Press Conference

Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens' full introductory press conference

Opening statement:

General Manager John Dorsey: “Let me start out by saying that as this organization, we could not be more pleased with how this search process unfolded. I have said before that we are going to set out to be deliberate, thorough. I think we were really organized and efficient on how we went about this. That is why we got to where we are today. The committee has been meeting regularly for the last nine weeks with the intent of identifying quality candidates that we felt were right for this organization. The characteristics that we set really early in the process were: leader of men, guys with integrity, guys that were secure and open minded and collaborative in their thinking. Of course, intelligence, but a really good football acumen, as well. I think we were able to identify some high-quality candidates that possess these characteristics that we are looking for. But at the end of the process, unanimously, we all felt that (head coach) Freddy (Kitchens) was the right fit for this organization moving forward.

“Freddie does not need any introductions here, ladies and gentlemen. He is a man that has dedicated his entire life to the game of football. He has been around some exceptional football guys. It is awesome. He is a real unifier of men and people. Freddie did an outstanding job the last eight games of the season. He galvanized the offense, he put players in positions to make plays and Freddie has a great vision for this organization moving forward. I am excited to work alongside of Freddie Kitchens – as I like to say, to awake the sleeping giant. It is my pleasure to introduce the 17th head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Freddie Kitchens (applause).”

Head Coach Freddie Kitchens: “Thank you, John, for all of those kind remarks. Hopefully, everybody agrees with you (laughter). I want to first start by thanking Mr. Jimmy and Mrs. Dee, JW (Johnson) and the whole Haslam family. John and his group and (chief strategy officer) Paul (DePodesta) and his group. I want to thank everyone from Glenville State College to the Cleveland Browns and everywhere in between. I want to thank (former Alabama assistant coach) Woody McCorvey, (former Alabama assistant coach) Sylvester Croom and (former Alabama Head Coach) Gene Stallings for teaching me that the game of football is more than X’s and O’s. I want to thank (former Glenville State Head Coach) Rick Trickett for giving me my very first job at Glenville State College. I want to thank my two daughters, Bennett and Camden, for understanding the nuances of this profession – time constraints half of the year. I want to thank the most important person in my life, with devotion to me and for my calls, and just always understanding me and not understanding what I say, sometimes – sometimes, she will kick me in the what, you know? But anyways, my wife Ginger, I would not be here without her.

“I really stressed to John, everybody involved in this search and in interviewing these coaches, I wanted a thorough search. I really wanted to compete against everybody that wanted this job and that I was a legitimate candidate for this job. I wanted it. I wanted to go in and state my case, per se. But when I went in and stated my case, I was very proud that everything that I have put in my book was my words and my typing. Even though, my daughters had to show me how to do the PowerPoint (laughter). I am proud of that, because every word that I had in there were my words. Then, I get in there and I do not use it, because I know everything that is in it. I want everybody to understand that I believe that they made the best decision. I believe that they believe that they made the best decision. In saying that, I find great comfort in knowing that they were together in doing that.

“There are ups and downs during the course of a season. There is one thing that has to happen during the course of the season, if you want to get back up from being down and you have to be together. That is not going to change. Within the football team, that is not going to change. From this day forward, it is never changing. Since 1999, there have been ups and downs in this organization. Just like during a season sometimes there are more ups than more downs. Since 1999, I understand and I relish the fact that there, have been more downs than ups, but that ends today – I promise you that. Every decision we make as an organization, and John would agree with this, I am sure he would – every decision will be based on one thing and one thing only, that is winning football games. Let’s not fool ourselves, this game is about winning. Everything that we do in the organization from the football side of things moving forward, with the organization moving forward – if you do not wear brown and orange, you do not matter. The only organization that we care anything about right now is the Cleveland Browns. It is always going to be about one thing and one thing only and that is about winning football games and putting a good product on the field that plays with effort, enthusiasm and toughness.

“Some of these things I am using from the interview, because I truly believe it. The letter ‘I’ is a letter. It is not a word. When it is used as a word, you have problems. That is the No. 1 thing that you will not ever hear. It is “we,” “us,” and “our,” because we are all going to take ownership in this thing. You know what? It is going to make it that much more special when we get to the top. Two is one and one is none. We are going to have a lot of twos. We are all going to be together. Coaching staff, I know John and I are looking forward to working together. John’s staff, Paul’s staff, everybody is going to be together. Ultimately, at the end of the day, we all want the same thing. Now, get there in the same direction. 

