NFL fans starved for some real football action rejoice, the award-winning sports documentary Hard Knocks will return to HBO on August 5th. This season will follow the Atlanta Falcons, a team that entered the 2013 season with high hopes but ended up being a huge disappointment. This new season of Hard Knocks is the 10th season of the show that gives NFL fans unprecedented access to the inner workings of a team during training camp. 90 players enter training camp, only 53 players make it through in what the trailer for the show describes as “the hardest 5 weeks of their lives.”
The first season of Hard Knocks aired in 2001. After a 2nd season in 2002 the show took a multi-year hiatus, returning in 2007. Here are the teams who have appeared in previous seasons of Hard Knocks. The Dallas Cowboys and the Cincinnati Bengals are the only two teams to have appeared twice on the show.
- 2001 – Baltimore Ravens
- 2002 – Dallas Cowboys
- 2007 – Kansas City Chiefs
- 2008 – Dallas Cowboys
- 2009 – Cincinnati Bengals
- 2010 – New York Jets
- 2011 – (Because of the NFL lockout this season of Hard Knocks featured clips from the previous seasons of the show)
- 2012 – Miami Dolphins
- 2013 – Cincinnati Bengals
- 2014 – Atlanta Falcons
Hard Knocks has all of the drama of a reality show where every week contestants are eliminated, but the stakes are much higher here as the people and their stories are all very real. Freak injuries, problems adjusting to new surroundings, drama with new supervisors and teammates can all come out of nowhere and ruin a players chances of making the team. The guy who walked onto the field as a sure thing might walk off limping – leaving room for the next man up to take his place.
The show shows the humorous sides of both the coaching staff and the players as well as the emotional sides, especially when players are cut from the team. Because Hard Knocks has so much access to the players and coaching staff, HBO usually has a hard time finding a team that is willing to cooperate.
Last year the NFL took things into their own hands and enacted what could be thought of as the “Hard Knocks” rule. The rules states that if a team doesn’t volunteer they may still be chosen to participate. Only teams with new coaches, teams that appeared on Hard Knocks in the last 10 years, and teams that made the playoffs in the last 2 years can refuse to appear on the show.
The Falcons as a whole should be a hungry team, excited to put the disappointment of last season behind them. What’s great however about Hard Knocks is that it shows that for so many players just making the team is a victory. Fans are quick to say that what happens in training camp and pre-season games “doesn’t matter”, but for these players and their families the stakes couldn’t be higher.
In case you need more incentive to tune in to the first episode of Hard Knocks check out the “best of” video below.