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Hard Knocks Episode Four: Bubble Burst

Reality spills into the NFL ecosystem

HBO

The real world spills into the NFL bubble this week on Hard Knocks. We open with Sean McVay, his eyes on an iPhone. He’s watching the shooting of Jacob Blake. His reaction comes with the sort of language you’d expect from a football coach.

“Are you fucking kidding me,” he says to the team’s PR director, who showed him the video. “Wait are you fucking kidding me? He’s walking away from them? That is horrible.”

And so goes the remainder of the fourth installment in this season’s unscripted NFL drama. The players battle cuts, injuries, and the stark reality of the world around them as the sports community responds to the shooting.

Wind that the Milwaukee Bucks sat out their playoff game reached the locker rooms for both the Rams and Chargers. Anthony Lynn and McVay generate discussion among coaches and players around whether or not to cancel practice, among the other issues at large. Each coach leans towards holding practice, while urging participation in greater social and civic efforts outside the workplace.

These are noble efforts. The conversations had by those in front of the camera are a reminder that NFL players are not immune from the unrest felt by everyone else.

Before starting an inter-team scrimmage, Tyrod Taylor calls the Chargers to the locker room. There, Lynn declares he can feel tension among the team. And he’s not going to let anyone participate in football until that valve is released.

It’s his job to protect the team, he says. So he’s protecting the team. The coaches and players talk and talk and talk. They have the same conversations we have and had and will continue to have and had. They say the things you wish you read when you go through Twitter mentions. They say them to each other, and the camera.

As a result, Lynn cancels practice.

The show covers more than just one day, so we see some football, too.

As we are fed clips of coaches heaping praise on Chargers receiver Mike Williams, the breakout wideout gets injured on a play where he’s covered by… Desmond King. The tape was inconclusive, but looked to me like bad luck with how Williams landed. He’s gonna miss a few weeks with a shoulder sprain.

King has a pretty nasty pick six later in the episode. Teammates on the sideline question why coaches even let Van Jefferson run that route against King. The episode is otherwise light on Iowa players, but that was good stuff.

HBO

Typically the episodes of Hard Knocks where players get sent home tend to lean a bit more dramatic, but the cuts were few and far between. And there was already plenty of drama for the camera this week. Only three or four players got cut between the Rams and Chargers, and somehow Clay Johnston wasn’t one of them.

But was especially sad to see the cut rookies get loaded up in the world’s saddest airport shuttle, transporting them back to their bubblicious hotel rooms to pack up their belongings.

Musings

  • It was cool to see Chargers rookie nose tackle Breiden Fehoko do the Haka for his team to break down practice.
  • We watched Lynn, a former running back for the Broncos, oversee a drill where all the running backs had to jump over pylons, simulating a dive the pile moment. The pylons gradually increased, sort of like a reverse conga line. I coulda watched that drill all day at this point.
  • The pick the Rams used on Van Jefferson, the guy who King made cry, was a part of that hilariously bad trade deal that sent Brandin Cooks to the Texans.