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HBO’s cinema verité series Hard Knocks is back in production. The struggling Miami Dolphins – which finished last season with a 6-10 record – will be featured in the docudrama about NFL training camp. The first episode airs Aug. 7 at 10 p.m., with four additional episodes airing on subsequent Tuesdays culminating in the Sept. 4 finale.
Last year, the NFL lockout was blamed for scuttling what would have been the seventh season of the HBO Sports franchise. (The series began in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens.)
But multiple teams expressed reluctance to participate even before labor negotiations between the players union and the owners stalled in early 2011. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions all demurred when approached by HBO Sports.
Call it the Rex Ryan effect. When the New York Jets were the subject of Hard Knocks in 2010, Ryan made headlines – and earned criticism from opposing teams – for his outspoken and profane style. Ryan and Tom Brady, quarterback of Jets’ archrival New England Patriots, engaged in a media war of wards over the show.
And apparently, not even Ryan wants to revisit Hard Knocks. Citing league sources, Fox Sports reported last month that Ryan declined when HBO Sports approached the team to be featured again this year. The Jets, of course, recently traded for former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow as backup QB to Mark Sanchez. The move is being closely watched, and oddsmakers are taking bets as to whether Tebow unseats Sanchez as the Jets’ starting QB. The Broncos – who signed free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning – also declined to be featured.
For their part, the Dolphins have stars in running back Reggie Bush and offensive lineman Jake Long (son of Fox Sports analyst Howie Long) and a new head coach, Joe Philbin, the former offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. And with 11 years without a playoff victory and a severe decline in ticket sales, the Dolphins could use the exposure.
Philbin acknowledges as much in a statement announcing the team’s participation on Hard Knocks.
“All the decisions that have been made this offseason have had one guiding principle: Will it help our players and organization reach its full potential? This one is no different,” said Philbin, whose 21-year-old son Michael drowned in a Wisconsin lake last January.
“We are convinced that our affiliation with NFL Films and HBO will allow football fans everywhere an opportunity to comprehend the significant sacrifices and demands that our players endure each day along their journey in training camp as a Miami Dolphin.”
E-mail: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com; Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie
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