Each week, Shutdown Corner recaps the latest episode of Hard Knocks.
Earlier this summer at the New Meadowlands, which is not New Giants Stadium as the Jets will doubtlessly remind us this season, Rex Ryan says goodbye to his team and tells them to enjoy their vacation. "Enjoy this time, get away from it," he says. "No matter what you're doing it's better than my [expletive] vacation. I'm cruising to Baltic with my in-laws and [expletive]."
Intro. Antonio Cromartie(notes) works out with a trainer, dragging a tire behind him. If Brandon Marshall(notes) is going to join the NBA during next year's lockout, Cromartie looks set to challenge a dude named Sven at the world's strongest man competition. Jason Taylor(notes) has paparazzi following him. LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) kisses a baby. Another player makes a toast with a young blonde at his side. Who knew playing for the New York Jets was so much like being Bill Clinton.
Someone stands solmenly on the Staten Island Ferry, evidently because they don't know where New Meadowlands is. Another player walks through Penn Station. Yet another runs across the Triborough Bride. It's Hard Knocks season 6, people. I have goosebumps.
A policeman puts out yellow tape around a complex. I thought Pacman Jones signed with the Bengals. Workers are getting ready for Jets training camp in Cortland, NY. We get our first listen of HBO voiceover guru Liev Schreiber, whose IMDB resume isn't as impressive as you'd think. But that's neither here nor there. I still love his voice. For as great as the "30 for 30s' have been on ESPN, I miss the soothing sounds of Liev whenever he's not the voice of a sports documentary and/or X-Men character.
Rex Ryan signs a contract extension and then calls his wife to tell her not to shop too much. A picture of his dad, Buddy, sits on his desk. A huge crowd awaits Ryan as he arrives in Cortland on a bus that apparently only carries him and a cameraman. I know Rex is big, but that seems to be overdoing it. If Blues Traveler could fit on one bus, surely Rex and a few Jets players can too. Rex gives a talk to the assembled crowd. He leaves out the f-bombs.
Our first mention of Darrelle Revis(notes). Reporters ask players how they will react without Revis there. One says, "I'm the second guy here so I'm not sure he's not here." Hey, hey, hey, this is Rex Ryan's show. No being funny on your own. The camera cuts to a conspicuously-placed envelope with Revis' name on it. Everyone else has already picked theirs up. It looks like the wedding seating card of the weird cousin who doesn't show up. Revis is staying in room 303A. FORESHADOWING!
The Jets have one goal: to win the Super Bowl. Or so says Rex Ryan to his team. He makes it clear that this is the only goal, winning the Super Bowl. Then he tells the offense that he wants to lead the league in wins. The defense and special teams get similar messages. That sounds like more than one goal.
"We don't have Revis in this building," Ryan says, in case the players were too much in a daze to notice, BRAYLON. "Does it matter that Revis is not here? [Expletive] he's pretty [expletive] good." Everyone laughs, except Laverneus Coles, who's more of an observational humor kind of guy. A lot has been made of Rex Ryan's cursing in the first episode, but I thought it was kind of disappointing, not because Rexy can't throw in a casual f-bomb like a pro (he can) but because HBO silences out the curses instead of bleeping it. A well placed beep is comic hilarity, as Jimmy Kimmel has proven on his show (or on that one YouTube clip I saw). Rex continues. "We know we're better than you, we don't give a [expletive] if you know it or not. We're gonna beat the [expletive] out of ya." Slow down Rex, there's five episodes to go.
Montage. Eminem sings "Not Afraid". He curses slightly less than Rex Ryan. In the clips Braylon Edwards(notes) catches a ball. That cameraman must have felt like the guy filming Planet Earth who caught the first ever close-up footage of a snow leopard. Coaches make fun of Ryan's black Chuck Taylors. The "patent leathers." Alright there, Nina Garcia. They're good luck, he explains.
Bart Scott(notes) talking heads that he wants Rex Ryan with him in a dark alley instead of Warren Sapp(notes) or Ray Lewis(notes). If Bart says so, I'll take Rex is a dark alley too. But if I'm going to the club, I want Ray Ray by my side. Rex does bedcheck on the first night of camps. He sees Skittles in someones room and preemptively denies any responsibility for their theft. Ryan looks for Revis who isn't in 303A. "Don't I wish," he says to the cameraman. "Come on home, let's go." In LDT's room now, Rex hands him every negative article that's been written about them. It's only a few papers thick, indicating Rex is as proficient at Internet surfing as he is at not stealing Skittles.
