La'el Collins suspension: Federal court judge upholds penalty ahead of Cowboys vs. Patriots in Week 6

Sports

CBS Sports 13 October, 2021 - 08:21am

La'el Collins took the NFL to court last week and now knows his fate. The Dallas Cowboys starting right tackle was issued a five-game suspension following the regular season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for violating the league's substance abuse policy -- spawning a messy back-and-forth between Collins' camp and the NFL front office. Having already lost his first appeal, Collins took the matter to court in Collin County, where Cowboys headquarters in Frisco, Texas, sits, before seeing it moved to federal court for adjudication. The verdict finally arrived on Tuesday, and the honorable Judge Amos Mazzant III upheld the punishment on Collins.

He wasn't expected to travel with the Cowboys to play the New England Patriots in Week 6, but this makes it official. Collins will miss that contest and his five-game suspension will then be complete, and he'll be allowed to return to the practice field following the Week 7 bye and take on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8. 

All told, it was a long shot for Collins to win the judgment he was seeking.

Mazzant, who ruled in favor of granting running back Ezekiel Elliott an injunction in 2017 prior to it being overturned and the case moved to federal court in New York, found fault in both the arguments of Collins and the NFL. Collins, whom the NFL accused of attempting to bribe the league's drug-test collector -- an allegation Collins adamantly denies -- argued the league overstepped its power in handing him a five-game suspension, additionally considering he'd never been suspended before. On this point, Mazzant scolded the league and agreed with Collins.

"Court has serious concerns regarding the NFL's conduct," Mazzant wrote in the final judgment, via CBS Sports legal analyst Amy Trask. "The NFL did not give itself authority under its contract to subject a player to suspension as a type of 'additional discipline' for deliberately evading or avoiding testing"

Collins didn't escape Mazzant's ire, though, scolded for the timeliness of the lawsuit -- considering Collins had already served three games of the five-game suspension and was virtually assured to miss a fourth by the time he filed suit -- along with other notable issues in the suit, as explained by Trask; via Ajit Narasimhan of LeagueOfJustice.com:

The standard to meet in order to obtain an injunction or temporary restraining order in either federal or state court is a high bar to meet. A party must show: (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat that he will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted; (3) the threatened injury outweighs any damage that the injunction might cause the defendant; and (4) the injunction will not disserve the public interest.

Judge Mazzant was not convinced that Collins met all, or in fact any, of the above noted metrics which are required in order to issue an injunction.

Mazzant's comment toward Collins bears this out.

"At this point in the litigation, based on the evidence presented and arguments made, the Court finds that Collins cannot meet the burden of demonstrating a substantial likelihood of success on the merits for any of his claims," Mazzant wrote.

In other words, Collins waited too long to take legal action in a court of law, in Mazzant's view, and additionally found Collins' case didn't carry enough water to warrant an injunction or overturn. But Mazzant, in issuing one final side eye to the NFL, made it known that, once again, he believed they overstepped.

"The Court takes no comfort in enforcing an arbitration award that upholds a punishment that, arguably, is not permissible under the parties' [collective bargaining agreement]," he wrote. "But, just as the Court cannot embrace its own opinion as to the validity of Collins' claims or the out-of-bounds nature of the NFL's disciplinary decisions, the Court cannot disregard an arbitrator's reasonable construction of the parties' agreements."

It's a succinct conclusion to a fight that devolved into toxicity over the past several weeks, if not months, with both parties walking away with a black eye issued by a federal court judge. The bigger punch comes to Collins, however, considering the five-game suspension will cost him around $2 million for 2021, while also voiding all future guarantees on his five-year, $50 million extension signed in 2019 -- amounting to more than $9 million in total lost revenue.

Collins has long returned to the Cowboys facility to continue training, which is permissible under the rules of his suspension, but was banned from being on the practice field. Head coach Mike McCarthy notes the starting right tackle "looks good" physically, and team exec Stephen Jones, while joining owner Jerry Jones in having justifiably high praise for the play of backup tackle Terence Steele in the absence of Collins, made it clear on Tuesday that the club believes Collins can step back into his starting role immediately.

