These HBO ‘Hard Knocks’ Moments Deserve A Second Look

Football | 8/7/19

Starting in 2001 the HBO series Hard Knocks has chronicled the trials and tribulations that NFL players and their coaches go through during training camp. The Baltimore Ravens were the first team to appear on the show and since that time a lot of highlights from other team’s have been brought to the forefront. The show took a five-year hiatus after two seasons but came back swinging for the fences. We’ve collected the best moments from the show that will have you laughing, feeling empathy and anger, and everything in between. Let’s take a look back on the chaotic but beloved series.

Palmer Doesn’t Like Stench – 2009

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer (9) under center center Kyle Cook (64)-577814098
Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images
Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have appeared on Hard Knocks twice. Their first appearance was in 2009, then again in 2013. During the 2009 session, quarterback Carson Palmer had an interesting exchange with center Kyle Cook.

If there’s one thing Palmer doesn’t like, it’s smelly behinds. At one point during filming, Palmer told Cook he didn’t like the smell he was experiencing. At first, Cook resented the remark but later admitted that it could have been something he ate that caused the foul stench. The Bengals ended up going 10-6 that season but lost in the Wild Card round.

Tannehill Isn’t Aware Of How The NFL Works – 2012

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins plays against the Jacksonville Jaguars
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Marc Serota/Getty Images

One 2012 Miami Dolphins segment features a clueless moment with Ryan Tannehill. It was his rookie season so we could cut the poor guy a bit of slack but we won’t. The first-year quarterback revealed during filming that he no clue what team’s played in which NFL divisions.

A star player makes it to the NFL, and he doesn’t know where the teams are divided? This Tannehill moment might rank at the top part of the ignorance is bliss spectrum.

Mermaids For Life – 2016

William Hayes loves mermaids but doesn't believe in dinos
Light Yagami/Pinterest
Light Yagami/Pinterest

For the 2016 season of Hard Knocks, the Jeff Fisher-led Rams took charge, but this moment from William Hayes stole the show.

Hayes reportedly doesn’t believe in dinosaurs but loves mermaids. “I remember him getting really excited about the potential for moving out here because he knew he would be closer to mermaids here on the West Coast,” Jeff Fisher said on the show. The Rams managed a 4-12 record.

Antonio Cromartie Attempts To Name All Of His Children – 2010

Antonio Cromartie names his kids
NFL Shows/YouTube
NFL Shows/YouTube

New York’s ugly stepchild team, the Jets, became the focal point for 2010 Hard Knocks. During their tenure, Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie had nine kids during that time. That’s a lot of mouths to feed, and even more names to remember.

Right before naming his children, Cromartie says you need to turn up the heat when you’re on the field but shut it down and be a father figure off the gridiron. He then proceeds to name all of his kids, but as the list gets deeper, he struggles mightily to remember.

Davis Stands Shook – 2012

Stands in shock after learning news he's been traded
PLT Productions/YouTube
PLT Productions/YouTube

For the 2012 season, the Miami Dolphins had the spotlight on Hard Knocks. During their run on the show, fans got to see that players are more than just men in pads. When GM Jeff Ireland decided to trade Vontae Davis on television, Davis couldn’t believe it.

They shipped him away to the Colts for a second-round draft pick. Davis stood in shock with his mouth wide open. He then went on to prove the Dolphins wrong and became one of the most elite corners in the NFL. Miami finished with a 7-9 record that year.

Bryan Cox Scares The Daylight Out Of Players – 2014

Atlanta Falcons Defensive Line Coach Bryan Cox during the Atlanta Falcons Rookie Mini-Camp
Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images
Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images

Bryan Cox used to play linebacker for the Jets and Patriots. Not only is that position reserved for some of the toughest players, but Cox doesn’t need a job for you to understand how grizzly he is.

In 2014, he reinforced his authority on television. Cox saddled up the whole defensive line to show them a slideshow of his family. He did it only to say, Stay the [expletive] away from my daughter!” They all became respectfully silent, maybe because they were terrified of Cox. Atlanta finished with a 10-6 record.