“In saying that, I will end with this: our only goal ever – 7-8-1, it drives me crazy that people are happy with 7-8-1. It drives me literally crazy. If I was in a different setting, my vocabulary would demonstrate that. That is not acceptable. Nobody here wants that. We all understand that it was an improvement, but under no circumstances is that ever going to be acceptable. We only have one goal here and that is to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Everything we do moving forward, if it is going to benefit us moving in that direction, we will make that decision – from a coaching staff perspective. Everybody is going to be on the same page, from a coaching staff perspective. The relationships that you build in this business have to earn trust and respect and we are going to always – everything that we do within this organization, is going to be trust and respect oriented. Because, that allows you to understand that you can have tough conversations with that. You can understand that different people have different beliefs and if you spend time listening, instead of just hearing, then sometimes maybe you can learn some things.

“I will close this: everything will always center around winning the Super Bowl. I went to the Super Bowl. I lost the Super Bowl. I never want to be in that position again. But every decision I have made since 2008 has been getting in position to do that. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded at this day in age, this time right now, to moving forward in that direction. That is all. Thank you very much.”

On what about his background gives him confidence in being the head coach at this point in time:

Kitchens: “It is an easy answer. Benjamin E. Mays had a quote, and I said it in a press conference months ago, ‘those who start behind in the game of life must run faster to catch up.’ I have been running fast my whole life. I think that is going to carry over into this program. I think the program of the football team, the product that you put on the field, is in direct correlation of how the coach is. That is the way I have been my whole life. Am I ready or not? I do not know. I mean, were you ready to be a parent? I know this, they had confidence enough in me that I would figure it out and I would get the job done. I promise you this, I will not let them down.”

On if he will continue to call plays for the offense:

Kitchens: “I will. Yeah, I will. I told (offensive coordinator) Todd (Monken) yesterday that I did not want to hire someone and just give them the title of offensive coordinator. I wanted an offensive coordinator that just was not going to call plays. In saying that, let me tell you about Todd Monken. He made a decision based on people. Our decisions here are going to be made on people. What type of person that is, what type of person are you going to be surrounded with? Todd made the decision based on people. He had other opportunities. He came in and made the decision for what he was going to be surrounded with and the environment that is going to be created moving forward.”

On the biggest challenge facing him in this role:

Kitchens: “I do not know. I think you have to compartmentalize. I look at it as an advantage. Everything I am about as a coach is building relationships. I learned a long time ago that this is a people business. People tend to forget what goes on to get you to the field. Between the meeting rooms, the practice field and ultimately to the game field, there has to be conversation. It has to be real-life conversation, because a lot of times, football is not everyone’s life all of the time. So you better get to know the person. That will enable you to have tough decisions and tough questions, which will get that individual and that player better. I say individual and player because at the end of the day, we are teachers. As coaches, we are teachers. I am sure that you had a teacher at some point in your life that made you a better person. I am invested in people, not just players.”

On when Kitchens emerged as a viable candidate for the position following the season and if the interview was a deciding factor:

Dorsey: “No, what we did is we sat and met on a regular basis for nine weeks, the committee did. I think we wanted to lay out the format, the structure, the planning process and then go identify certain quality candidates that were going to match up with those. It was very early on in the process that Freddie was in that initial group, as well – very early on. But you know, what was wonderful is he had a full display of his resume at work there for eight weeks. You had to pay attention to that, as well. And then, you saw how he kind of brought the players together and galvanized the offense. I think we saw that on a week-in and week-out basis. All along, we said that we were going to go through a thorough process and kind of like Freddie said, he welcomed that. At the end of the day, he was going to prove to everybody that guess what, ‘I am your guy.’ At the end of the day, unanimously, the committee, we went to ownership with the suggestion to have Freddie Kitchens as our next head coach and they embraced it. We cannot thank them enough.”