In a meeting room with coaches, Rex looks at an ESPN.com caption contest and checks out the comments with his assistants. They laugh at the digs, just as I imagine Dan Snyder doesn't. Be careful what you write in these comments folks, you may find yourself one day in a dark alley with Rex Ryan and who knows if he'll remember the joke you made about him and Krispy Kreme.
Liev VO's about the new Jets stars: LDT (wearing a Mets hat - well played), Jason Taylor (we're still calling him a star?), Antonio Cromartie and Santonio Holmes(notes). Clips of Santonio Holmes catching a touchdown pass play and GM Mike Tannenbaum saying, "man who trades for him? How smart that guy was!" The Jets are nothing if not confident.
Undrafted Free Agents time, always the most riveting part of Hard Knocks. I try not to get too attached every year. I fail. Brashton Satele(notes) and Aaron Kia(notes) are from the same town back in Hawaii and they talk about the time difference between their home and the mainland. Bill Callahan speaks of Kia's unfamiliarity with NFL tactics. He wants to get better every day. Ryan watches Kia practice and says "76 is awful. My god is he bad." I fear this won't end well for our tattooed friend. His Hawaii-mate is doing better, Live tells us. Ryan asks another coach about him and says he's smart. I like him immediately and declare that Satele is my new favorite UFA. He then sprains his ankle three days into camp and - dammit, why do I always do this to myself. My new candidate for favorite UFA is Kevin Basped(notes), a rookie linebacker with traps that look like the Great Pyramid at Giza. Ryan likes him and so does GM Mike Tannenbaum and now so do I. And, of course, he has hurt knees.
Tackling dummy montage. They don't call them tackling dummies anymore, because they're technically sleds and dummy is probably offensive to people who can't speak. Someone who can speak is Ryan Ryan and he's currently mocking OLB coach Jeff Weeks for using tanning oil. This is odd for two reasons, the second of which is that Weeks doesn't look particularly tan. Ryan brings this up at team meetings and institutes a $5 fine plus a shirtless run. "A shirtless run?" Ryan's secretary asks later while transcribing the coach's notes, almost as if a letter was originally missing from Ryan's version. Ryan has earned a $5 fine himself for eating non-issued food. We see him snacking on peanut M&Ms, Oreos and cheese and cream, but, I gotta say, dude looks pretty good after his lap band surgery. He gets rationed food like he's a POW, but his secretary sneaks him two extra crackers. She knows where here bread is margarined.
Café Ryan is the name of the table outside Ryan's office and during lunch the talk turns to football and, of course, Revis. "We will not be bullied by anybody," he says. "It's not in our DNA." Tannenbaum sees a Revis commercial on TV and is literally pulling out his hair. VISUAL METAPHOR ALERT! There's a poster of Revis on the wall behind Tannenbaum as he talks to Revis' agent. After the call Tannenbaum reports to owner Woody Johnson. "That was the most non-negative conversation I've ever had with him," he tells Johnson, who seems more interested in his iPad.
Bart Scott talks as much as Rex Ryan. He says rookies better be tough-asses, makes Metamucil jokes about Mark Brunell(notes), calls the veteran QB the "Stetson man" and goads a coach into giving him the finger. We can see why Rex loves him so much.
Mark Sanchez(notes)! My, is he handsome. He catches balls one-handed like Braylon Edwards wishes he could catch balls two-handed. Ryan says it's his QB's team. Manchez slides at practice and gets a sarcastic cheer from the crowd. Manchez has his goals written down as part of some psychological exercise. The goals aren't broadcast, which reeks of Andy Reid-type censorship.
Joe Namath arrives at camp with Bermuda shorts jacked up old-man style and a Styrofoam cup that will kill the environment as much as the aerosol hair spray Namath has doubtlessly used for his flowing mane. Namath chats with his daughter, but she's more interested in the impending rain. She guarantees it.