"Obviously, La'el is a great player for us," Jones said to 105.3FM the Fan. "That will obviously be addressed when he gets back, but we feel like he will be ready to step in. Five weeks is a long time. The good news is he has been around the building around now for two weeks and this will be his third week. 

"We'll welcome him back and it will be great to have him back."

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Crunching Dallas Cowboys stats: Superlatives abound

Blogging The Boys 13 October, 2021 - 12:50pm

Cowboys continue to boss games with another dominating offensive day: Decoding Kellen Moore

Folk Earns AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Honors by Putting Team First

Sports Illustrated 13 October, 2021 - 09:49am

Patriots K Nick Folk was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week by the National Football League for his performance in the Patriots 25-22 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. It is the seventh Player of the Week Award for Folk in his career. He earned two AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Honors in 2020. He earned the awards following Week 9 of the 2020 season (vs. the New York Jets on Nov. 19 and after Week 12 (vs. Arizona on Nov. 29).

Despite New England’s inconsistent play on both sides of the ball, Folk was the player most responsible for their victory. He connected on all four of his field goal-attempts against Houston (52, 52, 32 and 21 yards). It marked the 11th time in his career that he has had at least four field goals in a game; his third as a member of the Patriots, and his second time in 2021. Folk connected on a 52-yard field goal in the second quarter and another 52-yard field goal in the third quarter against the Texans. The pair of 52-yarders were his longest field goals as a member of the Patriots. Folk’s 21-yard field goal came with 17 seconds to play to put the Patriots in front for good, 25-22.

Folk had his second career game with two 50-yard field goals and became the second Patriots player with two 50-yard field goals in one game. He joins Stephen Gostkowski, who also had two 50-yard field goals in a game three times.

While Folk’s statistics have been impressive, his reliability and durability have drawn both the attention, and admiration, of his teammates, coaches and Patriots fans. Ironically, Folk’s presence on the Patriots was far from guaranteed to begin the 2021 season. After signing a deal in the offseason to return to New England, the Pats signed undrafted rookie free agent kicker Quinn Nordin, who pushed Folk for a spot on the roster during training camp. During final roster cut downs, Folk was released, with Nordin earning the spot on New England’s 53-man roster. Shortly thereafter, he would return to the Patriots, as a member of their practice squad.

When Nordin was placed on injured reserve with an abdomen injury, Folk once again found himself handling the Patriots’ kicking duties.The 36-year-old has been nearly perfect on field-goal tries over the past year, making 40 of his last 41 dating back to last September. His only miss this season would come on a game-winning attempt in adverse weather conditions during the closing moments of New England’s Week Four matchup with the Tampa bay Buccaneers. Folk’s 56-yard try hit the left upright.

Still, the veteran kicker persevered, choosing to focus on helping the team, rather than seeing personal retribution. Following Sunday’s game against Houston, Folk described his approach to re-engaging after a tough miss, while referencing a classic 1980s action film:

“Just wanna get back in the saddle and get back going again,” Folk said. “I guess the way I kind of look at it is a little ‘Top Gun’ in here – when Maverick loses Goose and they want to get him back in the saddle pretty quick. That’s me. I want to get back out there and help the team win as best I can.”

For Folk, ‘getting back in the saddle’ has meant as much physically as mentally. For the past two weeks, Folk has been listed on the Patriots Injury and Practice Participation reports with an ailing left knee. He has continued to work through the injury with a persistence and physical strength that has caught the attention of both his teammates and his coaches.

“Nick’s mentally tough,” Patriots special teams coordinator Cam Achord said Tuesday. “He knows how to take care of his body and what he has to do to get ready every day and every week. Obviously, we have all the confidence in the world in putting him out there every week, and he’s doing everything he can to keep himself there and maintain his body and be ready to go. Obviously, he’s delivered some big kicks for us, and hopefully he’ll continue that moving forward.”

With the Patriots set to host the 4-1 Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, they will (in all likelihood) be able to count on the reliable leg of kicker Nick Folk. Despite the weekly honor bestowed upon him, the veteran will simply take the chance when his number is called, without attention to fanfare. Simply put, he will be doing what he can to help his team win, and in the process, continue to find honor in reliability.

