The penultimate episode in the latest installment of HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cincinnati Bengals, Episode 4 had a little bit of everything on Tuesday night.
From players trying to assert themselves to players feeling the ax of having their terminated contracts, the Bengals put on quite a show as they prepared for their third preseason game—a road showdown with the Dallas Cowboys.
Heck, Hard Knocks even featured an arm wrestling contest with former All-Pro linebacker James Harrison. As ESPN's Andrew Brandt smartly noted on Twitter, there aren't many players—much less human beings—capable of taking on that challenge:
Arm-wrestling James Harrison? Good luck with that. #hardknocks— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) August 28, 2013
The weekly program chronicled Cincinnati's practice week before the 24-18 loss to Dallas on Saturday and a round of cuts to trim the roster to 75. Here are some of the best moments and storylines from Tuesday.
Brandon Joiner Injury
Devoted Bengals fans knew it was coming, but that didn't make Brandon Joiner's ACL tear any easier to swallow.
As noted by the NFL's Around the League Twitter account, Joiner was put on injured reserve on Tuesday, just hours before his horrific setback was shown on HBO:
Bengals waived G Otis Hudson, T Jason Weaver. Placed LBs Brandon Joiner, Sean Porter on IR and put QB Zac Robinson, FB Chris Pressley on PUP— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) August 27, 2013
Hard Knocks showcased the injury very early in the episode, showing the linebacker down on the turf holding his knee and writhing in pain.
After he was carted off the field, the team had to get back to work, a moment that showcases just how fragile life as a professional athlete truly can be.
Margus Hunt Has Jokes, Skill
Estonia-born defensive end Margus Hunt was a second-round pick of the Bengals this year, but he has first-round jokes.
Bleacher Report's Sean O'Donnell was among those who were cracking up at Hunt's answer to a question about the early part of his life:
"What do y'all eat over there?" ... "Plutonium." I love Margus Hunt.— Sean O'Donnell (@SeanODonnellNFL) August 28, 2013
Hunt, who came to SMU on scholarship as a world-class track and field star, eventually wound up on the football field on the Dallas campus and his life has never been the same. A physical freak and one of the best pure athletes in his rookie class, Hunt figures to make an impact in Cincinnati for years to come.
Former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Ellis—one of the league's best pass-rushers during his prime who is helping out with some of Cincinnati's defensive lineman in the episode—certainly thinks so.
As noted in this tweet from Jay Morrison of Cox Media Group, Ellis used money as a motivational tactic for Hunt during Bengals practice:
The first few snaps of his game against Dallas on Saturday weren't great, but after a stern talking to from Ellis and a few of his defensive coaches, Hunt rebounded to record the first preseason sack of his career later in the contest.
It could be the first of many QB takedowns in his career.
Jay Gruden Goes Off
Last week's episode showcased Mike Zimmer and Hue Jackson, this week offensive coordinator Jay Gruden got some more burn as a coach on the show.
Furious with his team's effort during practice, Gruden took a nightly meeting as a chance to chastise his team in nearly every way possible, lambasting them for poor effort and using Andy Dalton's three-year streak of never dropping a snap (knock on wood) as an example for others to reach for.
Oh, and he had some classic one-liners.
Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer posted one of his favorites on Twitter:
"That is Mickey Mouse, horse(bleep) football and we all had our hands in it." -- Gruden on Monday practice— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) August 28, 2013
As noted by NFL.com's Patrick Crawley, the entirety of Gruden's rant is not suitable for family television:
Great great speech from Jay Gruden tonight on #HardKnocks. Makes Rex Ryan look like a choir boy.— Patrick Crawley (@pecrawleynfl) August 28, 2013
That being said, B/R's Matt Miller thinks Gruden has a future in a "Matt Foley: motivational speaker" role if he chooses to leave football behind:
Jay Gruden should be my life coach. I love this guy.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 28, 2013
Going off on one's team is commonplace in sports at all levels, but it's always interesting to see in which direction a coach's rant will go when he's being filmed.
Player Cuts Take Hold
Like the injury to Joiner, we knew cuts were coming. The Bengals as much as told us on Twitter:
Roster moves: Waived TE Richard Quinn, DT Vaughn Meatoga, WR Jheranie Boyd, CB Terrence Brown, LB Jordan Campbell, K Quinn Sharp. #Bengals— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 25, 2013
Through all the joy of young guys getting chances to compete in training camp and no-name players making a name for themselves on stages like Hard Knocks, the reality of the roster situation and impending cuts is never easy to swallow.
Surprisingly, many of the players took their exit quite well. Professionalism is an undervalued trait in the NFL these days, and we see the cut players talking to coaches about getting better and taking advice for the future in lieu of ranting and raving about different excuses and putting other players down.
Man, is that refreshing.
Roster cuts aren't done—Cincinnati will have to trim its roster to 53 players before the start of the regular season, and only episode No. 5 will tell us if bubble players will take their firing in stride.
Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cincinnati Bengals will conclude its 2013 season next Tuesday at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
Follow Ethan Grant on Twitter.