They can only deny it for so long, but it appears the Cleveland Browns were able to opt out of an offer from the HBO series Hard Knocks.
According to Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer, HBO approached the Browns this spring, but the team turned down the chance to be the subject of the documentary series for the 2014 season.
"It was for the same reason we didn't feel super comfortable having a camera in the draft room," said newly minted head coach Mike Pettine. "Let's get through the first time, let's get through the first year."
Pettine confirmed HBO's request came before the team’s decision to draft Johnny Manziel. Having participated in the Hard Knocks series during his time with the New York Jets, the Browns head coach says there are good and bad aspects of being featured on the show.
"There are positives and negatives to doing it," Pettine said. "It's not something I would say we'd never do, partly because the league can make us do it."
Indeed, if the NFL wants you on Hard Knocks, it isn't a question of "if" but "when." As part of their agreement with the league, all NFL franchises can eventually be forced to open up their facilities to HBO.
Having a new coach in Pettine affords the Browns a respite, however. The league allows teams with first-year coaches to reject offers to host Hard Knocks.
If you're looking for someone to thank for saving the nation from Hard Knocks: Manziel Mania Edition, look no further than Browns majority owner Jimmy Haslam, whose penchant for lopping off head coaches on a yearly basis will keep HBO's cameras at bay for the 2014 season.
With that said, if Pettine and Manziel are back next year, don't be surprised if Roger Goodell twists an arm or two to bring Cleveland into compliance.
It’s all about the ratings, and the NFL will send HBO wherever the veins of television gold run thickest. When you've got Johnny Football in your league, you know exactly where to go.
On the Twitters.