New Cincinnati Bengals linebacker James Harrison snarls as the HBO cameras swarm him. He’s made it blatantly apparent that the Hard Knocks film crew has no business being in an NFL locker room.
“I don’t feel they deserve to be here,” he told Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer earlier this week.
America may disagree.
The Bengals have the type of mentality that suits the documentary series perfectly, and HBO’s most recent installment of Hard Knocks is one of the most entertaining of all. The coaching staff, quite fond of profanity and full of the Gruden-isms we’ve come to know and love (Jon Gruden’s brother Jay Gruden is entering his third season as offensive coordinator of the Bengals).
They’ve got charismatic rookies like defensive tackle Terrence Stephens who once tried out for American Idol and Estonian-born defensive end Margus Hunt. They’ve got rough-and-tumble types like Harrison, notoriously feisty middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict and perpetual news-maker Adam “Pacman” Jones. They’ve even got the clean-cut, aw-shucksy quarterback for everybody else to poke fun at in Andy Dalton.
It’s fast-paced, foul-mouthed and damn is it fun.
Back in 2001, Hard Knocks made its debut following the Baltimore Ravens. Then Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis must have enjoyed the experience because since taking over as the Bengals head coach in 2003, he’s had Hard Knocks following his franchise around twice (2009 and 2013).
On Tuesday night, Hard Knocks took an in-depth look at the Bengals first preseason game and three preceding days of practice against the Atlanta Falcons. Highlighted in the episode was a battle at fullback between John Conner and former Georgia Bulldogs tight end Orson Charles.
Charles, who is transitioning from tight end, has been listed on top of the depth chart, but in Tuesday’s episode, Conner’s physicality was starting to win over the coaching staff. Eventually, running backs coach Hue Jackson, who was once the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, took Orson Charles aside to tell him that he needed to figure it out.
It was one of the moments we’ve come to expect from Hard Knocks that quite literally takes the viewer inside of an NFL locker room. And while, by James Harrison’s definition, we have no business being there, HBO takes us to a place that mystifies us as fan.
The locker room is a guarded world, as evidenced by Harrison’s comments and the reluctance of most NFL teams to allow HBO into their facility, so when Hard Knocks can give us a rare glimpse we cherish it.
This week, Hard Knocks also showed us a montage syncing the two Gruden’s offensive terminology. Ya, that’s right! Double the Gruden!!! Which, depending upon what you think of the Grudens, is either way too much Gruden or not enough Gruden at all.
While we didn’t get a Spider Three Y Banana, we were taken inside of the ESPN production meeting where Jon Gruden told an interesting story about Jon calling Jay out about being lazy before promptly being destroyed in a race around the family’s property when Jon was a quarterback at Dayton and Jay was the signal caller for Chamberlain High School.
It was another entertaining week in the world of Hard Knocks and, once again, I’m convinced that the Bengals are the perfect team for our favorite documentary series. It’s a hungry team on the cusp of potential greatness with several intriguing storylines and a coaching staff that’s not averse to shooting it straight on camera.
So, while James Harrison might not think HBO belongs in Cincinnati, I’m going to have to respectfully–and I mean VERY respectfully, big, scary Mr. Harrison–disagree. I couldn’t think of a place I’d rather see the Hard Knocks crew.