“Now let’s go eat a [expletive] snack.” – 2010

Rex Ryan of the New York Jets addresses the media at the announcement that the New York Jets will be the featured team on the HBO Show
Al Pereira/Getty Images
Al Pereira/Getty Images

Rex Ryan has had his fair share of infamous moments. His post-practice speech from the 2010 season of Hard Knocks has to be one of the best. The way he ended it was the icing on the cake, making it much sweeter than anyone expected.

“Let’s make sure we play like the [expletive] New York Jets and not some fucking slap [expletive] team, Ryan started. “That’s what I want to see tomorrow. Do we understand what the [expletive] I want to see tomorrow? Now let’s go eat a [expletive] snack.” The Jets ended the season with an 11-5 record.

The Bouncing Belly – 2018

Cleveland Browns offensive line coach Bob Wylie during drills during the Cleveland Browns Training Camp
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns won the Hard Knocks contest for 2018 and boy did we love it thanks to one Bob Wylie. The Browns Offensive Lineman coach has a partner with him when he’s coaching, and it’s his belly.

“Set hut!” Wylie yells as his stomach bounces up before falling back into place. It’s like it had a mind of its own and wanted to do a few jumping jacks. He clearly was the MVP for that Hard Knocks season. Browns ended the season at 7-8-1.

The Most Epic Rant – 2018

Offensive line coach Bob Wylie of the Cleveland Browns directs a drill during a training camp
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images/Getty Images
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images/Getty Images

Bob Wylie strikes again and further proves that he was the MVP of Hard Knocks 2018. This time, it wasn’t his belly that caused such commotion, but the speech he gave to his players during their pre-workout stretching. His bottom line was that stretching is overrated.

“Did you know, World War I and World War II, all those guys that fought in that war … they did pushups, jumping jacks, situps, climb the rope and ran,” he says. “None of this fancy [expletive]. And they won two World Wars.”

The Big Fella Wears Overalls – 2015

 Vince Wilfork’s overalls in hbos hard knocks
Light Yagami/Pinterest
Light Yagami/Pinterest

Seeing an annoyed Bill O’Brien with beefy Vince Wilfork standing behind him in nothing but overalls is the image every football fan needs in their life. After the Patriots failed to re-sign him, Wilfork signed with the Texans and kept all of his fire.

Have you ever seen a 325-pound man standing 6’2″ wearing an outfit like this? Our guess is no, and Wilfork should get inducted in the Hard Knocks Hall of Fame for his stunt. The Texans made the playoffs that year with a 9-7 record.

Jameis Is The Cockroach Killer – 2017

jameis_hard_knocks_ep.1stomping on cockroaches
Light Yagami/Pinterest
Light Yagami/Pinterest

In 2017, it was Jameis Winston who took center stage as the Buccaneers starred on Hard Knocks. The show followed Winston to his childhood home in Bessemer, Alabama, where he became the “Crocodile Hunter with roaches.”

As he stomped on one of the pests, he exclaimed: “This cockroach havin’ a baby! This cockroach havin’ a baby, for real! Or they mating. It’s one of ’em.” Jameis Winston, the Cockroach Hunter of Tampa Bay. Almost has a ring to it. Too bad the Bucs ended the year with a 5-11 record.

Landry Sounds Off On His Whole Team – 2018

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry #80 of the Cleveland Browns walks toward the sideline
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

The Browns desperately wanted to be a tougher team in 2018. They started making strides, sure, but do we think the expletive-laced speech provided by Jarvis Landry helped? Well, to answer that is tough, we’ll let you read a portion of it.

“I don’t know what the [expletive] has been going on here, and I don’t know why it’s been going on here,” Landry began. “But if you’re not hurt, like if your hamstring ain’t falling off the [expletive] bone, your leg ain’t broke, you should be [expletive] practicing.”

Watt Goes Hard After Hours – 2015

Houston Texan DE J.J Watt (99) enter the field
Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Here’s another special moment from the 2015 season, but this time with stud J.J. Watt. There’s a reason he gets that adjective before his name and one episode showcased why.

First, the cameras show Watt lifting 1,000-pound tires, no big deal. Then, after regular practice finished, Watt started practice number two on his own. That included catching balls from the machine, running, and working on his pass-rushing moves with tackling dummies. There aren’t many on Watt’s level.

