Hard Knocks (2001 TV series)

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Hard Knocks
Reality television
Documentary series
Created byMarty Callner
Developed byHBO Sports
NFL Films
StarringBaltimore Ravens (2001)
Dallas Cowboys (2002, 2008, 2021)
Kansas City Chiefs (2007)
Cincinnati Bengals (2009, 2013)
New York Jets (2010, 2023)
Miami Dolphins (2012, 2023 In Season)
Atlanta Falcons (2014)
Houston Texans (2015)
Los Angeles Rams (2016, 2020)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2017)
Cleveland Browns (2018)
Oakland Raiders (2019)
Los Angeles Chargers (2020)
Indianapolis Colts (2021 In Season)
Detroit Lions (2022)
Arizona Cardinals (2022 In Season)
New York Jets (2023)
Miami Dolphins (2023 In Season)
Narrated byLiev Schreiber (2001–2002 & 2008–present)
Paul Rudd (2007)
ComposerDave Robidoux
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons19
No. of episodes105
(6 in 2001 and 2002, 5 in each training camp season from 2007 onwards, 9 in 2021 and 2022 In Season)
Executive producersSteve Sabol
Rick Bernstein
Ross Greenburg
Marty Callner
ProducersKen Rodgers
Keith Cossrow
Production locationVaries
Running time~55 minutes (commercial-free)
Original release
Release2001 (2001) –

Hard Knocks is a reality sports documentary television series produced by NFL Films and HBO.[1] First broadcast in 2001, the show typically follows a National Football League (NFL) team through its training camp and covers the team's preparation for the upcoming football season. Beginning in 2021, the show has also dedicated an additional season of television to following an additional team throughout the NFL regular season.

The series depicts the personal and professional lives of players, coaches, and staff, including their family life, position battles, and even inside jokes and pranks. It particularly focuses on rookies' adjustments to playing in the NFL, usually with emphasis on the team's most recent top draft pick. It usually also chooses to focus on undrafted and journeyman players who are attempting to make the team.

The NFL and HBO have called Hard Knocks "the first sports-based reality series" in television history.[2][3] The 20th season features the New York Jets in their second appearance on the show, as well as the Miami Dolphins.


The series was created by Marty Callner in 2001. It has been narrated by Liev Schreiber since its inception, with the only exception being the 2007 season, which was narrated by Paul Rudd, a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs, who appeared on the show that year.[4]

The San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, and Washington Redskins each declined to be the show's featured team for the 2013 season, while the Cincinnati Bengals accepted, marking their second appearance on the show. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell subsequently said that he wanted more teams to be featured on the series, on "some kind of formal rotation."[5][6]

Despite the difficulty each year in finding a team willing to participate, NFL Films announced on July 18, 2013, that it had signed a "multiyear" contract extension with HBO to continue producing the show.[7]

In October 2013 the NFL announced that, in the absence of a team volunteering to participate in Hard Knocks, the league could force a team to participate. Teams are exempt from being forced to participate in three circumstances: (1) they have appeared in the past ten years, (2) they have a first-year head coach, or (3) they reached the playoffs in either of the two preceding seasons.[8] The first two teams to appear after such ruling announced were the Falcons and the Texans, appearing on the series in 2014 and 2015 respectively, after both teams declined to appear in 2013. In the Texans case, their appearance in 2015 was eligible for a "forced" appearance, as they had missed the playoffs the previous two years and were entering the second season of then-head coach Bill O'Brien.

In September 2021, NFL Network announced that the Indianapolis Colts would become the subject of the first ever in-season edition of the series. The series premiered in November 2021 and would have carried on through the 2021–22 NFL playoffs, however, the Colts did not qualify.[9]


Hard Knocks narrator Liev Schreiber
Season Year Team
1 2001 Baltimore Ravens
2 2002 Dallas Cowboys
3 2007 Kansas City Chiefs
4 2008 Dallas Cowboys
5 2009 Cincinnati Bengals
6 2010 New York Jets
Special 2011 N/A
7 2012 Miami Dolphins
8 2013 Cincinnati Bengals
9 2014 Atlanta Falcons
10 2015 Houston Texans
11 2016 Los Angeles Rams
12 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
13 2018 Cleveland Browns
14 2019 Oakland Raiders
15 2020 Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Rams
16 2021 Dallas Cowboys
17 Indianapolis Colts (In Season)
18 2022 Detroit Lions
19 Arizona Cardinals (In Season)
20 2023 New York Jets
21 Miami Dolphins (In Season)

