Tampa Bay is the clear favorite to be the subject of HBO's Hard Knocks training camp mini-series. The show has been “offered to the Buccaneers and that it is essentially theirs for the taking," a source told PewterReport.com.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the clear front-runners for the league’s choice to be the subject of the popular Hard Knocks series, which is produced by NFL Films for HBO. An NFL source told PewterReport.com that the show has been “offered to the Buccaneers and that it is essentially theirs for the taking.”
Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris first mentioned his team as a possibility to be featured this year on Hard Knocks during the NFL owners meeting back in March. The Bucs have been tight-lipped with regards to whether they will ultimately be featured on Hard Knocks, although PewterReport.com has learned that a deal has yet to be signed, but is currently being contemplated by team ownership.
Although the Buccaneers appear to be inclined to be willing participants on Hard Knocks, a league source tells PewterReport.com that one of the apparent hold-ups is the lack of a collective bargaining agreement between the NFL owners and the representatives of the NFL players. Because NFL Films would be contractually obligated to owe HBO five episodes of Hard Knocks, the Buccaneers would have to allocate six weeks worth of access for filming leading up and during training camp.
But given the current lockout situation in the league, will training camp start on time as it typically does at the end of July? If the lockout uncertainty lingers, there is a possibility that no team will be featured on Hard Knocks this year if training camp is shortened due to the ongoing labor dispute.
If there is a season, the Tampa Bay is considered to be the heavy favorites for appearing on Hard Knocks, according to a league source. The Buccaneers have made no secret of their desire to raise the team’s profile on a local and a national level, and being featured on Hard Knocks would help that cause. The team wholeheartedly agreed to host the Chicago Bears in London for the league’s International Game this year despite hosting the New England Patriots just two years ago during the 2009 season.
It is believed that the team’s willingness to do so may have aided the Bucs in landing two primetime home games against Indianapolis on October 3 on ESPN’s Monday Night Football and against Dallas on December 17 on NFL Network. The significance of those night games helps Tampa Bay’s chances of selling out both contests after a year in which every home game was not sold out and was blacked out from local television in 2010.
The Bucs have plenty of young, talented players they are eager to showcase locally and nationally, such as quarterback Josh Freeman, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, wide receiver Mike Williams and running back LeGarrette Blount, to help make them household names in the NFL. Being the subject of Hard Knocks on HBO would help raise the profile of those players and generate interest and buzz on national sports networks such as ESPN and NFL Network, which often do not cast a large spotlight on smaller market teams such as Tampa Bay.
Such interest and buzz should help boost the team’s season and individual ticket sales, which naturally interests the Glazers as the sale of tickets is one of the primary revenue streams for the Buccaneers.
Because of the behind-the-scenes aspect of NFL Films’ storytelling, news often comes from the Hard Knocks series, such as last year’s controversy over Rex Ryan’s excessive swearing in front of players when the New York Jets were featured. The young and relatively unknown Bucs could benefit from the additional exposure that could come from an appearance on Hard Knocks with the newsworthy material and footage by being forced into coverage from ESPN, NFL Network, SI.com, ProFootballTalk.com and other national media outlets.
Some of the risks that come with an appearance on Hard Knocks are possible jealousy creeping into a very young, but tight knit Buccaneers locker room if certain players are featured more prominently on HBO while others are featured less or ignored altogether, which could negatively affect team chemistry. In addition, every other NFL team would get an extensive look at Tampa Bay’s personnel.
Last year, seldom-used third-year running back Danny Woodhead was raved about by the New York Jets coaching staff on Hard Knocks, and he was ultimately picked up AFC East division rival New England after the Jets waived him on September 14. Woodhead rushed for 547 yards and five touchdowns (5.6 avg.) and caught 34 passes for 379 yards and one receiving touchdown for the Patriots and become one of New England’s most dangerous offensive weapons.
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik, director of college scouting Dennis Hickey and coordinator of pro personnel Shelton Quarles have done a great job of raiding the waiver wire for players like Blount, guard Ted Larsen, wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe, and other team’s practice squads for players like promising young safety Larry Asante. Tampa Bay would be opening itself up to lose some of the players it may want to stash on its practice squad because Hard Knocks typically features the storylines of three borderline players that are fighting to make the roster, in addition to that of three veteran players. Additional exposure to those borderline players may increase other teams’ interest level in the Bucs’ potential practice squad players.
Of the five teams that have participated in six years of Hard Knocks (Dallas has appeared twice in 2002 and ‘08), the end result was four winning seasons.
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