On what aspects of the offense he changed when promoted to offensive coordinator in 2018:

Kitchens: “The only thing I changed, as a coach, was that it enabled me to be able to speak to the whole group, offensively. In the first team meeting, what we talked about was nothing to do with football. I asked them to trust me that I would always ask them to do what is best for them. They believed me. We were not calling any different plays, we were calling the same plays. I mean, a couple of gimmicks and stuff like that that you need, but the base of our offense was the same. You had to ask them to trust you. When you ask someone to trust you, if you ever disappoint them, you are not going to get the trust back – or not to the extent that it was. Once they trust you, they play a little harder, they make a little more effort to know what they are doing and it kind of just fell into place.”

On if he ever thought about being a head coach when laying in the hospital following heart surgery:

Kitchens: “No, I did not. It was an aortic dissection, but the way. My friends kid me all of the time about what it was. No, I never have. I never have set a goal up, per se. This has not been my goal. My goal has been to get better every day. I learned a long time ago, sometimes your goal ends up being your master, instead of your progress that it takes to get there. This has never been my goal. Once I am in this position, as a football coach, my goal is to reach the Super Bowl. That takes a team. That takes more than just the football team now, too, by the way. When I meet with Mr. Jimmy and Dee Haslam, and JW is usually in there too, you know what the last thing they ask me is, always? ‘What do you need from us?’ ‘What can we do to help you?’ That is great. Everybody is moving in the same direction. When you talk about goals, goals are team-oriented. Honestly, I am telling you, I did not have a goal to be a head coach. I had the goal to be the best coach that I can be and move in the same direction with a conglomeration of people to get there.”

On what was going through his mind when he joined the Browns staff last season:

Kitchens: “I had a couple of opportunities to go other places. I told you guys about the three running backs in the wishbone earlier and y’all did not believe me. If I tell you this again, hopefully, you will believe me this time(laughter). I had a couple of different opportunities, but truthfully, I was a Browns fan when I was growing up. Keep in mind, I grew up in Gadsden, Ala. – it was Alabama football. But on Sundays, you had to do something other than go to church and eat a lot. When the Cleveland Browns were on television, I was watching the Cleveland Browns. I liked their uniforms. I love the helmet. I like the simplicity of the helmet. Hopefully, we do not ever change that(laughter). Hopefully, it is not in the works any time soon (laughter). I went to Alabama. We did not change helmets at Alabama. I am a traditionalist. That is the way I coach. That is not the way I relate to people. You have to evolve as a person and coach. You have to continually evolve. If you do not evolve, you are staying the same. If you are staying the same, other people are passing you by. A lot of that went into the fact that John was here. You always wondered, outside looking in, what was going on. I do not know. I know that they committed to winning. He is committed to winning. Paul DePodesta is committed to winning. We have a lot of people – these people in the back, they are committed to winning. We have the best support staff that I have ever seen anywhere I have been. When you have a desire to win and everybody is willing to check their ego at the door to get it done, then you should be successful. We are going to be successful.”

On his vision for the team, based off how he evolved the offense:

Kitchens: “The same thing. I take a little bit of offense to that, my stamp on the offense. The offense is whatever they wanted it to be. It was not me. I was just the guy directing the choir, per se. In church, you have the choir director, but they do not get any credit. It is the choir that gets the credit in that setting. In here, everybody wants to give me credit. I just want to get the people going and they decide what they want it to be. They very easily could have said, ‘We have a built in excuse.’ If we finish three and whatever – I do not know what that adds up to, I am not good at math(laughter). But if we end up with three wins, they have a built in excuse. Nobody is going to blame them. They made a decision. That is what I asked them. With our coaches, this is not just me now, we had coaches that were vested in this, too. Everybody came together and they made the decision that they wanted to be better than what they were. That is what happened. It was not my stamp.”

On when he thought being head coach was possible to achieve:

Kitchens: “Honestly, I have a lot of confidence in myself. I have always said that in this business, you make decisions right after a season is over, selfishly. I will give you an example. If you decide to go to Denver, Colo. or whatever, you are making those decisions for selfish reasons. After you have made that decision, you are on board as a team. In saying that, I am going to answer your question now. When I knew it was possible is whenever John told me I was going to interview for the job. You guys do not believe me, I try not to lie too much, alright? Do not tell my wife that (laughter). I try not to lie too much. I meant it when I said it, I am one day at a time. You have to have a vision for the future, so that you can eliminate some road blocks and some things along the way. But I am trying to do the best job I can in this press conference. Then, I am going to leave here and John is going to leave here and we are going to go finish up this coaching staff. We are going to do it the best that we can today. Then we are going to go to sleep – hell, he has not let me go to sleep in the last three days (laughter). We are going to get some sleep tonight and we are going to come in in the morning and do the same thing until we get this coaching staff. This is the most important time for me as a head coach, it is the staff to build. That is the approach we are taking.”