Baltimore Ravens (2001)[edit]

Some of the issues covered in the 2001 Ravens season include:

Dallas Cowboys (2002)[edit]

Some of the issues covered in the 2002 Cowboys season include:

Kansas City Chiefs (2007)[edit]

Actor and Chiefs fan Paul Rudd narrated the 2007 season of Hard Knocks

The series returned on August 8, 2007, featuring the Kansas City Chiefs and their preparations for the 2007 season.[10] It is the only season of the series not narrated by Liev Schreiber. Instead, actor and Chiefs fan Paul Rudd was the narrator.[11]

Some of the issues covered in the 2007 Chiefs season include:

Dallas Cowboys (2008)[edit]

The Dallas Cowboys were chronicled for the second time on the television series' fourth season, which premiered on August 6, 2008.

Some of the issues covered in the 2008 Cowboys season include:

Cincinnati Bengals (2009)[edit]

The Cincinnati Bengals season premiered on August 12, 2009.[12] Its ratings were higher than any previous season of Hard Knocks,[13] and it won two Sports Emmy Awards: one for Outstanding Edited Sports Series or Anthology, and one for Outstanding Post Produced Audio / Sound.[14]

Some of the issues covered in the 2009 Bengals season include:

New York Jets (2010)[edit]

The New York Jets were chronicled in the series' sixth season. An official announcement was made on March 25, 2010,[17] and HBO began airing it on August 11, 2010. It won the series' second consecutive Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Edited Sports Series or Anthology.[18] The Jets declined another opportunity to appear in the series in 2011.[19]

Some of the issues covered in the 2010 Jets season include:

Hard Knocks: A Decade of NFL Training Camps (2011)[edit]

At the end of July 2011, NFL Films announced it would not be producing Hard Knocks for the 2011 season.[23] No team wanted to commit to the series due to uncertainty with the NFL's labor situation. A retrospective on the series titled Hard Knocks: A Decade of NFL Training Camps was made featuring clips from every episode made to that point, and including comments looking back on the series from Brian Billick, Shannon Sharpe, Mike Westhoff, and others.

Miami Dolphins (2012)[edit]

On May 29, 2012, Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin announced that the team would participate in the 2012 season of Hard Knocks.[24]

Some of the issues covered in the 2012 Dolphins season include:

Cincinnati Bengals (2013)[edit]

Hard Knocks film crew with Jermaine Gresham, 2013

The Cincinnati Bengals were featured in the 2013 season, which was the team's second appearance on the show. The first episode of the season premiered on August 6, 2013.[32]

Some of the issues covered in the 2013 Bengals season include:

  • Rookie defensive tackle Larry Black's season-ending injury
  • Linebacker James Harrison's dislike of the camera crew at training camp
  • The backup quarterback position battle between Josh Johnson and John Skelton
  • Estonian rookie defensive end Margus Hunt's adjustment to the NFL and life in the U.S.
  • The fullback position battle between veteran John Conner and converted tight end Orson Charles
  • The linebacker position battle between undrafted rookies Jayson DiManche and Bruce Taylor.
  • Linebacker Aaron Maybin's struggle to stay on the team and his pursuit of painting.

Atlanta Falcons (2014)[edit]

Hard Knocks film crew at Atlanta Falcons training camp, 2014

On June 12, 2014, the Atlanta Falcons announced that the team would participate in the 2014 season of Hard Knocks premiering on August 5, 2014.[33]

Some of the issues covered in the 2014 Falcons season include:

  • The Falcons attempt to build more toughness into the team after a disappointing 2013 season.
  • Veteran Kroy Biermann's attempt to return from a major injury and switch positions.
  • Rookies Tyler Starr and Jacques Smith's attempt to make the team.[34]

Houston Texans (2015)[edit]

On May 27, 2015, it was announced the Houston Texans would be the team featured for the 2015 season premiering on August 11, 2015.[35][36]

Some of the issues covered in the 2015 Texans season include:

Los Angeles Rams (2016)[edit]

On March 23, 2016, it was announced the Los Angeles Rams would be the team featured for the 2016 season premiering on August 9, 2016.[37]

Some of the issues covered in the 2016 Rams season include:

  • The team moving back to Los Angeles after spending 21 years in St. Louis
  • Head coach Jeff Fisher releasing the previous season's starting quarterback Nick Foles over the telephone
  • First overall draft pick Jared Goff's first experiences in the NFL
  • Eric Kush fighting for a spot on the roster
  • William Hayes' unconventional beliefs about the existence of mermaids and dinosaurs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2017)[edit]

On April 19, 2017, it was announced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be the team featured for the 2017 season premiering on August 8, 2017.[38]

Cleveland Browns (2018)[edit]

Hard Knocks film crew at Cleveland Browns training camp, 2018

On May 17, 2018, it was announced the Cleveland Browns would be the team featured for the 2018 season premiering on August 7, 2018.

