The first three episodes of "Hard Knocks" functioned primarily as a linear narrative. It was storytelling, in the chronological sense. In Episode 4, Yeatman's opening observation gives way to a central theme connecting everything that follows.
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Davis doesn't blink as Ireland delivered the news. When the general manager asks if he's OK, Davis says he has to call his grandmother, reaching for his cell phone like it's a security blanket. In Davis' mind, a conversation with his grandma at that very moment is the only thing keeping him from dropping off the edge of the Earth.
"Why don't we do a little business first before you call grandma?" Ireland replies, and it's hard to tell if he's playing to the cameras or legitimately trying to keep the corner on point.
It was a moment both funny and poignant. Another classic "Hard Knocks" scene in a season that's had its share.
Here's what else we took out of Episode 4 ...
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So long to Steinbach, Brown
Veteran offensive lineman Eric Steinbach had one of the lines of the season back in Episode 1, when he concluded a taxing tryout by saying all he needed was a cigarette and a cold tub.
A lunch-pail comment from a lunch-pail dude. Steinbach hinted at retirement last week, and we saw the moment when Steinbach makes it official in a conversation with Joe Philbin.
"I didn't come back the way I wanted to," Steinbach said. "I saw it on film, you guys saw it on film. I feel like (crap) in the morning still, you know? It sucks to admit, but yeah, it's time."
If you were looking for a way to feel ancient today, this supposedly broken-down athlete was born in the 1980s. His career is done at 32.
We also said goodbye to tight end Les Brown, who took the news of his release rather hard. We're going to miss seeing the former financial advisor get brutally manhandled in every imaginable blocking situation.
Daniel Thomas needs a new watch
If you plan on snagging Thomas as potential sleeper in your fantasy league, be advised that the second-year pro running back currently has a cozy spot in Philbin's dog house. This can happen when you're late for a team flight on one side of a weekend, then show up 15 minutes late to a lifting session on the other.
"I'm getting a little queasy about you," Philbin said, seated in his near-iconic office/leather-furniture emporium. "You're going to have take responsibility for your own career, what you're doing, when you're doing it."
Thomas -- looking like a kid in the principal's office -- said two words the entire meeting: "Yes" and "sir." He also had his shoelaces untied. Doesn't Thomas know he's dealing with the self-proclaimed Shoelace Nazi? Fantasy buyer beware.
Gotta love Jerry
Philbin is reminiscent of one of those lovable geeky dads whom you're also intrinsically aware you should never mess with. It was all on display when he warns an unnamed player for his bad language.
"Watch the f-bombs you're throwing at me, you got it?" he tells the player. "I'll be throwing the f-bombs around here."
Kudos to the HBO editors, who then cut to a coaches meeting where Philbin drops his first true f-bomb of the season.
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"You know that guy got lost at sea?"
That line belongs to Matt Moore, describing the aquatic tribulations of Chas Alecxih. The rookie defensive tackle then told the story of once being stranded in the Gulf of Mexico after his Jet Ski broke down. Later, the Jet Ski itself floated away when Alecxih jumped into the water to relieve himself. The Coast Guard found him eight hours later, five minutes before they were to call off their search.
"I was praying a lot, preparing for the fact that it might be over."
By the end of Tuesday's episode, Alecxih was lost at sea again -- this time metaphorically. He was cut. On the bright side, Keith Morrison now has a slam dunk "Dateline" subject if he needs it.
Not cool, HBO. Not cool.
The gratuitious "Cheerleaders Limbering Up" interstitial was replaced this week with a collection of 300-pound dudes stretching out their inner thighs to "This Is A Man's World" by James Brown. Downgrade.
Did you have 18 minutes in the Lauren Tannehill office pool?
That's how long "Hard Knocks" held off this week before Ryan Tannehill's outrageously blonde wife appeared at a charity endeavor of some kind. Little context to the event was given, other than Jake Long's wife was also there. Really, it was just a room in which Lauren Tannehill was inside. This was deemed to be enough.
Lauren popped up a few more times before the hour was through, and now has appeared prominently in three of the four episodes. Our prediction of the obligatory "Ryan and Lauren go house-hunting on South Beach!" segment now rides on the season finale next week.
Ryan Tannehill thinks the Chiefs are in the NFC East
I kid you not. He also thinks the New York Giants are in the NFC North. Let's have him try to explain:
"I wasn't a huge pro fan growing up; I wasn't loyal to any one team. Don't really know the divisions even really the conferences," he said. "I know most of the conferences, but some of those I really have no clue. And they don't make sense! You have the AFC East and we're freaking in the bottom of the map. The directions don't make any sense where the teams actually are."
Extra comedy comes by way of Moore, who draws Tannehill into this discussion, then slyly smiles at the camera as the rookie falls into an infinite abyss of naïveté. Sweet payback on the kid who stole his job.
Back to Vontae ...
It's ironic that Davis might have sealed his fate in Miami on a play in which he ran an interception back for a score.
Davis yanked down Atlanta Falcons wideout Harry Douglas to step in front of the pass on Friday night, getting flagged for pass interference in the process. It was a play that showed everything that frustrated the Dolphins about their former first-round pick: Physically great, but still rough around the edges.
"The interception was ridiculous," defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo tells Philbin. "He took the guy and threw him to the ground. I've never seen anything like it. Just a total lack of awareness."
With reports like this, no wonder Philbin signed off on Ireland's deal.
The final sitdown
Which takes us back into Ireland's office on the night Davis was traded to Luck, Indiana. Ireland has stayed in the shadows for the bulk of this season, but we started to get a better idea of his personality in Episode 4. He's not extremely gifted in his communication with players, but he's unflinchingly honest in his final conversation with Davis.
"You're kind of up and down. ... Before you become great, which I think you have the ability to be, these waves got to be a lot smaller," Ireland tells Davis. "And that's probably why you're being traded. I'm just being transparent, I want you to know why it hasn't worked for us here."
We'll be back with the season finale recap next week. Please remain seated on your Jet Skis until then.