Five teams for "Hard Knocks"
5. Indianapolis Colts - Curtis Painter's mother complaining that Peyton Manning never takes a play off, preventing her son from ever getting into a real NFL game. A tearful meeting with Jim Sorgi's mother could be a "very special episode."
4. San Diego Chargers - Figuring out which potential Pro Bowl player general manager A.J. Smith is going to keep from playing for the Chargers this season.
3. San Francisco 49ers - New coach Jim Harbaugh calls out Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, and says the 49ers have the talent to compete for the Pac-10 title. When pressed by reporters if he means NFC West, Harbaugh says, "No, I am talking about the stronger conference right now."
2. Buffalo Bills - A good television series hasn't been set in Buffalo since "Jesse" went off the air. Alright, a television series hasn't been set in Buffalo since "Jesse" went off the air. But Buffalo deserves a break, especially after losing out to Miami for the last CSI franchise.
1. Oakland Raiders - This is a tough one because remaking a popular series from the 1970s into TV shows has recently failed, just look at Hawaii Five-0. But even their press conferences are more interesting than most teams in general. Seriously, why hasn't this happened yet?
The team announced Monday that they have turned down HBO's offer to appear in the upcoming season of "Hard Knocks."
"We have respectfully declined this year's Hard Knocks invitation," the Bucs tweeted. "Wonderful show, but the team wants to keep the focus on the field in 2011. The Hard Knocks invitation was a good indication of how much interest there is in the Bucs right now."
The team ultimately picked will have a tough time outshining last year's carnival ride, which featured the 2010 New York Jets, tracking their path from training camp's opening moments in Cortland, N.Y., through the preseason.
Nobody was a bigger presence on last year's show than coach Rex Ryan, whose love for communicating came through loud and clear during his star-making appearance -- while his radioactive comments generated headlines and even propelled mild-mannered Tom Brady to generate some early-season bulletin-board material.
"Honestly, I haven't turned it on," Brady told WEEI-AM in August. "I hate the Jets, so I refuse to support that show."
Tough act to follow indeed, but the Bucs appeared to be an inspired choice by HBO, following their 10-win campaign last season and led by the young trio of coach Raheem Morris, general manager Mark Dominik and third-year quarterback Josh Freeman.
Despite missing the playoffs, the team's improvement from 3-13 in 2009 to 10 wins in 2010 marked their best single-season turnaround in franchise history.
Dominik, who just completed his second season as general manager and 16th with the Bucs, helped engineer a roster overhaul that made Tampa Bay the youngest team in the NFL last season and the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to start 10 different rookies and finish with a winning record.
He has accomplished a great deal in the past two years, forming a dynamic duo of leadership with 34-year-old Raheem Morris, who is also entering his third season as head coach.
"The mission is to continue building this team into a lasting contender and to bring championships back to the Tampa Bay area," Dominik said at the time, perhaps explaining their on-field focus in declining HBO's offer.
The critically acclaimed "Hard Knocks" series won three Sports Emmys earlier this month, including its second consecutive Emmy in the "outstanding edited sports series/anthology" category. The three Emmys are the most for one season of "Hard Knocks."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.