Are you guys ready for some Hard Knocks? Our long, national football-less nightmare is finally over. Sure, preseason football is fun, but the NFL season really doesn't get going until we can watch a bunch of guys running around in slow motion set to dramatic music. Hard Knocks is a time-honored tradition, and I'm going to be breaking down every rookie-cutting episode right here.
Let's get to it.
If there's anything we love, it's a good training camp fight. Like the faithful friend we know it is, Hard Knocks does not make us wait. The episode starts immediately with a tease of a fight before jumping into the familiar opening credits. SING IT WITH ME.
Baaa Bababaaaaa. Baaa BABABAAAAAA.
And right off the bat we get a very bold fashion choice from defensive line coach Brian Cox.
The all yellow with a bucket-hat look. A classic beginning-of-training-camp outfit if I've ever seen one. The Falcons are emphasizing toughness this year. You don't get to wear something like that without being tough. The only way some coward is making fun of Brian Cox is from the safety of behind his or her computer, whoever that would be.
Then we're treated to a player named Bear Pascoe who is apparently also a real-life cowboy who Hard Knocks shows roping a cow. We're not three minutes into the show, and there's already somebody named Bear, and he's roping a cow.
He's already not only my favorite player, but also person, probably. This would be a lot better if Bear doesn't disappear for the rest of the episode. Thanks, Mr. Bear. We got what we needed from you, and it certainly wasn't football. See you later.
We're then introduced to two players who will certainly become central figures this season: Steven Jackson and Kroy Biermann. Jackson is a legitimate renaissance man who opens an art gallery of his work. Biermann is...married to a Real Housewife of Atlanta. Both equally impressive and important, obviously.
The Biermanns sit down to eat as a family and to watch themselves on TV like most American families do these days. They apparently have their own show called Don't Be Tardy which is a) a real thing and b) inexplicably in its third season.
The first season was called Don't Be Tardy to the Wedding, and after the wedding the network was like, "Well we already basically have the most perfect name ever; let's just drop the wedding part."
Of all the wide receivers on the Falcons, somehow it's Harry Douglas who seems like he'll end up being the most interesting. Douglas balked at his beauty-queen wife, Kierra, helping him pack, then got to camp, where he unloaded all of his stuff, including his own TV, bed set and women's deodorant. He likes how fresh it makes him smell. Who wouldn't?
The big question going into this season was Matt Ryan. He's not the kind of guy who springs to mind when talking about charismatic NFL quarterbacks. Was he going to surprise us, or was Hard Knocks going to just avoid him for the most part? The first time he speaks is telling Roddy White and Julio Jones, "You guys look good today" in the most unconvincing manner ever. This does not bode well for the future.
Thankfully for Ryan, he gets to talk in the credits and shows himself to be a pretty affable guy. Probably not all that interesting but at least not the total dud I was worried about.
We get our first full fight of the season. Biermann, back from injury last season, looks rusty, and his frustration gets the best of him. He spars with first-round pick Jake Matthews: "Hit me in the face again 70; see what the f--k happens." You don't get three seasons on Bravo without learning a little drama.
A great moment occurs as Hard Knocks digs into its archive footage and pulls out a mustachioed Mike Smith from the first season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001. "Probably was the style. I think it was the style. I'm not sure it was, but I was rockin' one." Yes you were, Mike. Yes you were.
It's always fun during each season to see the owners skulking about. This year we are treated to Walt Disney look alike Arthur Blank constantly on the periphery. The coaches try to joke with him, but Blank just seems totally out of place.
He seems like the kind of guy who would try to hang out with the players after practice. "Hey, you guys going out tonight? I was thinking about it. Where's the cool spot these days?"
We're finally given the full fight that was teased in the opener. Undrafted rookie Jacques Smith takes offense at being treated like an undrafted rookie and lashes out. He seems like a chill bro who will definitely make the team.
This year's player someone will take too early in your fantasy draft because he or she liked the way he looked on Hard Knocks might be rookie Devonta Freeman. With Jackson seemingly banged up at running back, Freeman could end up with some carries. And he looks fast. But then again, Hard Knocks could make me look like a star with enough editing.
There's a hilarious cut between Freeman looking at apartments and William Moore showing off his home. Freeman is sold on one apartment's new carpet ("oh, I like this carpet"), while Moore describes how he made his home-buying choices in life. ("They sold me right there once I walked in and saw a big ol' palm tree in the living room.")
Falcons safety Moore is in the second year of his five-year contract that had $14 million in guaranteed money. He is a bright, shining example of somebody who should immediately hire a decorator or somebody to make all choices like that once you sign a big contract. If your big selling point was a palm tree in the middle of a living room, you might want to let somebody else make your decisions for you.
The big shocker in the episode is defensive tackle Peria Jerry who announces his retirement out of nowhere. Coach Smith tries to determine whether he's thought this through. When asked what he'll do next, Jerry responds, "Probably just work. I'll figure it out." Oh, you'll work. Just the usual, generic "work." Find that laying around anywhere.
Jerry tries to walk out of Smith's office without shaking his hand before Smith stops him. That office looked like the last place in the world Jerry wanted to be. He said his body wasn't reacting the way he wanted it to anymore. Smith surmised that his heart and mind didn't seem to be in it while discussing with Blank. From the look of it, I'd say he's not too far off.
Overall, a decent start to the season. Nothing to write home about, that's for sure, but it's hard to get a bad season of Hard Knocks unless Chad Ochocinco is involved somehow.
I'll leave you all with one piece of crucial advice. If any future NFL rookies are reading this, and I'm sure many, many of you are, if you do nothing else, for the love of God, always go with a coach impression in the rookie talent show. Always. You can't go wrong. Do not try to sing if you can't sing. Your skit isn't funny, trust me. Do an impression. You're welcome.