Folk Earns AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Honors by Putting Team First

Boston Herald 13 October, 2021 - 09:49am

Patriots K Nick Folk was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week by the National Football League for his performance in the Patriots 25-22 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. It is the seventh Player of the Week Award for Folk in his career. He earned two AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Honors in 2020. He earned the awards following Week 9 of the 2020 season (vs. the New York Jets on Nov. 19 and after Week 12 (vs. Arizona on Nov. 29).

Despite New England’s inconsistent play on both sides of the ball, Folk was the player most responsible for their victory. He connected on all four of his field goal-attempts against Houston (52, 52, 32 and 21 yards). It marked the 11th time in his career that he has had at least four field goals in a game; his third as a member of the Patriots, and his second time in 2021. Folk connected on a 52-yard field goal in the second quarter and another 52-yard field goal in the third quarter against the Texans. The pair of 52-yarders were his longest field goals as a member of the Patriots. Folk’s 21-yard field goal came with 17 seconds to play to put the Patriots in front for good, 25-22.

Folk had his second career game with two 50-yard field goals and became the second Patriots player with two 50-yard field goals in one game. He joins Stephen Gostkowski, who also had two 50-yard field goals in a game three times.

While Folk’s statistics have been impressive, his reliability and durability have drawn both the attention, and admiration, of his teammates, coaches and Patriots fans. Ironically, Folk’s presence on the Patriots was far from guaranteed to begin the 2021 season. After signing a deal in the offseason to return to New England, the Pats signed undrafted rookie free agent kicker Quinn Nordin, who pushed Folk for a spot on the roster during training camp. During final roster cut downs, Folk was released, with Nordin earning the spot on New England’s 53-man roster. Shortly thereafter, he would return to the Patriots, as a member of their practice squad.

When Nordin was placed on injured reserve with an abdomen injury, Folk once again found himself handling the Patriots’ kicking duties.The 36-year-old has been nearly perfect on field-goal tries over the past year, making 40 of his last 41 dating back to last September. His only miss this season would come on a game-winning attempt in adverse weather conditions during the closing moments of New England’s Week Four matchup with the Tampa bay Buccaneers. Folk’s 56-yard try hit the left upright.

Still, the veteran kicker persevered, choosing to focus on helping the team, rather than seeing personal retribution. Following Sunday’s game against Houston, Folk described his approach to re-engaging after a tough miss, while referencing a classic 1980s action film:

“Just wanna get back in the saddle and get back going again,” Folk said. “I guess the way I kind of look at it is a little ‘Top Gun’ in here – when Maverick loses Goose and they want to get him back in the saddle pretty quick. That’s me. I want to get back out there and help the team win as best I can.”

For Folk, ‘getting back in the saddle’ has meant as much physically as mentally. For the past two weeks, Folk has been listed on the Patriots Injury and Practice Participation reports with an ailing left knee. He has continued to work through the injury with a persistence and physical strength that has caught the attention of both his teammates and his coaches.

“Nick’s mentally tough,” Patriots special teams coordinator Cam Achord said Tuesday. “He knows how to take care of his body and what he has to do to get ready every day and every week. Obviously, we have all the confidence in the world in putting him out there every week, and he’s doing everything he can to keep himself there and maintain his body and be ready to go. Obviously, he’s delivered some big kicks for us, and hopefully he’ll continue that moving forward.”

With the Patriots set to host the 4-1 Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, they will (in all likelihood) be able to count on the reliable leg of kicker Nick Folk. Despite the weekly honor bestowed upon him, the veteran will simply take the chance when his number is called, without attention to fanfare. Simply put, he will be doing what he can to help his team win, and in the process, continue to find honor in reliability.

Patriots vs Cowboys preview: New England faces a tough challenge in Week 6

Pats Pulpit 13 October, 2021 - 06:00am

Related: What we learned about the Patriots and the NFL in Week 5

Dallas has been one of the best looking teams in football as of late, winning its last four games and playing some good football on both sides of the ball. The offense is productive, the defense opportunistic, and the results speak for themselves: at the moment, the Cowboys are ranked second in the NFC playoff picture behind only the 5-0 Arizona Cardinals.

