In a painful moment early in this week’s episode of Hard Knocks, linebacker Brandon Joiner went down holding his knee and screaming.
Perhaps even more painful to watch was how quickly the Bengals got back to work after Joiner was carted off the field with what turned out to be a season-ending ACL tear.
Life in NFL training camp is like that: A player goes down, sees his dream die, and the rest of the guys just have to move along and get back to work. Shortly after Joiner was taken off the field, Bengals linebackers coach Paul Guenther delivered a blunt message to the linebackers that Joiner’s injury would give the rest of them a better chance of making the team.
“We had another one of our guys go down today, so understand: You young guys are going to get plenty of opportunities,” Guenther said.
That’s the training camp life that Hard Knocks demonstrates. One minute a player is suffering a serious injury, and the next minute the rest of the team is moving on without him.
Hard Knocks also captures great moments like Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer calling second-year defensive tackle Devon Still into his office and bluntly telling him that he’s not good enough.
“I think you’re a tough guy, but I don’t think you play like a tough guy,” Zimmer told Still. “We need you, and I need you, to play a hell of a lot better than you’ve been doing. And it hurts me that I can’t get you to play better.”
And Hard Knocks includes touching moments like Domata Peko Jr., son of the Bengals’ nose tackle, sitting in the back seat of the family car and asking, “Dad, are you gonna beat the Steelers this year?” And nice moments like offensive lineman Otis Hudson giving Marvin Lewis a hug after Lewis informed him that he wouldn’t survive the team’s cut down to 75 players. And ridiculous moments like an arm wrestling competition won by linebacker James Harrison.
With one week remaining on Hard Knocks, we all know what’s ahead: The final roster cutdowns, and a whole lot of players losing their jobs. Followed by the rest of the players getting to work, which is what football players always have to do right after one of their teammates sees his dream come to an end.