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Hard Knocks a revealing look at Dolphins camp

David Garrard AP

Hard Knocks is back for another NFL training camp, premiering on Tuesday night with an inside look at the Miami Dolphins, and the HBO reality show delivered what it always has: Behind-the-scenes access and insight that’s uncommon even in the NFL, where fans have an insatiable appetite for information and no end of outlets providing nonstop news coverage.

The reason Hard Knocks works, in fact, is that it isn’t really about the news but about the people. Any fan could have checked the transactions and learned that the Dolphins had cut guard Derek Dennis and signed guard Eric Steinbach. But Hard Knocks gave us a taste for what Dennis was feeling as his NFL dreams were dealt a crushing blow, and also gave us a taste for the personality of Steinbach, who said after his workout, “All I need now is a cold tub and a cigarette and I’m good.”

The three-man quarterback competition among first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill, free agent addition David Garrard and last year’s starter Matt Moore will obviously be a major part of Hard Knocks, but the first episode dealt more with Tannehill’s contract negotiations. Tannehill’s holdout was presented as so worrisome that we hear the team’s chief contract negotiator, Dawn Aponte, telling coach Joe Philbin that it had reached the point where Tannehill may sit out the entire 2012 season and enter the 2013 NFL draft. (Although that’s always the worst- case scenario in every negotiation with every rookie, it’s highly unlikely that either side ever thought there was a real chance that was going to happen with Tannehill.)

The players’ wives are also a big part of the show. All three of the entrants in the Dolphins’ quarterback competition are married to attractive blondes, and then there was the wife of Chad Johnson, who is heard saying of her husband, “We met on Twitter and he was being his dickhead self.” For his part, Johnson informed the audience that he didn’t have sex for the entire season he spent with the Patriots. (Later, Philbin was shown lecturing Johnson about watching his language when talking to the media.)

But while the players’ off-field personalities and romantic relationships may bring in a broader audience, for football fans the most interesting parts are the candid assessments of the players’ on-field performances. One of the best such moments was an assistant coach saying of tight end Les Brown, “He is a complete liability at pass pro and run block.” And recent reports that cornerback Vontae Davis had fallen out of favor in Miami were bolstered by the evidence on display in Hard Knocks: Davis could be heard complaining that he was tired during a practice, and at another point Philbin got on Davis’s case for taking a bathroom break.

That raises the possibility that both Brown and Davis may be looking for work by the end of training camp. One of the best parts of Hard Knocks every year is (let’s face it) seeing guys get cut. It’s not pleasant, but it’s fascinating to watch. There will be plenty of that on Hard Knocks in the weeks ahead, and the season premiere suggests that it will be, as always, compelling television.

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45 Responses to “Hard Knocks a revealing look at Dolphins camp”
  1. msclemons67 says: Aug 7, 2012 11:02 PM

    Wait a minute… we can say “dickhead” here?

  2. nyjets1017 says: Aug 7, 2012 11:02 PM

    Without Chad Johnson that would not have been worth watching

  3. sellout3871 says: Aug 7, 2012 11:04 PM

    Man that first episode redefined BORING. Hopefully it picks up next week with their eccentric O-Line coach.

  4. florioisabore says: Aug 7, 2012 11:07 PM

    Youre crazy if you think Vontae is going anywhere

  5. kane337 says: Aug 7, 2012 11:10 PM

    Coach Philbin and Ryan Tannehill are keepers.

  6. jc327 says: Aug 7, 2012 11:13 PM

    That was amazing! Fins Up!

  7. skoobyfl says: Aug 7, 2012 11:13 PM

    The Miami Dolphins with the first pick in the 2013 draft take…

  8. realnflmaster says: Aug 7, 2012 11:15 PM

    The JETS are gonna beat the snot out of Miami and Buffalo. Kings of the Pretenders those two empty seat stadium franchises are.

    Enjoy battling for 3rd and 4th as you’ve done the last three years and will continue to do so.

  9. rockhill32 says: Aug 7, 2012 11:17 PM

    “For his part, Johnson informed the audience that he didn’t have sex for the entire season he spent with the Patriots.”

    That explains his performance with the Patriots.

  10. andymannfl says: Aug 7, 2012 11:18 PM

    Comparing Les Brown with Vontae Davis is pretty laughable. They’re not going to cut Davis, I mean c’mon…

  11. ProDolphinsTalk says: Aug 7, 2012 11:21 PM

    I like this Philbin guy….

    GO DOLPHINS!