On why he had not gotten an offensive coordinator opportunity before being promoted during the 2018 season:

Kitchens: “I am probably going to offend some people by saying this. In today’s times, with the media and all of that stuff that you guys are on, if you do not self-promote yourself, sometimes, you do get overlooked. I was always, and I am still going to be – I am just going to do my job. Whatever that job entails, I am going to do my job to the best of my ability. I was always understanding, or of the assumption, that if you do your job well enough, you will get recognized. If you could have a crystal ball and go back in time, I want you to critique the guys I have coached from Glenville State College to the Cleveland Browns and see how they have performed. That is the only way you have to judge a coach, or you are going off hearsay or what somebody else said. We do not do that. We are going off of what they show on tape. We do it as a player, why would you not do it as a coach? I want you to go back, get back with me in a week or so, and evaluate. I do not know why. Maybe my dialect. I do not know. It could be something as simple as that. Hell, I do not know. I just know that everywhere I have been, the players that I have coached – whether they were free agents or first-rounders, they have performed.”

On the one thing that stood out about Kitchens during the interview process:

Dorsey: “His vision of the future for the organization. His belief in trust and the team effort. The ability to be collaborative in your thinking. How he galvanized a group of young men and taught the ‘we’ mindsets of a young group. And knowing that who he is – he knows many people in the National Football League – and where we are today in the Cleveland Browns. How even the coaching staff would come together and actually come to Cleveland, Ohio. They understand what it about to happen here under the direction of Freddie Kitchens and that is all you can ask for. You can just feel his passion and his depth of knowledge for this game. And again, his ability to call the game of football. I think that is really important. But it is the unification of bringing us all together.”

Kitchens: Could I add to what you asked me a while ago? In saying that, it take some – I won’t use any bad language, Mrs. Dee – but it takes some guts to do what they did and I appreciate that. I won’t let them down and all you have to do is sit back and watch, because I know that I am not a popular choice. I understand that and I don’t care and in reality I meant what I said. If you are not wearing brown and orange – occasionally a black – then you have to block out the noise in this business. Because, the noise is what gets you in trouble. You start making decisions based on things that do not pertain to winning. And I appreciate Mr. Jimmy, Mrs. Haslam and everybody else that chose this coach for doing that, because they did not care. They were doing what they thought was best for this organization.”

On discussing Kitchen’s return if they can have him as an offensive coordinator or head coach:

Dorsey: “I think the first thing that we wanted to do was to identify the organizational traits we thought would be beneficial – what the head coach should be about. As we began our discussions, and there were many discussions, it came back week after week that Freddie was one of those guys, too, that should be in this conversation as the quality head coach we keep talking about. It was just conversation, but at the end of the day, it was never the thought of lets have this plan or this hand. The only plan that we wanted was the best head coach for this organization moving forward. Period.”

On balancing being aggressive versus knowing games are on the line:

Kitchens: “I think there are a lot of things there. You are trying to get more than one. So here is what you have to do: You have to form a trust and respect for a coach. You have to form a trust and respect for a staff. Then, once you have the trust and respect aspect of things and you create an environment where you are listeners and not you just don’t hear people, there is a big difference. You may have a great idea. I mean, you guys gave me the idea about the wishbone. But I listened to you and then I went back to my office and I started looking. But then, you know what I did? I asked the staff what they thought of it. They thought I was crazy, but we sorted through it and understood that what we were doing is sound, so why not? And I would always say that. I would say this, if we try it and it doesn’t work – as long as we don’t throw an interception – we are going to have several of plays during the course of the year that do not work. Our base offense is not going to work, sometimes. So you know what, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. We were trying to do what we thought was best. Some of them worked, some of them didn’t. Fortunately, for us, most of them worked.”

