Under the new “Hard Knocks” rule, if no NFL team volunteers to participate in the HBO show Hard Knocks, the reality show documenting a team’s training camp, then every team will become eligible to be selected.
However, based on the rules’ exemptions, it is possible that no teams could actually be forced into doing Hard Knocks.
According to Pro Football Focus, the following teams are exempt:
1. Teams that have appeared on Hard Knocks in the last 10 years.
2. Teams with new head coaches.
3. Teams that have made the playoffs in either of the last two years.
This year, for instance, only five teams hadn’t been a part of Hard Knocks in 10 year, didn’t have a new head coach, and didn’t make the playoffs in the past two years. Those teams were the Panthers, Buccaneers, Titans, Raiders, and Rams.
If you look ahead to next year, half the league is already exempt. The Chiefs, Cowboys, Bengals, Dolphins, and Jets have already been on the show within the last 10 years. The Patriots, Ravens, Texans, Colts, Broncos, 49ers, Redskins, Packers, Seahawks, Vikings, and Falcons are exempt for making the 2012 playoffs.
So, if no other teams make the playoffs (unlikely) and no other teams get new head coached (double-unlikely), then 16 teams will still be exempt from Hard Knocks. Ultimately, I don’t think there will ever not be one team that wants the advertising associated with Hard Knocks, which would make the 31 teams exempt anyway.