The fifth and final edition of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” started Tuesday night with one of the most revealing scenes of this year’s series.
The Rams were on the practice fields at UC-Irvine — presumably sometime last week — but safety Lamarcus Joyner was not. The HBO cameras caught a brief conversation between Rams coach Jeff Fisher and La’Roi Glover, the team’s director of player engagement, about why Joyner was not there.
Eventually, the cameras showed Joyner walking on to the field dressed in shorts and t-shirt and wearing a backpack. Joyner apparently was ready to walk away from the team. Fisher asked Joyner if he’d overslept, and Joyner responded, “I don’t even know where my mind is at right now.”
In another scene, Joyner told secondary coach Dennard Wilson, “The Rams can have their money, man,” an apparent threat/hint that he was ready to walk away.
In scenes that followed, Fisher and Joyner met in Fisher’s temporary office. Joyner’s primary gripe — surprise! — was about playing time, specifically that he wasn’t running with the starters in the team’s base defense. He even told Fisher he’d go work at Wal-Mart and be happier than he was.
“I work hard,” Joyner told Fisher. “I do want to be starter. Ya’ll can have your money back. I don’t play football for money. Coach, I love this game.
“What’s my role? Be honest with me.”
Fisher responded by telling Joyner he wanted Joyner to be the team’s nickel cornerback.
“The nickel spot inside, it’s the hardest position to play,” Fisher told him. “You’re the best that I’ve had here in years. It’s a starting position.”
Joyner, a third-year player, told Fisher he wasn’t sold and wondered if his passion for the game was gone.
“I want Lamarcus back,” Fisher said. “I’ve got to pull [the passion] back out of you.”
Fisher told Joyner a story from 2000, when Fisher was with the Titans and quarterback Steve McNair was sidelined with a sternum injury. Fisher said he wondered if the big hit McNair had taken had taken away some of his passion to play the game, but circumstances in that week’s game dictated that the Titans needed McNair to come off the bench late and lead the game-winning drive.
McNair did, in four plays.
“He had the passion,” Fisher said. “He had to capture it.”
After Joyner told Fisher he was going to “walk out of here with a clear conscience, no matter what happens,” the scene ended with the two hugging. Apparently Joyner was going to that night’s meetings and not to Wal-Mart.
Maybe Joyner really wasn’t ready to return that money. Or maybe the passion is back.