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Hard Knocks tells the story of the long, hard grind of training camp

Andy Dalton, John Skelton AP

The new season of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cincinnati Bengals began with running backs coach Hue Jackson taking some young players to dinner and telling them that training camp is a long, hard grind, but it’s a grind that leads to an opportunity to realize a lifelong dream of making it in the NFL.

That pretty well explains the appeal of Hard Knocks, the great HBO show that chronicles training camp for superstars and for marginal players trying to make a roster. The new season, which premiered on Tuesday night, introduced the cast of characters on the Bengals — some of whom are NFL stars, and some of whom will be out of work a month from now.

Among the star players is quarterback Andy Dalton, who was first seen getting put through the paces in a workout with his wife, a pilates instructor. Dalton later took some ribbing from teammates and coaches because he wears a rubber wedding ring while practicing.

A perhaps less likable — but more compelling — Bengal is new linebacker James Harrison, who is making his presence felt with his fierce attitude. Head coach Marvin Lewis said he likes the toughness — even meanness — that Harrison brings to the team, including team outings as seemingly innocuous as a trip to a local bowling alley.

“We took him bowling and he said, ‘I’m going to kick someone’s ass,'” Lewis said. “That’s how he goes through life.”

There wasn’t much action beyond introducing the players in the first half hour of the show, but that changed when it was time for the Oklahoma drill, the hard-hitting training camp staple that some teams have eliminated for fear of injury. The Bengals still use it, and the highlight of their practice came when tight end Jermaine Gresham challenged defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The two kept going at it even after the drill was over, and players on both offense and defense hooted and hollered as a scuffle broke out at the drill’s conclusion.

Those are the most exciting moments of training camp, but the quieter moments are also compelling. Larry Black, a young defensive tackle, sat on the field trying to hold back tears after suffering a dislocated ankle. Black has since been placed on injured reserve and is out for the season.

The reality of the NFL — and of Hard Knocks — is we’ll see a lot more big, tough football players trying to hold back tears as they lose their opportunities to injuries, or to the simple fact that the Bengals need to reduce their roster from 90 players at the start of camp to 53 at the start of the regular season. Those are terrible moments for the players involved, but they make for great television.

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29 Responses to “Hard Knocks tells the story of the long, hard grind of training camp”
  1. bharr170 says: Aug 6, 2013 11:09 PM

    The most compelling reality TV show by far. Larry Black’s injury was heartbreaking.

  2. 1newprodigy says: Aug 6, 2013 11:25 PM

    Wow what a great start to hard knocks. Feel terrible for larry black though. Was pretty neat seeing someone finally take down atkins. who would have thought that 31 other teams can’t do what jermain gresham was able to do.

  3. footballradioshow says: Aug 6, 2013 11:34 PM

    Hard Knocks is great at humanizing players, making them seem like real people, not just a number

  4. kcroyal says: Aug 6, 2013 11:35 PM

    I run a kitchen for a living, 80 plus hours a week for about half of the league minimum. I know these guys work hard or whatever but their compensation allows no feeling of sorrow.

    Is it a grind for several weeks? Yes. Do most of us that grind all year makes what these guys do? No. Life is a grind. These guys have it sooo good I don’t care to hear about how hard they have to work out to be 1%ers.

  5. billgatesbarber says: Aug 6, 2013 11:59 PM

    Then don’t watch.

  6. nflofficeadmin says: Aug 7, 2013 12:35 AM

    God bless Larry Black.

  7. whodey1218 says: Aug 7, 2013 12:59 AM

    I’m a bengals fan but i couldn’t help myself, but to laugh at Andre Smith riding the bike while others were doing sprints and the next scene he was Laying in his bed watching tv. Lo

  8. packmanfan says: Aug 7, 2013 1:37 AM

    Hard Knocks tells the story of the long, hard grind of training camp

    Really? Well thank you for that news flash.
    Ya know, all anyone reporting on this reality show have to do is just simply substitute the names of the teams and players from one year to the next.
    When you’ve watched one series, you’ve seen them all.
    Especially since HK is visiting the Bengals *Groan* yet again.

  9. defscottyb says: Aug 7, 2013 1:45 AM

    Man I love this show! I wish they would do one season on my Redskins. Hard Knocks could be the best show on tv period.

  10. daroc88 says: Aug 7, 2013 3:02 AM

    You can’t mimic the raw emotion that flowed through the television when Larry Black made the call home to inform his dad about his injury. An excellent perspective on how quickly a dream can die and for Larry Black it seemed exactly to be what he feared most.

  11. joetoronto says: Aug 7, 2013 4:14 AM

    “Dalton later took some ribbing from teammates and coaches because he wears a rubber wedding ring while practicing.”

    Like I’ve been saying, this guy is as soft as they come.

    Soft upstairs with a soft arm to boot.

  12. stillayinzer says: Aug 7, 2013 5:51 AM

    Let’s save the tails of personal woe and political tag lines such as 1%ers for another forum. Spare us all the nausea.

  13. bonniebengal says: Aug 7, 2013 6:08 AM

    When Mike Brown says Geno Atkins “walks like a duck,” and then they show Geno waddling along a lot like a duck, I fell out. That was hilarious. He was explaining how good Geno is, but that he does not look like a typical DT.

