throw the ball. In football I love hitting people and in baseball if I was mad at someone – I could throw the ball at them,” defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga joked.

Here are some of the picks from the 49ers locker room, note that only one player [Spencer] chose the defending champs:

Josh Morgan: Yankees in five games.

“I think it’s the Yankees year.”

Tarell Brown: Yankees in five games.

“Really to be honest with you, it doesn’t mean a whole lot that the Phillies won it all last year. At the end of the day the Yankees are playing great baseball and they have solid pitching. Really, that’s what it’s going to come down to – pitching. Pitching and defense. The Yankees have always been a great offensive team, but their pitching is amazing this year. I’ve been a Yankees fan forever though….”

Shawntae Spencer: Phillies in six games.

“I don’t really like either one of these teams. If the Pirates aren’t in it – I don’t really care! But I guess I got a little bit of love for Philly, but then again, I don’t want them to win because if they do I won’t see the end of it. I have a lot of friends from Philadelphia, so I don’t really want to hear that. I’m just going to watch as a fan. I think it’s going to be a great series, I’ll take the Phillies, since nobody else has.”

Brandon Jones: Yankees in six games.

“You have to figure the Phillies can get a couple of games. They can hit. And, they might even wear Andy Pettitte out in game three. C.C. [Sabathia] might have to come back on short rest and get another win for them. It might go to six, if that happens.”

Barry Sims: Yankees in six games.

“A-Rod is hitting this year and they’re getting good pitching – I think it’s their year.”

Brian Jennings: Yankees in six games.

“If I played baseball I’d for sure want to play for the Yankees.”

Isaac Sopoaga: Yankees in six games.

“I want it to be less games, but I think it would be more exciting if it goes to six or seven games. Then, you’d have more games to watch on TV.”

Andy Lee: Yankees in six games.


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Enter Josh Morgan’s Essay Contest!

Posted by Taylor Price on October 27, 2009 – 3:48 PM

As a poet, who enjoys all kinds of different writing, 49ers wide receiver Josh Morgan knows great reading material when he sees it.

It looks like Morgan will be seeing a lot more reading material after he agreed to be the judge of the 2009 49ers Kids Club Presented by See’s Candies Essay Contest.

Kids Club members (ages 14 and under) can submit an essay in 500 words or less to describe what characteristics a football player would need to be a great 49ers player. If you’re not yet a member of the 49ers Kids Club, you can click here to sign yourself or your child up for the Kids Club presented by See’s Candies to enter the contest.

“It’s a cool thing to be involved with,” Morgan said of his role with the contest. “I think it’s going to be fun to read somebody else’s writing and it’s going to be interesting to see what the kids have to say.”

The contest’s winner will get to meet Morgan at team headquarters, as well as receive an autographed authentic NFL football signed by Morgan and two-tickets to watch the 49ers take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov., 29 at Candlestick Park.

Second place will receive two tickets to the Jacksonville game and a 49ers gift bag, and the third best essay will receive a 49ers t-shirt and hat.

“It’s going to be exciting for me to meet the winner. I’m sure it’s going to be a great experience for both of us,” Morgan said with a big smile.

At the end of your essay, please include your name, age, mailing address, and phone number so that we may contact you if you are the lucky winner. All essays must be submitted to the 49ers Kids Club by Friday, November 20, 2009.

You can submit your essay online by sending an email to 49erskidsclub@niners.nfl.com, title your email “Josh Morgan Essay Contest – and your full name.”

Or you can mail your essay to:

Josh Morgan’s Essay Contest

49ers Kids Club

4949 Centennial Blvd.

Santa Clara, CA 95054

*Winners selected who are outside the San Francisco area will have the option to receive a 49ers Prize Pack.

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UPDATED: Monday’s Locker Room Talk

Posted by Taylor Price on September 28, 2009 – 5:00 PM

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“Patience, perseverance and overall optimism.”

That’s the motto 49ers starting quarterback Shaun Hill has adopted to help him out in tough situations.

“If things aren’t going well, just be patient, they will. Persevere through the tough times and at all times stay optimistic. That’s the way I play. That’s the way I’ve always been,” Hill explained of his mantra.

“That’s my own thing. I’m the new Yogi Berra I guess.”

Hill’s saying has been especially resourceful coming off a heartbreaking 27-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Despite the last-second defeat, Hill and the rest of the 49ers have done their best to put the game behind them.

“The only thing in my notebook right now says, ‘St. Louis,’” Hill said referring to the new center of his attention. “We turned the page on the last game and now we’re looking forward.”

It’s not like this was the first tough loss in the careers of many of the 49ers. From high school to college to previous NFL games, it’s likely that most of the players have been unsuspectingly beaten at the end of a game.

“Unfortunately, we lost a game like that when I was at Virginia Tech playing against Boston College,” second-year wide receiver Josh Morgan said. “We played them during the season and Matt Ryan threw a bomb to the running back that beat us in the last eight seconds of the game.”

