It’s been awhile — roughly a year since the last time it started — but football is almost here.
As always, the harbinger of the upcoming season is HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” which features the Atlanta “Milquetoast” Falcons. “Hard Knocks” is the perfect opportunity to get to know this largely unknown entity. When the Jets were on, we already knew some of the personalities and stars. This year, we’re still trying to figure out if Matt Ryan has a pulse.
The season premiere was last night, and you should be able to catch it on HBO GO (originally, HBO wasn’t going to put the episodes online).
Here are 11 things that stood out from the first episode:
1. It’s as easy as playing “tough, smart football.”
The first scene after the intro shows head coach Mike Smith with his coaching staff in Atlanta. Smith says that one of the camp goals is to emphasis “tough, smart football,” which they “didn’t do last year.” That seems like a pretty obvious oversight, if all they had to do to fix that shitty team was say “play tough and smart.”
2. Steven Jackson appears awesome in every way imaginable except staying healthy.
We first see Steve Jax premiering some of his art work at a gallery in Los Angeles. We saw last year how showing off your art on “Hard Knocks” can get you some business, and Jackson appears to be pretty good, for a running back. Terrell Owens was there, which was awkward. (“You staying in shape?” …No one cares.)
He also gives an incredible speech to the rookies at the start of camp, reminding them that caring about each other (he even uses words like “emotions” and “feelings”) is more important than success. Trust me, it sounds better coming out of his mouth. He talks the talk and walks the walk of being a leader to the young guys. He talks to Devonta Freeman about fumbling before the first scrimmage too.
The only thing he sucks at is staying on the field. He is a 31-year-old running back, after all. He got injured in this episode and is out for a few weeks.
3. WAG BATTLE
Who ya got? Megan Wheeler, finacee of rookie linebacker Tyler Starr:
Or Kierra Douglas, wife of wide receiver Harry Douglas?
Kroy Biermann is married to a reality star who does not make this list. His life seems terrifying.
4. Speaking of Harry Douglas…
“Don’t judge me, but I use a women’s deodorant. It keeps me fresh, I love the way it smells.” –The words of a confident man. Perhaps too confident.
5. Ah yes, the ol’ “Montage of football set to rap or EDM” scenes.
These are a mainstay of “Hard Knocks.” It must get boring for the HBO guys edit together a bunch of stuff without music, but these scenes are weaaaak. I want to hear hitting and grunting and cries of anguish.
6. Everyone agrees: Fights are awesome.
A few different fights between opposing offensive and defensive lineman and linebackers broke out in this episode. Everyone seems to love them. The players love to get into them, the coaches love to see them (“They’ve got a little thing going, that’s good,” said coach Smith), and we love to watch them. Win-win-win.
7. Are coaches/management to blame for after the whistle penalties?
The only genuinely concerning (read: interesting) part of the episode came when the team discussed “toughness” again. Owner Arthur Blank is quoted as saying that he was “bothered” by “no meaningful response” for a late hit on QB Matt Ryan in the first game of last season. The team seem bothered by the fact that no one gave the Saints shit. What did they want their team to do? Did they want an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty? Unnecessary roughness? You have to weigh being upset with against rational, so hopefully that balance is struck this season.
8. Tackling is like sex.
Amazing analogy by defensive line coach Bryan Cox notes that tackling is like putting your hands a woman’s breasts. It’s not about “hitting them hard” (is it ever?), but about where you place your hands. Like, on the nipples. Boom.
9. Jacques Smith is insane, will either be an All-Pro or be cut.
Rookie LB Jacques Smith was in the middle of several aforementioned fights and refused to back down even those “he’s a rookie.” That kind of attitude will either serve him well or send him packing. Keep an eye out for number 45.
10. Donte Rumph got hit with the worst nickname imaginable.
Rumph was able to shed it by the end of the segment, but apparently he earned the nickname “Cupcake” early on in camp. A grown man named Cupcake is a sad, sad man.
11. Peria Jerry retired and everyone is surprised.
A defensive tackle from the 2009 class, Jerry shocked camp by announcing his retirement. No one could believe it, least of all Mike Smith, who asked several times if Jerry was sure before he let him go. From a third party perspective, it’s not hard to understand why someone who’s already suffered a major knee injury wants to walk away from the game. Hopefully the 29-year-old doesn’t have to deal with the kind of brain and body issues his (former) teammates will face.
We’ll have recaps each week. Tune in!