  14. theredbengal says: Aug 7, 2013 6:47 AM

    Kcroyal, you really don’t understand Hard Knocks, or how the basic training camp works. Teams can have up to 90 guys in training camp. 53 make the roster, and up to 8 can be put on the practice squad. The average career in the NFL is 3.5 years. The point is, over 32% of these guys don’t make the team/practice squad. So a third of these guys right off the bat don’t achieve employment, let alone the “1%er” status as you call it.

    Bottom line: there are hundreds of thousands of kitchens run in this country (like you run), as well as hundreds of thousands of doctor’s offices (I manage a doctor’s office), but only 32 NFL teams. You don’t like Hard Knocks? Don’t watch it. Think those guys aren’t worth what they make? Fine, but the market differs. Don’t like making what salary you make for the long hours you work? Then do something about that. Your first step: leave your envy of others at the door.

  15. censoredagain says: Aug 7, 2013 8:00 AM

    Like all so called “reality” shows, its a joke. You want a true reality show? Hide the cameras, and dont tell people they’re being filmed. All they’re doing now is playing for the cameras, and following the script.

    If you want to kill some brain cells and aren’t into drugs, watch this crap. You’ll get the same result, without the high.

  16. twilson962 says: Aug 7, 2013 8:18 AM

    I’m no Bengals fan but,I loved the episode. Finally something to watch on Tuesdays.

    It was interesting watching the trainer arguing with the WR over being shut down for the day.

    James Harrison’s contempt for the Hard Knocks cameramen was great. Slamming doors, flipping them off, and especially spinning away from the camera crew a la Ron Swanson was hilarious. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly how 20-25 GMs around the NFL feel about having their camp filmed.

    Tense moment for AJ. I’m glad he’s OK.

    Pac Man Jones gets the season’s first C’MON MAN!

    I really feel bad for Larry Black. I know those tears while he was on the phone with his family were not from the pain of his injury. The tears were from the stark realization that he may have lost his opportunity to play in the NFL. That…was tough to watch. Get well young man, get well.

    Great show. Great great show…

  17. grogseal says: Aug 7, 2013 8:21 AM

    I believe the old-time players of decades ago would laugh at “the story of the long, hard grind of training camp” on Hard Knocks.

  18. bigdaddybullwhip says: Aug 7, 2013 8:41 AM

    I thought the conversation between Jay Gruden and James Harrison regarding A.J. Green was very awkward.

  19. smokinglion says: Aug 7, 2013 8:48 AM

    Bengals should be great this season because some of the coaches are watching PFT!

  20. saybungles2myface says: Aug 7, 2013 8:49 AM

    Hey we all work and yes “life” is a grind. But comparing an athlete that has everything on their shoulders to succeed and the limelight of being a pro is completely different then handling an everyday task as a worker in a eatery. I’m not putting down your job either. I work full time in construction and go to school full time at night. I understand the grind. However, comparing an athlete to a person like us who weren’t blessed with their abilities is non-existent!

  21. bo1210 says: Aug 7, 2013 8:53 AM

    “These guys have it sooo good I don’t care to hear about how hard they have to work out to be 1%ers.”

    1) Some of those guys won’t be making as much as you next month. 2) Nobody held a gun to your head telling you that you had to run a kitchen. 3) Your lack of wisdom is very unbecoming to your fellow Chief fans.

  22. conormacleod says: Aug 7, 2013 8:54 AM

    I’m sure the show is great, but NFL training camp is NOT a long hard grind. Its very short. A police academy. Military Basic training. There are lots of examples of people pursuing their dream jobs that are much more difficult than NFL teaining camp. So just stop.

  23. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Aug 7, 2013 8:55 AM

    Can’t help but pull for Larry Black and a speedy recovery.

    I was a little surprised how loose coaches and players were at practices. They seem some what content with backing their way into the playoffs each year and then making a fast exit. I anticipated a team a little more motivated. Just sayin’.

  24. wikipediasaidso says: Aug 7, 2013 10:18 AM

    I only saw the second half (thank god for HBO’s replays/mobile app so I can catch it later) but the super powers discussion, especially during individual drills, was my favorite. “You’d still have to go through airport security…”.

  25. jamal1971 says: Aug 7, 2013 10:37 AM

    joetoronto-Oakland wants and need a QB and u know Dalton ls a QB u want. Matt and Terrelle aren’t NFL QB’s,so move on.

  26. coachbeck says: Aug 7, 2013 11:51 AM

    @dallascowboys

    They beat Pittsburgh and Baltimore back to back weeks to earn the playoffs. No backing in there

  27. corny715 says: Aug 7, 2013 1:30 PM

    Need more Gruden and zimmer and less Jackson

  28. bonniebengal says: Aug 7, 2013 6:57 PM

    James Harrison’s blatant disrespect of Jay Gruden was alarming. He should be setting the example for young players, not trying to undermine a coach. I am a little worried for the Bengals and I’m beginning to think he was a mistake.

  29. sixdukkha says: Aug 7, 2013 8:19 PM

    One more thing, if you get cut you get nothing. How many cooks work for 6 weeks for free just to see if the restaurant wants to hire them? I bet a cook hasn’t worked a minute for free.

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