But Morgan and the rest of his teammates didn’t dwell on the defeat.

“We saw them again in the ACC championship and beat them convincingly. That’s the main thing we have to do, do what I did at Virginia Tech. Hopefully we’ll see the Vikings later on and we’ll deal with it later on.”

The 49ers might also have to deal without the services of star running back Frank Gore when they host the St. Louis Rams this Sunday at Candlestick Park. Although the results of his MRI on his ankle have yet to be announced, backup Glen Coffee is ready for whatever opportunity presents itself.

“As a professional you always have to be ready when you’re number is called. That’s just the way I look at it,” Coffee said. “I just have to step in for Frank and I can’t let there be any slide in execution or production.”

Coffee should be a competent replacement for Gore. His teammates believe so, mainly because they have been intrigued with him from the day they first met him.

Rookie running back Glen Coffee has impressed his teammates so far for being "coachable."

“I was impressed with him the first day we got together at the rookie minicamp,” Hill said of Coffee.

“As many rookies do when they come in, they try to run like they did in college. They try to outrun everyone to the boundary and turn everything into an 80-yard run. Coach [Singletary] got on Glen after that first session and by that second practice he was hitting the seams and punching it up in there to get four or five yards a carry.”

Hill also complimented tight end Vernon Davis for his breakout game against the Vikings.

“Vernon made some great plays for me,” Hill said. “On top of that they were trying to get under his skin and he didn’t let that happen. I was very proud of Vernon and the way he played. He’s really come a long way. He’s a guy who I feel very comfortable with him out there.”

Along with Davis and Coffee, Hill said he’s pleased with the play of the 49ers defense.

“Our defense has played great all season,” Hill said. “They kept us in that game and they did a wonderful job for us. We kept on the field for too long and that goes back to our third-efficiency. We put them in bad situations throughout the whole game just because we couldn’t convert on third downs. They did a good job in keeping us in the ballgame.”

Hill was asked if the Minnesota loss compared to last season’s defeat on Monday Night Football against the Arizona Cardinals, to which he responded:

“Most losses feel about the same to be honest with you. We were able to move past that one and we’ll definitely do the same thing with this one.”

*INJURY UPDATES

The results of MRI on 49ers RB Frank Gore show a right ankle strain and a right hind foot sprain that will sideline him for approximately three weeks.

The results of MRI on T Joe Staley show a right quad contusion and he is listed as day-to-day.

The results of MRI on S Reggie Smith show a right groin strain and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks.


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Morgan and Gore Break Down ACC Clash

Posted by Scott Kegley on September 25, 2009 – 11:15 AM

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The No. 9 Miami Hurricanes travel to Blacksburg, VA this Saturday to take on the No. 11 Virginia Tech Hokies.  As is the case with most top-flight college football matchups, a few of the 49ers players have begun voicing their opinions about the alma maters in the locker room.

Wide receiver Josh Morgan is thrilled to see his Hokies near the top of the ranking while running back Frank Gore is happy to see that “The U” is once again getting national recognition.

“How are you going to ask me who is going to win?” Gore questioned when solicited for a prediction.  “Miami, baby!”

It will most likely be un uphill fight for the underdog ‘Canes as Lane Stadium offers one of the best home field advantages in the country.

Miami is off to a hot start though, winning 38-34 at Florida State and then crushing Georgia Tech 33-17 at home.

“I’m not worried at all,” Morgan said despite Miami’s first two wins.  “We played those schools last year and we beat them too.”

With both teams firing on all cylinders, it could come down to a matchup of personnel.  Both teams feature talented mobile quarterbacks who can beat defenses through the air or by making plays with their feet.

“We have a great quarterback in Tyrod Taylor,” Morgan said.  “He’s more accurate and more polished as a passer than Michael Vick was when he was at Va Tech.  He’s a great talent.  If you blitz him, he can escape.  He can turn a would-be sack into a touchdown.  He’s a special player.”

Gore says it’s the Hokies who should be concerned about the opposing signal caller.

“We can throw the ball too,” Gore said  “Taylor is a good runner, but we’ll be good.  We can handle him.”

Players often have friendly bets with one another on the game where the loser will have to wear either a hat or jersey of the winning team.  Morgan and Gore have yet to specify exact terms, but there will definitely be pride on the line.

“I haven’t talked to Frank yet, but we’ll get started soon,” Morgan said.  “I’ll talk to my boys [at Virginia Tech] and see how they’re feeling before I make any bet with Frank.”


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Singletary Pleased After Week 1

Posted by Taylor Price on September 14, 2009 – 1:28 PM

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Head coach Mike Singletary just concluded his weekly Monday press conference with the Bay Area media. The 49ers head coach answered a number of questions pertaining to the 49ers 20-16 season opening victory from one day earlier.