With all that being said, let’s take a closer look at New England’s upcoming opponent.

Yards gained: 2,198 (2nd)

Passing: 123-for-166, 1,334 yards, 13 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 0.259 EPA (5th)

Rushing: 163 carries, 864 yards, 6 touchdowns, 0.026 EPA (4th)

Dallas features one of the most potent offensive attacks in football. The passing game led by Dak Prescott has been impressive despite ranking only 23rd in the league in attempts. While not all of those points came courtesy of the offense — two pick-sixes need to be added to the equation — the team managed to score 36-plus in three straight games.

Points against: 23.4/game (14th)

Yards given up: 1,952 (25th)

Passing defense: 135-for-208, 1,555 yards, 10 touchdown, 10 interceptions, -0.016 EPA (7th)

Rushing defense: 94 carries, 397 yards, 3 touchdowns, -0.093 EPA (17th)

Led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Trevon Diggs, Dallas’ defense has been pretty good as well. While not making as much headlines as the other side of the ball it has been stout against both the run and the pass. Most importantly it has been opportunistic: the Cowboys defense has picked off ten passes and recovered a pair of fumbles.

Week 2 at Los Angeles Chargers: W 20-17

Week 3 vs Philadelphia Eagles: W 41-21

Week 4 vs Carolina Panthers: W 36-28

Week 5 vs New York Giants: W 44-20

After starting the season with a loss against Tom Brady and the reigning world champions, the Cowboys went on a four-game winning streak that saw them outscore their opponents with an average score of 35-22. While the victorious against Philadelphia and New York were impressive, the team’s biggest win of the season so far arguably came in Week 2 against the Chargers: the loss is Los Angeles’ only one of the season.

What does stand out about the Cowboys’ schedule so far is that the last three games all happened at home. When forced to leave Texas so far, the team has been just 1-1 — some hope for the 2-3 Patriots.

Led by veteran quarterback and potential NFL Comeback Player of the Year Dak Prescott, the Cowboys have talent all over the board on the offensive side of the ball. Ezekiel Elliot leads the team in yards from scrimmage (507), while the receiving duo of CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper is one of the best in the business. The tight ends have proven themselves as productive players as well, with the offensive line anchored by Tyron Smith and Zack Martin still among the premier units in the game.

DE Randy Gregory, DT Osa Odighizuwa*, DE Tarell Basham, DE Brent Urban; LB Micah Parsons*, LB Leighton Vander Esch; CB Trevon Diggs, CB Anthony Brown, CB Jourdan Lewis; SS Jayron Kearse, FS Damontae Kazee

While Trevon Diggs stands out, the Cowboys field some other big names on defense as well. Micah Parsons and Leighton Vander Esch are former first-round draft picks in the linebacker room, while Randy Gregory and Tarell Basham are also well-established. The biggest surprise so far this season might actually be third-round rookie Osa Odighizuwa, who has established himself as a starting defensive tackle.

K Greg Zuerlein, P Bryan Anger, LS Jacob McQuaide; KR Tony Pollard, PR CeeDee Lamb

Dallas features plenty of experience in the kicking game, even though the unit has seen its ups and downs so far this season. Greg Zuerlein has made just 81.8 percent of his field goal tries (9 of 11) as well as 89.5 percent of his point-after kicks (17 of 19). Opposing teams, meanwhile, gain significantly more yards on kickoff returns than Dallas’ Tony Pollard does — 29.2 versus 21.3. That said, CeeDee Lamb has been productive returning punts as his 12.3-yard average shows.

WR CeeDee Lamb: While not the most productive player on Dallas’ offense — an honor that belongs to the aforementioned Ezekiel Elliott — Lamb is a player worth keeping an eye on. After all, he has gained 14.5 yards per reception so far this season and is leading the club with 348 receiving yards on 24 catches. Lamb also has caught a pair of touchdowns and will be a challenging matchup for a New England secondary that struggled in Week 5 against the Houston Texans.