  12. canetic says: Aug 7, 2012 11:21 PM

    Les Brown needs a few weeks in the weight room. Or a red cape to wave in front of the rushers. Ole!

  13. ezra954 says: Aug 7, 2012 11:22 PM

    A few steps into the football season and the usual haters are holding signs

    Just do the fans right this year Miami

  14. ravensdominate says: Aug 7, 2012 11:24 PM

    That episode shows us 1 thing for sure… The Dolphins aren’t going to be good this year.

  15. scoobaj says: Aug 7, 2012 11:25 PM

    sweet show no matter what team, fins fans deserve it, they have been robbed of their entertainment dollar for a long time now

  16. rcampore says: Aug 7, 2012 11:27 PM

    I missed Hard Knocks last year and am so glad it is back. As a football fan, it’s fascinating no matter what team is on the show to just see the ins and outs of different organizations.

    Coach Philbin is pretty much the complete opposite of Rex Ryan in his style and persona.

    And it totally makes sense that Chad Johnson would meet his wife on twitter.

  17. finsfrenzy says: Aug 7, 2012 11:28 PM

    Right!! Because the Jets/Jokes ever sweep the Fins….enjoy your Tebowmania this year, hope you still have the receipt for your Sanchez jersey

  18. jonsey2028 says: Aug 7, 2012 11:31 PM

    The only thing the Jets are beating the the snot out of is each other.

  19. finsbooyah says: Aug 7, 2012 11:32 PM

    Obviously, I’m a little biased, but that was awesome. It’s cool to see these people I read about every day act like normal human beings. Can’t wait for the games to begin.

  20. schmitty2 says: Aug 7, 2012 11:56 PM

    Tannehill’s wife alone will produce record ratings for this show

  21. jrcoop says: Aug 8, 2012 12:24 AM

    Did Chad think he had joined a monastery last year?

  22. samoanjungle says: Aug 8, 2012 12:53 AM

    Steinbach looked like a shadow of what he was in Cincinnati. Maybe he HAS been smoking.

  23. deadeye says: Aug 8, 2012 1:15 AM

    Miami is on their way past the Jets. Rex will get fired as the Jest begin yet another rebuilding job.

  24. ishudbgm says: Aug 8, 2012 1:32 AM

    Loved it when Pouncey threatened to beat some guys ass after practice followed by Big Jake coming over for back-up. Cant wait till episode 2 to see more of the nasty O-line. While Davis may not get cut him getting traded is not out the realm of possibility. They traded Bmarsh with out blinking, trading Vontae would come without much hesitation. The kid did have character issues coming out of Illinois, looks like they may still be there and a new coaching staff who did not draft you is not a staff to take chances with.

  25. tigerphins says: Aug 8, 2012 1:51 AM

    There’s a lot more talent on this team than Sparano and the past coaching staff pulled out of them, and Philbin & Co have what it takes to get the job done.

    Jets should spend less time fighting with each other and more time trying to minimize the future whippings they have coming.

  26. sportsworldforumscom says: Aug 8, 2012 2:10 AM

    Anything with Chad Johnson like that is a must see. He was hilarious.

    Especially his intro news conference.

  27. kvh59 says: Aug 8, 2012 2:34 AM

    I don’t think they will cut Vontae. But, it’s true if you watched the first show, that the coaches aren’t thrilled about him. He seemed lazy and at one point they said Sean is giving us more than Vontae.

  28. phillyphinsfan says: Aug 8, 2012 4:45 AM

    Looks like Vontae’s new nickname is “The Tinman”. The Jets are picking up right where they left off last season when then imploded in Miami. lol

  29. beckzhere says: Aug 8, 2012 6:52 AM

    Must see tv.

  30. dryheaveone says: Aug 8, 2012 7:10 AM

    Hard knocks is always good in my opinion no matter what team…….most awkward moment of show?…when Chad comes bopping into coaches meeting and you can tell they don’t want him there.

  31. patssmelllikepoo says: Aug 8, 2012 7:12 AM

    The most talent I saw through the whole show is when the cheerleaders were on the field!! Get ready for alot of orange seats again this year Miami.

  32. bangitfootball says: Aug 8, 2012 7:29 AM

    Chad Johnson walks into a coaches only meeting and pulls up a chair like hes the team owner until they timidly ask him to leave. Philpins gonna regret the day he signed him until he cuts him. Unfortunately hes got nothing else at WR.

