Every year there are a string of stories about who won’t be doing HBO’s NFL documentary Hard Knocks. Teams aren’t generally eager to invite an outside camera crew into their meetings, practices, and locker rooms. Their reluctance to do so is understandable as all organizations in the league hold on to whatever secrecy they can and being put under a microscope by HBO can easily give things away.
Last year NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell announced that if no team chose to do it on their own then a team would be chosen. The choosing of a team is easy enough to get out of because there are stipulations on who can and can’t be chosen. Teams are exempt for reasons such as making it to the playoffs the year before or having a new head coach. Given the regular coaching carousel that takes place every year those two reasons alone can exempt almost half of the league. The Carolina Panthers were exempt from being chosen because they made it to the playoffs last year. Among NFC rivals, the Bucs and Saints were also exempt because the Bucs have a new head coach in Lovie Smith and the Saints also made it into the playoffs last season. The Atlanta Falcons were not exempt and they were the team chosen to have HBO set up shop during training camp this year.
HBO is a terrific network for entertainment and always does an exceptional job of documenting the on goings of an NFL team during training camp. It’s a good opportunity for fans to get an inside look at what goes on inside team facilities and the kind of work they put into preparing for the season. This year it’s a specific chance for Panther fans to look behind the curtain at a division rival. The Falcons had an unfortunate season last year but they can easily bounce back for a strong 2014. Being featured on Hard Knocks puts them back in the spotlight after a bad year but it also give their rivals a chance to check them out too. People within the Panthers organization will certainly be tuning in on Sundays to look over the show with a fine tooth comb. Hopefully they will see things that they can use during team meetings and on game day when they play the Falcons.
Two years ago J.J. Watt claimed he could anticipate the Miami Dolphins snap count correctly because of what he picked up watching them on Hard Knocks. Hopefully Coach Rivera and co. can pick up something themselves by watching it this year. With a rivalry that runs as hot as the Panthers vs. Falcons anything that can be useful when looking for an edge.