“It was indeed an ugly game,” Singletary said. “But it was beautiful to see our guys work through all of the stuff and come out with a win. We fought together and ended up winning together.”

Singletary was pleased that his team was able to go into a hostile environment and come out with a win against a good football team. He also expressed his disbelief in rushing for under 30 yards as a team but still coming out victorious.

“I find it hard to do but that’s we ended up doing,” he said.

Singletary praised several of his player’s performances on both sides of the ball, but called out the play of his offensive line.

“We did not play well up front, but it will get better,” he said.

Despite not being able to move the ball efficiently in the first three quarters, Singletary was pleased that his offense put together a 15-play drive in the fourth quarter that put the 49ers up for good.

“I think the best thing that helped us offensively was that fourth quarter,” Singletary said. “Shaun [Hill] did a good job, everybody settled down and we took it down the field. They really did what they had to do when they had to do it and that’s the sign of something special.”
 
Other notes from Singletary’s presser:

-According to Singletary, Hill did a good job of managing the game and taking what the defense gave him.

-Vernon Davis, Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan and Arnaz Battle were highlighted for making “critical plays” during the 49ers fourth quarter go-ahead touchdown drive.

-Arizona’s penetrating defense was a bigger factor than Singletary and the 49ers anticipated. “I think it got to our guys early on but it didn’t on that 15-play drive,” he added.

-Defensively, Singletary thought his guys played relentless. “We did things we needed to do in order to win. Our defense challenged their wideouts,” he said.

091409-willis-blog-Patrick Willis was everywhere. Singletary said his first quarter interception was a result of tremendous coverage that was very well played.

-Singletary also complimented the play of his secondary as well as the pass rush supplied by the likes of Justin Smith, Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson.

-Recently signed tackle Tony Pashos will begin sharing snaps with Adam Snyder this week, so Singletary and the rest of the 49ers staff can evaluate the 49ers new tackle.

-The 49ers suffered no major injuries against the Cardinals.

-Also, wide receiver Brandon Jones will return to practice this week. But, it has not been determined if he will play against the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday at Candlestick Park.


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It’s Game Week

Posted by Scott Kegley on August 10, 2009 – 1:24 PM

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The 49ers have officially begun preparation for the first preseason game of the 2009 season against the Denver Broncos on Friday night at Candlestick Park.  While the team will focus more on what they need to accomplish rather than matching up against the opposition, there is still a good amount of game planning taking place in the film room.

“Where not going to overdo it, because all of these games are in preparation for the game at the beginning of the season,” head coach Mike Singletary said, following the team’s morning practice.  “It’s just making sure you don’t focus on the minor [things] and lose the big picture.  We certainly want to go out and do the things that we need to do. All of the fundamentals we’ve worked on here can carry over into the game.  And, we’ll get what we want out of that game.”

Singletary said he has not yet made a decision on who will start at quarterback against Denver, but no matter who takes the first snap, the coaching staff will keep a close eye on both Shaun Hill and Alex Smith, with hopes of naming a starter sometime in the coming weeks.

“Hopefully, as we’ve said before, by the third preseason game, we’ll have a pretty decent idea,” Singletary said of who will start the regular season opener.  “There is no guarantee that we will name someone then.  But, hopefully at that time, we will.  I think the preseason games; they play a big role.  We’re going against somebody totally different, and we have to see how they respond, how the team responds to them, how they respond to the pass rush, all of those little things.”

One person who will not be receiving much playing time is running back Frank Gore.  Singletary hopes to keep him fresh heading into the season and give increased reps to some of the younger running backs.

“I would think that [Glen] Coffee is certainly going to have some time,” Singletary said.  “Before game time, we will know; we’ll play it by ear.  All I know right now as far as the running backs are concerned is that Frank will not be going a whole lot.”

The matchup with the Broncos will also bring a familiar face to Candlestick as former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan returns as Denver’s defensive coordinator.  Singletary still maintains a close relationship with Nolan, who he learned a great deal from during their time with the 49ers as well as with the Baltimore Ravens.

“The most important thing that I learned from Coach Nolan is the work ethic,” Singletary said.  “I saw Mike come in and roll up his sleeves and go to work, trying to bring a structure to this organization and trying to bring about a mental toughness and trying to bring about character and all of those things.  Mike will always be a great friend.”

Morning Practice Notes:

The 49ers completed the longest pass so far of training camp so far, as Alex Smith found Arnaz Battle deep down the right sideline.  The play began from the offense’s own 30-yard line and Smith’s pass hit Battle in stride around the opposite 30-yard line.  Battle raced in for the long score.

Fellow receivers Josh Morgan and Dominique Zeigler also made spectacular catches during one-on-one drills.  Overall, the receiving corps has continued to impress during camp.

Follow SF_49ers on Twitter and get all the highlights from practice as they happen.


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