On if Kitchens will report to him:

Dorsey: “Freddie and I are going to work together on a day-in and day-out basis. There is a belief of a traditional structure model in place and sometimes I think that is best. But at the end of the day, Freddie and I are going to make an unbelievable amount of decisions together in unison, because we are such likeminded in our thinking. We are going to have daily and weekly conversations with ownership. That is just a natural thing that you do. But at the end of the day, what is best for the organization is the only thing that matters moving forward. And why not have two guys being able to collaborate and talk and just kind of work through things. It is just healthy discussions to have.”

Kitchens: Could I add to that? A couple of weeks ago I said what? Players chase stats and media chases…? What? Fill in the blank (laughter). This is a collaboration of everything we do. It is not just that, it may be the team meal. There is a lot of things about this job – let me just tell you this, too. There are a lot of things about this job that are going to come up I have no idea. But I have a great support staff and I told them in the interview, ‘I am not telling you I have it all figured out.’ Hell, I didn’t have it figured out as an offensive coordinator, but I had a supporting cast around me to get the answers and if I can’t get the answers in this building, then we have problems because we have experts in all areas. Sometimes as a coach, you are self-centered and you don’t want to ask for help, because that admits weakness. I am a curious person and by being curious, you have to have the guts to raise your hand and ask a question. And I will ask questions, because it benefits us all.”

On if he reached out to anyone after becoming the head coach for advice and what the team will look like at the end of the season:

Kitchens: “Hopefully, on a podium. I’ll start with the last one [question]. As I have gone through my career I have built relationships. So to answer your first question, no. I didn’t reach out, but people reached out to me. I remember the first night – actually, the night before while they were discussing and deciding, (Hall of Fame head coach Bill) Parcells called me and asked me what is going on and he gave me some advice that night. After he saw it went in my favor, he called me again. (University of Alabama Head Coach Nick) Saban called me the morning I was driving into work. But again, moving forward, if I don’t have the answers – which there are going to be some answers I don’t have – I have got a great support staff here. And I have a great phone that works most of the time. So I can figure it out. Nobody here – who helped you when you in this business? I guarantee you can tell me. Everybody has people that helped them get to where they are. I am not a finished product. I do not think I have made it. You haven’t made it. Nobody has made it. I told Baker this, I told you guys this – you are never going to be a finished product. I am never going to be a finished product as a person or as a coach, but I know how to continue to try and get better and I have the resources to do that.”

On how he connected with Mayfield so quickly and what is the next step for him:

Kitchens: “Are we connected, Baker and I? You think we have a great relationship? I was just checking. I like to ask questions too, sometimes. I told you I am curious, right? I think the No. 1 thing would be trust and respect. You earn respect by them knowing you know what to do from a verbal or scheme [perspective], or whatever. You earn trust by talking and figuring out who the person is. When you tear away all of the façade, who is the person and what makes him tick? Once you get to know the person, again, it enables you to have tough conversations. Those tough conversations are the ones that end – those butt chewings – those are the ones that get them better. And sometimes, they need confidence. But you have to tear away the façade and see what the kid needs and then you can get him better. And then, the relationship forms."

On why he says he is not the popular choice:

Kitchens: “Well, I mean, all I have heard and in reading the internet is ‘running back coach to head coach in the course of a year.’ Well, that is not the case. I have been a quarterback coach more than I have been a running back coach. I have been a tight end coach more than I have been a quarterback coach – or actually, it is about equal, I think. You have to let me know on that one. But everything I have done is to continue to try and get better. I was fortunate enough to be good enough to start this. But again, I will reiterate, I am not a finished product and I am never going to be.”

On what role did Mayfield play in the hiring of Kitchens and if his relationship as the head coach with Mayfield have to change:

Dorsey: “Baker is a rookie. He still has a lot to learn in the National Football League. Freddie is going to get him to that plateau and along with a lot of other coaches on that staff. I think at the end of the day –when you make selections like this, overarching and organizationally – let senior management begin the process, continue to process and then give it to ownership. Period.”