RB Tony Pollard: While Ezekiel Elliot is still the Cowboys’ undisputed RB1, Tony Pollard has been a productive player for them as well. Serving as a rotational option alongside the superstar runner, Pollard is second on the team with 418 scrimmage yards. On a per-play basis, he is even more productive than Elliot: Pollard is gaining 6.4 yards per rushing attempt and 7.8 yards per reception compared to Elliot’s 5.3 and 6.1, respectively.

CB Trevon Diggs: Only one player in the NFL has more than three interceptions so far this season. That player is Trevon Diggs, who has picked off six throws in five games. The former second-round draft pick has been impressive so far, running one of his interceptions back for a touchdown and generally finding himself around the football on a regular basis. While Diggs has also given up 19 catches for 335 yards, his playmaking ability makes him a dangerous defender to challenge.

Coordinators: Kellen Moore (offense), Dan Quinn (defense), John Fassel (special teams)

Now in his second season in Dallas, long-time Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has a 10-11 record. However, he spent the majority of his first season with the team without injured quarterback Dak Prescott; the Cowboys went just 6-10 in McCarthy’s first year at the helm.

The 57-year-old retained some parts of the previous coaching staff, most prominently offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. He did add new coordinators responsible for the defense and special teams operations; both ex-Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and long-time NFL assistant John Fassel bring considerable experience to the table.

The team’s coaching staff also has some ties to the Patriots. Fassel’s assistant, Ben McDaniels, is the brother of New England’s offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels. Strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash, meanwhile, spent 11 seasons with the club before his departure after the 2015 season.

While Dallas leads the series after winning the first seven meetings between the two organizations, the Patriots have won the last six games going all the way back to the late 1990s. Along the way, the Cowboys went 0-4 when traveling to Foxborough.

Cowboys news: Ezekiel Elliott’s resurgence has led the Cowboys to regain their identity

Blogging The Boys 13 October, 2021 - 04:00am

Catching you up on all the latest news surrounding America’s Team.

He worked hard this summer to be the best version of himself. He filled Instagram and Twitter with dozens of workout videos.. He altered his diet, lost weight and sculpted his body. He arrived at training camp at a weight he hadn’t seen since Ohio State.

The impact of his work is obvious. Against the Giants, he had five runs of 10 yards or more. He scored on a 13-yard touchdown run around right end, using speed to the edge then accelerating to hit the hole and sprint down the sideline and into the end zone.

A week earlier, he had a 47-yard run against Carolina - the longest since his rookie year. “He’s in a really good place,” offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. “Right now, he’s awesome.” Elliott is running violently, punishing defenders with every carry, while falling forward.

He’s moving piles and forcing teams to commit defenders to stopping him, which helps Dak Prescott and the passing game. Prescott is now an elite quarterback, but no passer wants to throw the ball 40 or 50 times a game because it’s not a game plan for success. All you have to do is look at Prescott’s 4-11 record when he throws the ball more than 40 times.

Taking a look at some storylines for this big Week 6 matchup.

Patriots. Things almost went south in a hurry last week for the Patriots before rallying for a 25-22 win against the Houston Texans. Houston, widely believed to be in the running for a top-five pick in this April's NFL Draft, led 22-9 after scoring on the opening drive of the second half. With their backs against the wall, New England clamped down defensively and did not allow another Texans score and rallied to tie the game with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Henry that tied the game in the fourth. Then with 15-seconds left, Nick Folk booted a 21-yard field goal, his fourth of the game, to win it.

Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has looked like the next franchise quarterback in New England despite a few learning moments in his first five games. Jones was selected with the 15th overall pick last April and earned the starting job over Cam Newton this preseason. He just the second rookie quarterback to start for the Patriots since Drew Bledsoe in 1993, along with Jacoby Brissett in 2016.

Despite a notable amount of talent still on the roster, this is very much so a rebuilding year and a transition into the next era of Belichick's Patriots. Tom Brady has not been a part of the organization in two seasons, Julian Edelman retired this offseason, and the front office traded Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore away to Carolina for next-to-nothing. However, the signings of Matthew Judon, Hunter Henry, Jalen Mills, Kyle Van Noy have provided a solid foundation of veterans to mix with the youth on both sides of the ball.

