Around the League  

 

'Hard Knocks' revisited: Best of NFL's summer drama

With the news that the Atlanta Falcons will be the NFL team featured on this year's "Hard Knocks," it's a good time to crack open the NFL Films vault for a look back at some of our favorite clips from previous years of the HBO series. Why? Just because we can. Without "Hard Knocks" in our lives, we'd never realize that a King Ugly competition even exists. (Or that it always chooses the right winner.)

The Baltimore Ravens' rookies set the bar extremely high in Season 1 for the annual rookie talent competition. I think of this every time I hear the word "restitution."

There is a ton of comedy in "Hard Knocks," intentional and otherwise, but the genius of the show often comes when the viewer gets to be a fly on the wall for a true football moment. The exchange between Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and cornerback Vontae Davis when Davis gets traded stands out.

Chad Ochocinco's awkward, post-arrest release from the team also comes to mind. In what other "reality" show do you see a highly successful, high-profile career essentially end on camera?

In 2010, owner Woody Johnson wanted the New York Jets to become a national team. Taking over "Hard Knocks" did the trick. Episodes such as the one that featured holdout cornerback Darrelle Revis' secret meeting with the Jets at the Roscoe Diner made national news. (And ultimately made Revis very rich.)

The Kansas City Chiefs' "Hard Knocks" season seems to get lost in the shuffle. A few very attractive wives (October Gonzalez, Kelli Croyle) got a lot of attention, but it was another budding romance that stole the stage.

Also during the Chiefs' season: My wife's all-time favorite "Hard Knocks" moment. The reactions are the key. Bernard Pollard, take it away:

The Dallas Cowboys' season of "Hard Knocks" shaped up to be a doozy with Jerry Jones, Terrell Owens, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Tony Romo and company. It surprisingly fell flat, at least in comparison to other seasons. The latter Jones did his best to keep us entertained.

Ryan Tannehill is known for his football smarts. He is not known for his NFL divisional knowledge.

We watch every season of "Hard Knocks" knowing that the turk is coming to cut a player. And yet it is always affecting, often heartbreaking when he shows up. Putting together a montage of the cuts is too depressing, but one other tough moment stuck out: The season-ending injury to a Cincinnati Bengals tight end in the Bengals' 2009 camp.

This was a pro's pro, accepting a cruel fate, while the team around him had no choice but to move on.

Marvin Lewis' tirade after a preseason loss goes down as the scariest speech in "Hard Knocks" history. But Rex Ryan's speech in 2010 had the better closer. Wow them in the end, and you've got a hit.

And finally, Antonio Cromartie's family tree.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

Fan Discussion

NFL News
CONTENT
15