The fourth episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks: Houston Texans went heavy on inside access and other staples of the show that takes viewers inside an NFL training camp and preseason. There were tears, trades, cuts and a cancer survivor, David Quessenberry, finding out on his birthday he’s still a year away from returning to football.
“Every day is a birthday for me, man,” Quessenberry told Texans coach Bill O’Brien. “I’m on bonus time now.”
The theme of the most recent episode was that football time is running out for dozens of players. The Texans had to cut their roster from 90 to 75, and in next week’s series finale they’ll close the preseason and go to 53. Besides Ryan Mallett’s inexplicable practice absence last week and Vince Wilfork’s fashion choice, this episode centered around players on the bubble — and those on the wrong side of it.
Wide receiver Travis Labhart talked openly about getting cut, then got cut, then still allowed the cameras back to his house as he discussed it with his wife. Cameras caught offensive lineman Aaron Adams crying while O’Brien told him he had no doubt he’d be successful after football.
“But the football playing has to improve if you want to continue,” O’Brien told Adams.
The episode started with O’Brien addressing his players about “a critical time in camp” and the Texans’ quest to no longer be “the almost team…the team that almost made the playoffs.”
O’Brien was lighter on the F-bombs than he was in the first three episodes; the fourth was heavier on candid, closed-door conversations and the stars of the show, names you probably know like Wilfork and J.J. Watt and one you might not in Charles James.
James is a cornerback who dabbles as a running back and is an O’Brien favorite, though the coach reminded James in a private meeting “it’s going to be tough” to make the team.
Cameras caught Texans general manager Rick Smith talking trade with John Elway while driving and later finishing it “in the bowels” of the Superdome during last weekend’s preseason game. O’Brien gets specific with the team’s wide receivers about there being too many of them and the backup offensive lineman about there not being enough of them.
Wilfork showing up in overalls, cowboy boots and really nothing else was the comedic highlight, but rookie defensive tackle Christian Covington catching a punt to get the veterans released from the training camp hotel and James taking off for a touchdown that was later negated in the preseason game come close.
Late in the episode, cameras caught O’Brien telling Covington to “make a play. You haven’t made a play in like six f—–g days.” In the final three minutes, 10 players are shown being informed of their release, making the long walk through the locker room to O’Brien’s office and hugging friends on their way out.
The preseason is almost over and Hard Knocks is almost over, too. The series has been good enough for viewers to expect a very strong finish next week.