Some of the issues covered in the 2018 Browns season include:

Oakland Raiders (2019)[edit]

On June 11, 2019, it was announced the Oakland Raiders would be the team featured for the 2019 season premiering on August 6, 2019.[39]

Some of the issues covered in the 2019 Raiders season include:

Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers (2020)[edit]

On April 7, 2020, it was announced that the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers had volunteered to be featured for the 2020 season.[41] It marked the first time two teams were featured, with both teams set to play their inaugural seasons at the new SoFi Stadium. Before the Rams and Chargers volunteered, the Pittsburgh Steelers were heavy favorites to appear due to the team's national appeal and rare position to be "forced" onto the series;[42][43][44] the Steelers themselves have long opposed being featured.[45]

On June 18, 2020, it was announced that the 2020 season would premiere on August 11, 2020.[46] The format of the episodes was set to be different, on account of the NFL's cancellation of preseason games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dallas Cowboys (2021)[edit]

On July 2, 2021, it was announced that the Dallas Cowboys would be the team featured for the 2021 season premiering on August 10, 2021.[47]

Indianapolis Colts (2021)[edit]

On September 16, 2021, it was announced that the Indianapolis Colts would become the first team to be featured during the regular season.[48]

Detroit Lions (2022)[edit]

On March 28, 2022, it was announced that the Detroit Lions would be the team featured for the 2022 season premiering on August 9, 2022.[49]

Arizona Cardinals (2022)[edit]

On May 23, 2022, the Cardinals were announced as the next In Season team, to premier on November 9, 2022.[50][51][52]

New York Jets (2023)[edit]

The selection of the team to be featured on the 20th season of Hard Knocks was hampered by various teams' unwillingness to make an appearance. NFL rules stipulate that the league cannot force a team to be on the show if they have appeared in the past ten years, they have a first-year head coach, or they reached the playoffs in either of the two preceding seasons.[8][53] Prior to the 2023 season, only four teams (the Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders, New York Jets, and New Orleans Saints) met none of those qualifications.[53]

With no team volunteering to appear on the show, the NFL was in a position to determine which of the four eligible teams would be featured, regardless of whether or not the team itself was willing. Numerous players and coaches from the eligible teams expressed displeasure at the possibility of being chosen. Jets coach Robert Saleh stated, "I know there are several teams that would love Hard Knocks to be in their building. We're just not one of them."[53] Saints coach Dennis Allen referred to the show creating "distractions" and said that he "wouldn't like it" if his team were featured, while Bears chairman George McCaskey said that he would be glad to see any team on the show except the Bears.[53]

The Jets' offseason was notable for the addition of four-time NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers, who had months earlier requested a trade to New York from his former team, the Green Bay Packers. On July 12, ESPN reported that the NFL had selected the Jets as the show's next featured team.[54][55] Rodgers later stated that "I understand the appeal with us. Obviously, there’s a of lot eyes on me, a lot of eyes on our team, a lot of expectations for our squad, so, they forced it down our throats, and we gotta deal with it."[56] ESPN's Adam Schefter subsequently reported that the Jets would deny HBO access to film some parts of training camp. One particular aspect cited was the team meeting with players to inform them that they had been cut from the roster, an element that had been featured in prior seasons of the show.[57]

Miami Dolphins (2023)[edit]

On October 23, 2023, the Dolphins were announced as the next In Season team, to premier on November 21, 2023.[58][59][60]

Similar productions[edit]

Inside Training Camp: Jaguars Summer[edit]

In 2004, NFL Films produced a training camp documentary series, similar to Hard Knocks, that featured the Jacksonville Jaguars. Called Inside Training Camp: Jaguars Summer,[61] it aired on the NFL Network and was narrated by frequent NFL Films narrator Robb Webb.[62]

Some of the issues covered in this 2004 series include:


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External links[edit]