Should the Cowboys be looking to replace Tyler Biadasz as the starting center?

It's hard to find too many issues with a team's that's rolling into a Week 6 after four-straight wins, but it was easy to see that the Cowboys had some issues with their snaps against New York. The struggles between Tyler Biadasz and Dak Prescott were evident enough that Jones was asked about it in his weekly radio appearance, and he said it's something he's got his eye on. "We've got to continue to be successful to make sure that exchange is as natural as Dak can make it and the center," Jones said.

Biadasz has faced criticism in the days since the game for a couple of errant snaps against the Giants, which Prescott had to reach to corral. A fumbled snap led to a second Dallas turnover in the final minute of the first quarter, though it's fair to say Prescott played a large role in that miscue.

"Yeah, that kind of rushed the whole snap to handoff mechanics and threw the ball away right there and just definitely can't do that," Prescott said after the game.

He likely wasn’t going to play this week anyway, but the La’el Collins lawsuit for an injunction is denied.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on Tuesday that he didn’t see any reason to think that tackle La’el Collins would be available for Sunday’s game against the Patriots and now we know for certain that he won’t be back with the team.

Judge Amos L. Mazzant denied Collins’ bid for a temporary restraining order that would halt his suspension under the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Collins was suspended five games and has already served the first four games of the ban.

In his opinion, Mazzant writes, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, that “The Court takes no comfort in enforcing an arbitration award that upholds a punishment that, arguably, is not permissible under the parties’ CBA. But, just as the Court cannot embrace its own opinion as to the validity of Collins’ claims or the out-of-bounds nature of the NFL’s disciplinary decisions, the Court cannot disregard an arbitrator’s reasonable construction of the parties’ agreements.”

Looking at some of the biggest statistical takeaways from Sunday’s victory.

Dallas’ pass-rush is dominant. When DeMarcus Lawrence went down after week one, there was speculation that the Cowboys would be unable to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Well, after week five, it is safe to say the Dallas pass rush is just fine.

Coming into this matchup, the Giants’ offensive line had allowed the fifth least pressure per dropback at 16.8%. But in week five, the Dallas defensive line was imposing their will, getting to the quarterback on 45% of passes. Randy Gregory alone pressured the Giants’ quarterback nine times, the most of any player in week five.

Whether it was Daniel Jones or Mike Glennon, the Cowboys were making them uncomfortable in the pocket. While these efforts did not result in any sacks, the Dallas defensive line made the Giants backfield their temporary home. We should not be surprised about this performance as the Cowboys have done it all season. Of the 221 players in 2021 with more than 40 pass-rush snaps, three Dallas defenders rank in the top twenty of quarterback pressures. Osa Odighizuwa, Micah Parsons, and Randy Gregory have looked like men amongst boys through five weeks.

Reviewing more from the Cowboys-Giants.

Cedrick Wilson has done a great job filling in for Michael Gallup. Without Gallup in the lineup, the Cowboys are missing a vertical threat opposite CeeDee Lamb, but Wilson has fit in well with Kellen Moore’s plan to stretch defenses across the field. On Lamb’s touchdown against James Bradberry, Wilson’s route quickly drew coverage from the middle of the field, giving Lamb the space to get behind the Giants defense.

In their first game without Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys linebacker rotation is taking shape. Even though the drive ended in a Giants touchdown, the second quarter sequence at the goal line was an impressive series for some new faces to the Dallas defense. The Giants tried to read Micah Parsons on second down after he shot a gap and made a stop on first down, but Parsons along with Leighton Vander Esch kept the play from scoring. Rookies Chauncey Golston and Jabril Cox – who Dan Quinn wants on more third down packages – chased down Jones on a bootleg on third down. It was Cox that delivered the hit to Jones that led to him being carted off. Mike Glennon came in and handed to Devontae Booker on fourth and goal for the score, with starting RB Saquon Barkley also lost to injury in the first quarter.

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