Rain montage. Braylon manages to catch one-handed balls in the rain. Kris Jenkins(notes) is down for practice in the rain and expresses his excitement by taking off his helmet after a play. He's warned about it by a ref but it's OK, Jenkins says, it's just practice. Somewhere, Allen Iverson nods. On a fourth down, the defense stops the offense. This displeases Rex, who wishes the offense had scored, presumably because it would have given him a chance to say [expletive]. He uttered ten f-bombs through the first 30 minutes of the show but then cleaned it up for the last 20 minutes. That's [expletive] weak.
Namath sits in on a meeting and tells Manchez a better technique for taking a snap. Manchez listens and it's tough to tell whether he's humoring an old man or brushing off an old man. A coach breaks the awkwardness by non sequitiring into a question about Namath's reputation for having a good time. "On the field, sure," Namah deadpans. "Off the field it was all work." The room erupts in laughter, deservedly so because that timing was so good even Laverneus Coles would have found it funny.
Rex and the coaches punt, pass and kick before practice. He does the middle one well. The other two, not so much. If he was in a competition I bet he'd lose to Caitlin McKaskell, 12, of Boyertown, PA.
Tony Richardson(notes) has been in the league for 16 years. Due to his service, running backs coach Anthony Lynn tells him he can come to practice on time, rather than the required 10 minutes early that everyone else has to. It's no gold watch, but it's something. John Connor is a rookie fullback and, amazingly, it takes 45 seconds to make the first Terminator joke. Bart Scott is among those impressed with the kid so far. Yes, Bart, but are you dark alley impressed? Jacob Davis is the other fullback in the T-Rich/Edward Furlong depth chart fight. Rex Ryan VOs, "they're all going to play in the league. This is going to be an unbelievable battle," just as if the HBO story supervisor is directly feeding him lines.
Marty Schottenheimer is at camp and thinks Revis should be too. Tannenbaum drives a Lincoln to Sullivan County to meet Revis and his agent at Roscoe Diner, which may or may not serve Johnny Cakes. HBO cameras are barred from the meeting, already a bonus for Revis' agent who won't get the negative edit that Andre Smith's(notes) agent did last year. Three hours later HBO cuts to Tannenbaum's silent car and it's moments like this that make you appreciate how good the editing team of Hard Knocks is. "They haven't said one thing I agree with at all," he says. "You know what's funny, we're so frickin' far apart that I feel like a failure." Dude, don't be so hard on yourself. I know it's not a Cadillac, but the Lincoln is still a nice car.
Lil' Wayne plays in the background as an unnamed Jets player uses a jackhammer-like device on his thigh. I'd take that guy with me in a dark alley, assuming he's allowed to bring the jackhammer. Liev VOs about the Green-White scrimmage. LDT catches a deep ball on a hitch on his first play and Manchez jokes that it seems like he's been in the league for a bit. Fans want Revis and chant as such. Ryan speaks to the team after about a curfew, which seems a bit anachronistic. He had to have that conversation earlier than three days into camp, no? "If you're a loser and don't have anybody here, then "tough [expletive]" you have curfew at 12:30." Wives and kids arrive. Or baby mama's and kids. Running back Jason Davis(notes) has a lady with him and goes into his room and doesn't allow cameras in. Maybe they're negotiating with Darrelle Revis. Meanwhile, rookie guard Charlie Tanner(notes), a loser, is in the cafeteria eating ramen noodles alone. He goes to the bar with a few guys and the fans cheer and we avoid making any Roethlisberger references.
It's cut time. Tannenbaum does the first cut before he sits down in his chair, which speaks well of his efficiency. Then he kills that impression by stretching out the cutting. He tells Basped (the guy with the huge traps) that he's not going to have a productive career. Oh, Mike, you were doing so well too. Aaron Kia, the Hawaiian who Rex said was "god awful" is next, which is a shame because that was a sponsorhip deal waiting to happen. Tannanbaum isn't there for this one. Kia asks what he does next and doesn't seem pleased that the answer is "give us back your playbook." Rex delivers some kind words to Basped in the elevator and Kia gives in his playbook before slamming the door on the cameras. Oh, I see why it's called Hard Knocks.
Next week: Old men! Vernon Gholsten! Preseason Monday Night Foootball! See you then, [expletives].