Harrisons Condemns The Media – 2013

Linebacker James Harrison #92 of the Cincinnati Bengals laughs with teammates
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images
Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images

James Harrison was one of the toughest guys in the league during his prime. Even when his skill started to deplete, he remained in the gym and stayed bulkier than anyone else. He was the last person you wanted tackling you. In 2013, his targets were the media.

He told them why he hated their presence in training camp. “I don’t feel they deserve to be here,” he said at the time. “They did nothing to be here, other than want to be here. They didn’t put no blood, sweat and tears into none of this.”

O’Brien Makes A Tough Call – 2015

Houston Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien provides instruction to Houston Texans Quarterback Ryan Mallett (15) while the HBO Series Hard Knocks crew tapes
Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images
Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images

This 2015 Hard Knocks moment is another dramatic spectacle similar to Vontae Davis getting traded and Chad Johnson getting cut. The Texans had a battle for the quarterback position during the 2015 year between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett.

Whenever there’s a good quarterback quarrel going on with a team, the fans always think they know who should start. O’Brien canceled all speculations and ordered that Hoyer would be the starter while Mallett blamed his alarm clock for being late to practice.

The Bucs Don’t Trust Roberto Aguayo – 2017

Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Roberto Aguayo (19) looks on during the preseason
Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jameis Winston wasn’t the only classic moment from the 2017 season of the show. Another highlight came when the Bucs decided to cut kicker Roberto Aguayo (one year after trading up to get him). His rookie season wasn’t great at all, and his woes continued into the preseason of the following year.

Veteran Nick Folk beat him for the starting job, and Bucs’ GM said, “(Aguayo) can make 20 of his last 20 kicks and then go to a game and nobody’s confident he’s going to make it — not even an extra point. … It’s just such a bigger mistake to keep holding on to him.” The young kicker had to fight back the tears when he received the news.

Hue Jackson Gets Obnoxious – 2018

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Real Sports Talk Show/YouTube
Real Sports Talk Show/YouTube

Former head coach of the Cleveland Browns Hue Jackson might’ve known he was on his way out of brown town. After a 0-16 season, the Browns were the feature for Hard Knocks, and we got to see an interesting coaches meeting.

The running back coach questioned Jackson’s decision not to dress injured players for practice. Jackson cracked under pressure and responded with: “The chair I sit in, it’s a little different than the chair you guys sit in. I get to drive this bus. And I’m going to get it the way I want it.”

Johnson Faces The Consequences – 2012

Wide receiver Chad Johnson #85 of the Miami Dolphins practices during training camp
Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images
Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins showed no remorse when it was their turn for Hard Knocks. They brought the hard knocks to their players that season for every viewer to see. Not only did they leave Vontae Davis stuck, but they also dropped the hammer on one of their best, Chad Johnson.

Might we add that Johnson brought this upon himself after getting arrested for headbutting his then-girlfriend? Johnson getting cut was going to happen one way or another, it just happened to occur on HBO for all of the team’s fans to witness.

The Best Shannon Sharpe Impression – 2001

Rookie imitate Shannon Sharpe funny
NFLFilms/Twitter
NFLFilms/Twitter

The very first season of Hard Knocks aired in 2001 and featured the previous Super Bowl champs, the Baltimore Ravens. Shannon Sharpe has been and will always be a wild character. That’s what made it so easy for rookie Tim Johnson to imitate Sharpe so accurately.

During a press conference, the Ravens brought in Johnson to portray Sharpe. He nailed the performance. Sharpe began by hopping around and then laughing uncontrollably. Its must-watch TV. The Ravens would finish 10-6 but lost in the Divisional round of the playoffs.

Pollard’s Got The Moves – 2007

Pollard's sweet moves - NFL Videos
Art Moreno/YouTube
Art Moreno/YouTube

It took only two seasons until Hard Knocks went on a hiatus. Five years later, the show returned with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007. Bernard Pollard stole the show with his formidable dance moves in the locker room.

“I’ll show you how to do it,” Pollard said as he placed a CD into the stereo. Once he began breaking it down, you could swear he was Michael Jackson the way his teammates started running around, cheering him on. Dancing was their best trait that season, as the Chiefs finished 4-12.