I find it hard to believe there are many NFL fans out there who don’t love Hard Knocks, the long-running HBO series whose first episode marks what I would argue is the unofficial start of the season.
There’s no greater form of football foreplay than a behind-the-scenes look at training camp. We fall in love with the players, the coaches, and the undrafted free agents as HBO takes us through an entire preseason with an inside look into whatever team is lucky (or unlucky) enough to be chosen that year.
Hard Knocks is called that for a reason, and the fact that it’s designed to follow NFL teams looking to bounce back from a rough season defined by a fair amount of dysfunction means most franchises aren’t exactly scrambling to welcome HBO and NFL Films into their facilities with open arms.
For example, the New York Jets made it pretty clear they had no interest in being at the center of Hard Knocks in 2023 despite basically every NFL fan agreeing there was no better candidate in contention than a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2010-11 campaign and was hoping that signing a Super Bowl-winning superstar quarterback in the form of Aaron Rodgers might be enough to snap that drought.
Unfortunately for the Jets (and fortunately for everyone else), NFL teams who are eligible for Hard Knocks don’t have any veto power.
As a result, getting to see the perpetually rebuilding franchise adjust to the arrival of a QB known for his distaste for the mainstream football media and penchant for darkness retreats and ayahuasca ceremonies seemed like it had the potential to create some very compelling television.
With that said, the Jets still had some work to do when it came to matching the magic of previous installments of Hard Knocks.
The best Hard Knocks moments you may have forgotten all about
In my opinion, randomly remembering moments from Hard Knocks of the past is what keeps the show alive, like that motivational speech from Rex Ryan and Jared Goff admitting he doesn’t know where the sun sets.
We all remember what we connect with and what’s great about the show is we develop a connection to teams and players we really have no reason to like. It’s funny, sad, motivational, and frankly just entertaining—traits that are all embodied by these moments for the ages.
Note: Dear Leader Roger Goodell and his dictatorial NFL refuse to let YouTube videos play on other websites, so you’ll have to click on the description to watch each of the clips in question.
One of the best parts of almost all NFL training camps is the Rookie Talent Show. We’ve seen some great karaoke performances, some great impressions, and tons of guys who possess some unexpected skills.
However, this impression is great specifically because it comes from the first season of Hard Knocks, so it was an introduction to what this show will be for the public (that is: a very fun TV show that allows an inside perspective into these players’ lives).
Also, now that we all know Shannon Sharpe a little more through Undisputed it makes the impression that much sweeter.
At first, it’s a bit hard to believe this isn’t a bit that Hayes is purposefully playing up for the cameras.
However, when he starts walking around and asking more questions, you actually start to believe him; heck, as I’m watching I started to debate the existence of dinosaurs myself and I went to the Museum of Natural History last month.
The fact that Hayes doesn’t believe in dinosaurs makes the fact that he genuinely seems to think mermaids exist even funnier than it would be by itself.
I don’t know what middle school Hayes went to, but they might need to be reevaluated as an accredited institution when you consider he seemed to truly believe moving to Los Angeles meant he was now one step closer to interacting with mermaids.
I love guys with minds like his.
This is just a classic clip.
Seeing a 325 lb. Vince Wilfork walking into the locker room with denim overall and no shirt? It’s just objectively funny and arguably the purest form of comedy.
Vince showed in his season with the Texans that he is an entertainer. He knows how to get the people going. If he wasn’t turning heads due to his pure size, he was doing it through his actions or in this case through what he was wearing.
More than anything, this is just super funny to me solely for the fact that it’s even a part of the show.
To have so many kids that the producers at HBO thought it would be funny enough to turn it into a segment is probably a pretty good indication you may need to make a specific doctor’s appointment soon (for the 4th time, apparently).