As HBO gets closer to the June 1 date by which it wants to choose a team to appear on Hard Knocks this summer, and as NFL teams seem increasingly uninterested in participating, there’s another theory about why teams might be reluctant: Having a documentary filmmaker around didn’t work out too well for the Saints last season.
The most damning piece of information that has publicly surfaced in the Saints’ bounty scandal was the audiotape of Gregg Williams encouraging his players to injure players on the 49ers, and that audiotape only exists because the Saints agreed to give filmmaker Sean Pamphilon access to the team. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported today that at least one team has mentioned the Williams audio as a reason not to do Hard Knocks, and some teams are “paranoid” about Hard Knocks because they’re concerned that giving access to a reality show could lead to something damaging to their reputations being revealed.
Even if those coaches aren’t running a bounty program or in any other way violating any rules, they still might worry that a piece of audio or video from training camp could be misconstrued, and could cast the team or the coaches in a bad light. The last Hard Knocks revealed that Rex Ryan has a potty mouth, but some coaches could be concerned about something more serious than that.
Those concerns may be unfounded, however, because Hard Knocks has always been a partnership involving not just HBO but also NFL Films and the team involved, and HBO has granted the teams the ability to remove content they’d prefer not to get out. For instance, in August of 2001, when the Ravens were on Hard Knocks, HBO allowed team president David Modell and G.M. Ozzie Newsome to see the shows in advance. When then-Ravens coach Brian Billick had an exchange with Eagles coach Andy Reid over the poor quality of the turf at Veterans Stadium, which led to a Ravens-Eagles preseason game being canceled, HBO agreed not to show that exchange, at the Ravens’ request.
But even though coaches on Hard Knocks are told they’ll have the ability to prevent anything they say in training camp from becoming public, that doesn’t necessarily mean coaches have nothing to worry about. After all, Williams never thought his comments would become public, either. And that’s just one more thing going through the minds of coaches who are reluctant to appear on Hard Knocks.