  33. Ryan says: Aug 8, 2012 7:56 AM

    I have a friend that is a Dolphins fan and I told him this morning he should pick a different team. Staying in the hotel during training camp is the Dolphins problem in a nutshell. These guys have been losing this bad for so long and they are being babied with a high class training camp? I also thought Philbin didn’t have the authority of a Head Coach but instead looked like an Assistant who had too much control. When he talked to Johnson about his profanity he appeared weak with a player he needs to take control of. Johnson’s intro to the show was obviously set up for HBO and lame. Still, the show was awesome and I hope the Dolphins have a better season.

  34. eeerockski says: Aug 8, 2012 8:00 AM

    realnflmaster says:
    Aug 7, 2012 11:15 PM
    The JETS are gonna beat the snot out of Miami and Buffalo. Kings of the Pretenders those two empty seat stadium franchises are.

    Enjoy battling for 3rd and 4th as you’ve done the last three years and will continue to do so.

    Second place is the first loser man!

  35. buckfigben says: Aug 8, 2012 8:11 AM

    This write up is like not having HBO and the annoying girl at work tells you what you missed. “And then, like, this guy said this, and then I was like, oh my god, and she was like whoa, and i was like whatevs”

    Looking forward to more great TV show coverage PFT.

  36. thedreamcomparison says: Aug 8, 2012 8:19 AM

    “Gotta leave on a high note, like George Costanza.” – Joe Philbin
    haha love it…really enjoyed that episode.

  37. jaxbeachjagfan says: Aug 8, 2012 8:24 AM

    I didn’t like how Philbin can’t look look players in the eye when he’s talking to them, like when he was counseling Chad and when he dropped in on the QB meeting.

  38. orthomarine says: Aug 8, 2012 8:41 AM

    As a Dolphin fan… How are you not pumped about this…

  39. kidpresentable says: Aug 8, 2012 8:59 AM

    “Coach Philbin is pretty much the complete opposite of Rex Ryan in his style and persona.”

    Not that they had a choice, but really, they had to go in that direction because they’re not going to find another Rex Ryan for this show. If they do, it will be another coach trying to be Rex Ryan, but then it will come off like when guys like Bill Maas would try to be John Madden – there can only be one.

    When I saw Philbin talking to Chad Johnson about his language, and he said something to the effect of “if you use nothing but f-bombs, they lose all impact,” I completely expected to see a PFT headline that read “Philbin trashes Rex Ryan’s coaching style.”

  40. howiehandles says: Aug 8, 2012 9:09 AM

    I find it kind of funny that Philbin came off as weak because he’s not an over the top, yeller and screamer. He certainly seemed in control of the team, and most definitely has a plan for how he wants to do things.

    Chad Johnson with all his antics is normally the type of player I don’t like, but one of the things I love about Hard Knocks is getting to see these players and coaches as people. Chad really seems like an intelligent guy, and a good person. He cracks me up with the stuff he says, and certainly seems less diva than your typical WR.

  41. mojosmagic says: Aug 8, 2012 9:30 AM

    Great for the fans, not so great for the team.

  42. diehardtwinsfan says: Aug 8, 2012 11:07 AM

    I don’t get the dislike for Chad Johnson. He’s an entertainer, and he gets that. A lot of what he does is just funny, and on the field (sans last year), he’s done nothing but produce. Yes, his personality can be a bit grating, but it isn’t as though he’s running over traffic cops, getting DUIs, beating the snot out of his mom, or getting caught with drugs.

    I’d agree that he needs an HC to control him a bit, but what I saw was a big goofball with NFL talent. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’d argue that there’s a doublestandard here. If Brett Favre were doing some of these things, we’d be talking about how he loves the game and what not.

  43. jetstizzi85 says: Aug 8, 2012 3:39 PM

    Personally, Id love for Davis to cut get so the Jets can finally have a 3rd CB and someone to push Cro out on NY

  44. jetstizzi85 says: Aug 8, 2012 3:41 PM

    Talking about Rex losing control of the Jets and them not listening to him yet Chad Johnson walks into a coaches ONLY meeting….WOW

  45. aplusvision says: Aug 9, 2012 11:14 AM

    This Jets fan (realnflmaster) says

    “The JETS are gonna beat the snot out of Miami and Buffalo. Kings of the Pretenders those two empty seat stadium franchises are.

    Enjoy battling for 3rd and 4th as you’ve done the last three years and will continue to do so.”

    What does that say about your confidence in your team when you don’t include the Patriots in that?? Face it, the Jets will be in last in the AFC East this year, and it will be the end of Rex.. It seems every year all they do is come up with gimicks instead of actually training their Football Team!

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