Last night’s premiere of Hard Knocks with the Atlanta Falcons was a doozy. After just one episode, I’m now convinced bringing the cameras to training camp was a good decision.
The show on its own is brilliant as it’s always nice to get a behind-the-scenes look at an NFL team’s training camp. Of course, Hard Knocks’ brilliance was amplified by the fact it’s featuring the Falcons.
One thing’s for sure about this year’s Falcons: They won’t be pushed around. Head coach Mike Smith has always been perceived as a nice guy, but judging from the first episode, that’s not the case at all. He even said the f-word at one point, causing me to nearly choke on my water upon hearing it.
And man, new line coaches Bryan Cox (defensive) and Mike Tice (offensive) are already making a difference. Their no-nonsense approach seems to have given players an edge and that includes the rookies.
On the first day of camp, veteran Kroy Biermann is trying his best to get past rookie Jake Matthews. At the end of a particular play, Biermann grabs Matthews’ jersey and refuses to let go. Matthews responds by hitting Biermann’s helmet, and the two go at it for a bit.
Afterwards, Matt Ryan teases Biermann: “Hey, Bier, fight first day? First day?”
When Biermann is sitting down, Smith comes over and says, “You had to get that going right off the back, though, huh?”
A bit before, Biermann’s wife, reality star Kim Zoliack, tells him he talks too much s— on the field despite being calm and easygoing at home.
Another rookie who had no intention on being bullied by a veteran: Jacques Smith, who went undrafted out of Tennessee. He had words for Joe Hawley, who has been fight-happy during training camp, and also got into it with second-year player Ryan Schraeder. Smith could be one of the show’s stars and could possibly make the 53-man roster.
Steven Jackson wants to be known as more than just a football player, and if his work featured in an art exhibit serves as any indication, he’ll be a successful artist as well.
And speaking of Jackson: he is a fantastic leader and motivator. He has many words of wisdom that he doesn’t mind sharing with the younger running backs. Although they’re all competing, Jackson reminds them they’re a brotherhood. They’re all in this together.
That’s something that isn’t too typical of veterans. Usually younger guys are seen strictly as competition, as threats, and thus, the veteran doesn’t want to share any of their knowledge or tips. That’s not the case with Jackson.
One of the finer scenes of the episode came prior to the Falcons’ Friday Night Lights scrimmage. Jackson, after injuring his hamstring earlier in the week, gave a nice pep talk to rookie Devonta Freeman. He told Freeman his very first carry in high school was a fumble. After that, he said, there was no reason for him to worry about anything else.
Jackson’s one of those guys I would love to see win a Super Bowl – and not just because he’s a member of my favorite team. He just deserves it, much like Tony Gonzalez did.
It didn’t take long for humor to pop up in the show, and it came in the form of Harry Douglas and his wife. Douglas apparently has OCD – he wouldn’t allow his wife to pack any of his items for training camp. His clothing had to be packed neatly and perfectly.
I can admittedly understand his pain. Granted, I’m not nearly as bad as him, but I do have to have things packed neatly or it’ll bother me to no end.
Douglas’ wife says when he’s home, it’s like living with five kids and a husband. It’s a clear shot at him as the two have no children.
A little later on, Douglas says something he probably won’t live down: “Don’t judge me, but I wear women’s deodorant. It keeps me fresh.” If you’re wondering, he uses Secret.
On the other side of the spectrum, the most awkward exchange came when the Falcons’ 2009 first-round pick Peria Jerry went to announce his retirement to Smith.
Jerry really didn’t seem to have a clear reason for his retirement, but it’s evident his heart isn’t in playing football any longer. He did say his body wasn’t performing like he wanted it to – possibly alluding to the knee injury he suffered back in the second game of his career. Smith looked genuinely blindsided by Jerry’s announcement, asking if Jerry was sure he wanted to opt for retirement.
We got a glimpse of William Moore’s home. The strong safety apparently has an affinity for gold and shoes. Oh, and he has a palm tree in his living room. No big deal.
In stark contrast to an established veteran in Moore was Freeman, a rookie who is simply looking for his first apartment on a seven-month lease. While Moore is enjoying palm trees in living rooms, Freeman is appreciative of a bigger bath tub. Nothing against Moore at all, but you can see the humility oozing from Freeman, particularly when he’s soaking up advice.
Speaking of Moore – he and Roddy White do a lot of back-and-forth jawing on the practice field. At one point, White is heckling Moore from the sideline to which Moore responds, “Don’t speak if you’re standing on the sideline!”
A little later, White catches a pass and runs for the endzone while laughing and looking back in Moore’s direction.
My favorite scene was an exchange between Osi Umenyiora and White. Umenyiora has two Super Bowl rings he won as a member of the New York Giants, and White expressed a bit of envy. Umenyiora says after this season, he’ll have three rings and White will have his ring. He also says White’s jersey will be hanging up in the rafters in the new stadium. The conversation highlights the tremendous amount of respect the two have for one another.
One thing’s for sure: the 2014 Falcons are an entirely different team. I have no doubt this team will return to the playoffs, barring major injuries.
Falcons fans: If you don’t have HBO, get it now. You’re in for a real treat over the next four weeks. Even if you aren’t a Falcons fan and are instead a fan of an inferior team (read: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints), you still should tune in every Tuesday night at 10 p.m.
Follow me on Twitter: @projectjax.