Kitchens: “The one thing I would say is what is so rewarding about getting the job here with the Cleveland Browns, they are not expecting anything different than what they have had. I can be myself. I don’t have to put on a show, so that is not going to change in front of the team. It kills me with some guys that they think they have to be more head coach-ish, or whatever you call it. I won’t be that. I will be who I am. What that enables me to do is to form and build those relationships on the defensive side of the ball and with the special teams, and I get to be involved with all the aspects of the game, which I enjoy. That is it. I can be myself and we are going to have fun. The fun is in the winning and we are going to have fun. So in an algebraic equation, if we are going to have fun and the fun is in the winning, we are going to win and we are going to have a damn good time doing it. I didn’t see that happening in the first eight weeks of the season. You guys split the season up in two parts, because we weren’t winning. We were having fun because we were winning. I guarantee you if we were getting beat 42-7, then we wouldn’t be over there bantering back and forth. So that is where I sit with that. Yes, I am going to be the same person. If we are winning, I am going to have fun. I am going to be miserable if we are losing and hopefully, we are not doing too much of that.”

On if Kitchens was on his list when he originally got hired:

Dorsey: “No, he wasn’t. But that does not mean that he is not a qualified coach. You just look at the eight games he did, kind of caught your attention, too, didn’t it?”

On if he thought he was popular in Cleveland as the offensive coordinator:

Kitchens: “I think I am popular in Cleveland, because we won some games. But yeah, probably. I know I hear from my kids at school that everybody wants that orange Dawg Pound sweatshirt (laughter). So I do not know. I may be popular because of the sweatshirt. I do not know.”

On if he expects his leading style to change at all as the head coach:

Kitchens: “No, it won’t change at all. Did they say I was easy to get along with when they had a mental error? That is code for ‘you know what,’ right (laughter)? I think we sometimes forget that these are 22 [year old] to – Tom (Brady), he is 40 – so these guys are still developing as people, too. Sometimes, you just have to figure out what drives the person and I tend to do that well, I think. You have to be authentic in everything you do. I know you have to put on a show in certain areas of business or whatever, but that is the great thing about the game of football. You can be authentic and you can be successful in doing that. And you don’t have to change anything. You don’t have to change who you are. Now, [speaking from perception] I do not have to change who I am here. Maybe I had to change, if I went and interviewed for another job. Maybe, I would have had to change who I was and that is not going to happen, so probably not going to get the job. But I think I have shown that being myself can work and it has for the last eight weeks. Again, it wasn’t just me, it was a bunch of people involved that did that. Hell, they brought in (WR) Breshad Perriman, so we made a concerted effort to get him the ball. So what did he do? He took advantage of his opportunities and so much of it goes more into one person. I kind of get embarrassed when people say that.”

On why they didn’t keep Former head coach Gregg Williams and when did Kitchens know football was going to be his life:

Dorsey: “I’ll go first. With regards to Gregg, I think Gregg is a heck of a coach. What we were looking for is the future of the organization moving forward. But again, the committee began to have healthy discussions – a lot of different types of discussions. But at the end of the day, all we constantly came back on – ‘what is the future good of the organization?’ And that is what we decided. We thought Freddie was the best possible fit for this organization moving forward.”

Kitchens: “For me, when I decided that football was going to be life, I was in Tuscaloosa, Ala. selling cars [and] making more money than I have ever made. I was washing FedEx trucks on the weekend. Alabama would play – this was a couple of weeks after I finished – would be playing. There was no televisions in the wash bay, so I would listen to it on the radio. It almost brought me to tears listening to it. So I do not know that I ever wanted to coach, but I knew that I never – I couldn’t live without the game of football. That was more the case than anything.”

On how old he was when that happened:

Kitchens: “23-24.”

On why defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is right for the job and the status of the rest of the coaching staff:

Kitchens: “We are working through the process of that right now and we should have something for you in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, less than that. We are very thorough and thorough seems to be the running message here today, but we are thorough in this. I would rather wait and get it right, than hurry and get it wrong. But when I see a guy that has a tremendous football acumen, is very diverse in his ability to use personnel, then why wait? It is everything that I want, so we didn’t wait. And I like guys that strive to be great and I think that Steve does that. I also like guys that strive to have an environment of learning and strive to have an environment of listening, being together and being a part of a team. I can’t tell you how many staffs I have been on that were not like that. It was all a bunch of individuals and individuals are not going to win. I said it earlier, two is one and one is none and I live by that. The letter “I” is I. It is not a “we.” It is not a word. “I” is not a word, so I like people like that. I like surrounding myself with people like that and Steve is like that.”

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