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It's official: Bucs and 'charismatic' roster set for 'Hard Knocks'

TAMPA — On the day Hard Knocks, HBO's NFL reality series, announced it was going to training camp with the Bucs, coach Dirk Koetter's reaction reflected that of most head coaches about the show.

"I like watching the show," Koetter said. "I wish I wasn't on it."

Quick to note "they picked us," Koetter nonetheless has accepted that the fans' pleasure may be worth his pain. For five weeks this summer, the Bucs will be the focus of the award-winning series that started in 2001 and is done in conjunction with NFL Films. The premier episode is 10 p.m. Aug. 8.

Matt Dissinger, the director of the show for NFL Films, said Wednesday the Bucs were chosen ahead of seven other eligible teams because they are considered an ascending franchise with young stars such as quarterback Jameis Winston.

"This is clearly a team on the rise," Dissinger said, "a team I would imagine would pique national interest. I'm sure the fans here in Tampa are very excited. But I think this is an opportunity to get Jameis, Mike Evans, Gerald McCoy — this gets some of those names out to a national audience. And it's very appealing to us. A young, charismatic roster. I think it's a good match.

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"It seems like whatever team we choose on a year-to-year basis, it's almost a perfect point in time for us to be there, and that's the way I feel about this season with Tampa."

Hard Knocks will have an NFL Films crew of 30 people recording more than 1,500 hours of tape during the series. At least 10 players and/or coaches will wear microphones, and the crews will have access to every room in the facility and will shoot footage away from One Buc Place. That means 350 hours of film are shot for every one-hour episode, which has averaged 3.9 million viewers per episode (including repeats) the past three seasons.

For a team that hasn't made the post-season in nine years, Hard Knocks represents a windfall of marketing and rare national exposure for the Bucs. Misconceptions still may exist about Winston, who won a Heisman Trophy and a national title at Florida State and had off-field legal and other problems before becoming the No. 1 overall pick by the Bucs in the 2015 draft.

"There's no doubt from where we sit how we perceive Jameis Winston," Koetter said. "It will be a great opportunity for people who maybe aren't as familiar with the Bucs to see what Jameis is like on a day-to-day basis. I said many times before, there's nothing that's not pure about Jameis Winston, and that will come across."

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Koetter said about a dozen players on the Bucs roster have been part of Hard Knocks with other teams. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith was the head coach of the Falcons and Koetter was their offensive coordinator when the series went to training camp with them in 2014.

General Jason Licht and Koetter said they did not believe Hard Knocks would be a distraction while preparing for the season. The Falcons went 6-10 after the show spent training camp with them in 2014.

"In no way was that a distraction, in my view," