Shutdown Corner - NFL

Each week, Shutdown Corner recaps the latest episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks."  

Last week: High expectations, Revis is missing, Manchez is master of the Jets domain, fullback battle, cuts and lots and lots of expletives.

Intro. Ferry, subway, taxi, bridge and Nick Mangold(notes) picking up his uniform at the dry cleaner. Just like Jay-Z sings in that song. June 2010. Giants Stadium is getting torn down. We hear Bruce Springsteen singing the song "Wrecking Ball" in the final concert at the stadium. The audio of the song is interspersed with old clips of the Jets and Giants. When Springsteen sings a line about champions, they cut to a shot of Bill Parcells. Rich Kotite never gets any respect. There's a 10-second montage of welders, because Springsteen is America and America is welders. The press box gets demolished. Somewhere, Peter King cries a single tear into his triple skim vente caramel macchiato. Despite hearing Springsteen for about 60 seconds, there's no video of the concert, presumably because Mike Tannenbaum couldn't sign it.

Sunflowers and cattle pastures signal that we're far from New Jersey and in scenic Cortland, New York. Damien Woody(notes) does his best impression of Allen Iverson's "practice" speech while doing a stretch in the missionary position. It would be slightly disturbing to see him gently rocking his hips back and forth, but I don't have time to dwell because I'm  quickly loading the AI "practice" clip on YouTube. The thrusting will be but the first sexual innuendo of the night. There's a game in a week, so says everyone. Dennis Thurman, defensive backs coach, tells Bart Scott(notes) to hold a defensive meeting. Rex Ryan tells Bart Scott that the defense is [expletive]. Then Rex tells the media he has complete confidence that the defense is not [expletive]. Next, defensive coorindator Mike Pettine tells the defense they're [expletive], so there are some mixed signals going on. Pettine threatens to send players home on a bus, not a plane, if they get cut, which suggests he either means business or just bought stock in Greyhound.

A rookie named Tim Knicky(notes) signs a contract to replace the two guys who were cut last week and whose names we've already forgotten. He's wearing a T-shirt that simply says "football," in case the sight of Braylon Edwards' beard makes him think he's participating in a Civil War reenactment and not football practice. On the field, Rex asks Knicky his first name, hears it's Tim and calls him Knicky anyway. Maybe it written on his shirt. Rex quizzes him about some defensive formations and Knicky passes the test, clearly to the disdain of Rex, who has now made it 10 minutes without cursing.

Liev Schreiber voiceovers that USC rookie Joe McKnight(notes), who looks so old that he probably remembers playing with Namath, is off to a rough start. He threw up in minicamp, pulled a Haynesworth on his conditioning test and forgot to wear pads and a jersey to practice today. No, wait, he's running shirtless for the cameras. Strike that. Liev VOs that McKnight hasn't yet put his best foot forward and I'll bet you can guess what happens in the video clip we see next. These are the writing shortcuts that are necessary when you're producing a 60-minute show on the fly every week. Anthony Lynn, running backs coach, yells at McKnight for falling and curses more than Ryan in the process. Brian Schottenheimer wants McKnight to be more consistent. McKnight looks apathetic. Santonio Holmes(notes) gives him some words of advice. More apathy. Those baby boomers are so jaded. Players and coaches talk about how lost the USC product looks on the field. Bart Scott think he's "just mad ‘cause he's taking a pay cut." That was going to be the line of the night until Antonio Cromartie(notes) steals the show in about 20 minutes.

Weightlifting montage. A secretary brings M&Ms to a meeting. It's the blue bag, which I think means crispy. I'm a peanut man myself, although peanut butter M&Ms never hurt anybody either. Except Albert Haynesworth(notes). In another meeting, coaches play Nerf basketball in an office while Mark Sanchez(notes) orders pizza. He gets pepperoni, meat lovers, breadsticks and three ranch dressing packets. Manchez asks if the ranch costs money or is free. They're 59 cents a piece, he's told. He orders it anyway. This is only slightly more contrived than when The Situation called himself The Situation while ordering a pie on "Jersey Shore" last week.

Mark Brunell(notes) is 40 and looks like he played high school football with Joe McKnight. Manchez says he can still sling it. Rex wants Brunell to mentor Manchez. What, Kellen Clemens(notes) wasn't getting it done last year? After a bad pass in practice Manchez says he swears there was Vaseline on the ball. That or ranch dressing residue. Brunell says not to use it as an excuse. Brunell has a daughter that's five years younger than Manchez. She moved into a college dorm and, as he's hearing this, Manchez makes swooning eyes, which is both creepy and awesome. My lady friend reports that Manchez is dating Meadow Soprano, so I hope Tony didn't see the Manchez lust and send Stevie Van Zandt and the E Street Band after him. Brunell says Manchez won't meet his daughter. "She already thinks he's cute," he says. "But that's not happening at all. I like the kid but I don't like him that much." Manchez and Brunell talk about kids and the 23-year-old says he wants to grow up. Cut to a montage of Manchez not acting like a grown up, although I contend that eating an orange freeze pop transcends age. They're delicious! Linebacker Lance Laury(notes) has a dumpy walk, which Manchez then imitates. I contend that making fun of another man's gait transcends age too.

We're one-third of the way in and no cursing yet from Rex. Liev VOs about Marty Schottenheimer, who sits in on meetings with his son Brian and looks more like Craig T. Nelson every day. If it doesn't work out for Brian, maybe Rex will hire Dauber. Manchez's poor body language after making bad plays is mentioned. The quarterback wears a Taco Bell hat, which may explain the dumpy walk.

Practice montage. If you had "first Revis mention" before first Rex f-bomb, you win. Tannenbaum talks to reporters along with owner Woody Johnson. There's now a media blackout of the negotiations, other than, you know, the big press conference they're holding right now. But if not Revis at cornerback, who? Kyle Wilson(notes), first-round pick, that's who. Ryan talking heads that of everyone at camp he's most impressed with Kyle and then he says the same thing to the media. Wilson wears a "Hard Knocks" T-shirt in his interview, proving that everyone, even a millionaire, loves a free T-shirt.

Antonio Cromartie runs like a gazelle. And he shags like a minx, but we'll get to that. He has fun with coach Dennis Thurman, who gets in his face before a play to psych him up. It works, as Cromartie makes a fine move on the receiver. "Why do you have to get pissed off to do that," Thurman asks. "Challenge!" is the response from Cromartie, who's impersonating Bill Cosby from that classic episode where he tap dances with Sandman Simms. "I've seen that Cosby," Thurman says. They high-five, because it's apparently 1988. That being said, "The Cosby Show" is awesome. Joe McKnight remembers watching the series premiere when he was in college.

Cromartie impersonates Dr. Huxtable in more ways than one. After we see his daughter (who's so cute she could have played Rudy), we discover that Cromartie has been making babies at the rate of the Cosby family. Faster, even. Cromartie has eight kids under the age of five. He attempts to name them all, and I attempt to jot it all down and do my best with spelling: Alonzo, 5; Keris, 3; Myjunia, 3; "my daughter who just turned three", 3; Tyler 3; London, 10 months; Lelani, 2; and, finally, Jersey, who looks to be a newborn. Jersey was born to his wife, Cromartie specifies. My, 2007 was a busy year for Mr. Cromartie. He had 10 interceptions and four conceptions. (Watch the clip, it's amazing.) He's now at a water park and doesn't want to go down the slide because he's claustrophobic. So in addition to having two-thirds of a dozen kids, me and Antonio Cromartie have something else in common.

Schottenheimer tells a story about someone telling his father back in the day that he didn't need to use foul language. Obliging, Ryan drops his first f-bomb. We're 29 minutes in. That was like waiting for [expletive] Godot.

Liev VOs: "When it comes down to it, it isn't the f-word Rex Ryan loves most. It's the c-word. C for coaching." All right then. True story: I used to work in an elementary school and one day a third-grader ran up to me and said, "Mr. Chase, so-and-so called me the C word!" I was floored. Stunned, really. That's unacceptable language for anyone, let alone an 8-year-old. I pulled over the child and gave a stern lecture about how winners don't use that language and yada, yada, yada. I was heated and probably the most angry I had ever been at a student. This went on for about 30 seconds. "But Mr. Chase, all I said was that she was cuckoo!"

Mike Tannenbaum is on screen and I'm not recapping it because he seems to play to the cameras every time he opens his mouth.

Mike Westoff is the special teams coach. He had cancer in his femur 23 years ago and has a titanium leg now as a result and is generally pretty awesome. After a nice play, he tells rookie Donovan Warren(notes), "that was a good tackle you made in that drill. If you had played like that last year, Michigan would have won some damn games." Point, Westoff. And even with that rod in his leg, he walks more normal than Lance Laury.

A delivery of Shake Weights comes to Cortland. "Shake weights? What's a shake weight," the secretary asks. "Oh, is that the thing you shake?" Jessica Simpson, watch out. Punter Steve Weatherford(notes) got 100 Shake Weights for everyone. If you haven't seen the commercial, go now. "This is going to be the extra edge we need this year to get us from the AFC championship to the Super Bowl," he deadpans. Everyone gets one and it takes 10 seconds to get our first euphemism. Everyone laughs, because not everyone is as mature as Joe McKnight.

Line play montage. Man, I love some good line play close-ups.

Vernon Gholsten is a bust, or so Liev tells us. After two years, he's moving to the d-line from linebacker because he's never sacked anyone. This confuses me (why move a guy who can't sack to end?), but Rex is a defensive genius I hear, so I'll let it go. Former player Mark Carrier, who was Rodney Harrison(notes) before Rodney Harrison, is the defensive line coach and he talks about Gholsten in a meeting and somehow doesn't get called for spearing in the process. Rex likes Gholsten, but says he's no Deacon Jones. After a nice practice, Rex tells the coaches that Vernon's "nuts dropped right in front of us" and I don't think he's talking about M&Ms.

Rex and coach Clyde Simmons want Vernon to get in a fight. "Maybe we can arrange it," says Carrier, who clearly wants to start it, not arrange it. They tell offensive lineman Rob Turner to instigate and he does. How fun would that have been? (Dear editors, if you think MJD needs motivating one day, let me know and I'll start something.) It works, Gholsten gets into it and his M&Ms drop further. It's a great motivating tactic and all, but won't the purpose be defeated when Gholsten sees the show? Or does Cortland not get HBO?

Rex poo-poos the NFL's uniform policy before a team trip to the movies. They go to a rundown theater and see "Dinner for Schmucks." HBO cameras are not allowed in, possibly because the movie shows scenes of Darrelle Revis(notes) negotiations.

Fullback battle. Tony Richardson(notes) vs. John Connor. Schottenheimer understands why they call the rookie "The Terminator" and he thinks it's because he plays so physical and blows people up on blocks. It has nothing to do with the fact that his name is the same as the eventual leader of Skynet. Shoot, if his name was John Kimble they'd be calling him "Kindergarten Cop." All the coaches love Connor's fullback-mate Tony Richardson and it's not hard to see why. Joe Posnanski says he's awesome and when someone as awesome as Joe Posnanski says you're awesome, I'll take their word for it..

Liev VOs about the first preseason game at the New Meadowlands. Woody Johnson is in the parking lot wearing a tie that's cut off on the bottom like Alex P. Keaton. He takes a picture with a woman in an Eli jersey. Rex walks into the stadium dressed like it's bowling night. He then talks to Woody on the field and has changed clothes so now it looks like he's prepping to go to Denny's. Manchez shakes hands with Woody and runs out into the stadium with smoke blaring and fireworks off. The crowd sings the J-E-T-S chant. Sanchez calls a play. It's called 60 Zombie in case you want to use it in Madden. The ball is tipped, intercepted and returned for a TD. Maybe you don't want to use that one. Manchez looks like he's trying to shake it off, but he's not. Perhaps he needs more time with the Shake Weight. "That's a heck of a way to start the year off," he tells Brunell, prepositional phrasing be damned. "It's not the year, it's just a preseason game," Brunell replies. "It doesn't count." Roger Goodell readies a press release to contradict Brunell's statement.

Cromartie drops a ball, and then another. Osmosis by Braylon, we'll call it. That's a good cologne name, provided it comes in a plastic bottle. The corner comes to the sideline and Ryan says he's killin' him. "Where's our investment," he jokes. I believe it's gone to child support.

Tomlinson runs the ball and it's especially galling to hear him called LT when he's playing the Giants defense. Manchez talks to Brian Schottenheimer about mistakes. "We can't shoot ourselves," he says. I hope Plaxico doesn't get HBO in jail, because that would be awkward. A fire alarm goes off in the coordinating booth and nobody moves. The coaches are more concerned that their players stuffed Brandon Jacobs(notes), which really shouldn't be all that impressive. Alonzo, Keris, Myjunia, Tyler, London, Lelani, Jersey and Antonio Cromartie's other daughter who just turned three could stuff Brandon Jacobs.

The Manning hit. Initially everyone is upset that Bart Scott didn't recover the fumble. Then everyone sees the replay and you know it's bad when all the Jets cringe. I have new respect for Eli, which is to say I just began respecting him for the first time.

The second string isn't playing well. "Who's No. 3, is that a wideout," Pettine says, talking about the Giants' rookie Victor Cruz(notes). FORESHADOWING! After the great catch by Cruz, Ryan says, "that's a hell of a play by the kid." After touchdown No. 2: "I've got an idea, let's stay on top of three." After the third touchdown we get no Rex Ryan audio because, presumably, HBO couldn't afford the FCC fines. Actually, there was much less cursing this episode than in the first one. It's as if HBO is trying to tell us that the show is about more than f-bombs, sort of like when "Entourage" stopped showing boobs after season two. (I've heard "Entourage" started to show some more skin again this season but obviously I stopped watching after season two.)

Rex shakes hands with Tom Coughlin after the game. "I don't know who No. 3 is but holy [expletive], I'm telling ya!" Ryan tells his team the game was good news, bad news. He's most disappointed in the backups. He didn't like the intensity. They have to be kidding him. They don't appear to be. "You've got to be a bad motha," he says and I don't think he means Phylicia Rashad. There's no fire and brimstone from Rex after the loss because everyone knows what Mark Brunell does. Rex sort of works himself into a lather at the end though, even going so far as to quote West Side Story. "Do you want to be a Jet or not?" Fade to black.

Curse count: Two f-bombs, 22 expletives total.

Next week: Bowling, Mexican food, fullback battles and Braylon's beard!

Related Articles

Shutdown Corner

Add to My Yahoo RSS

Related Photo Gallery

Y! Sports Blog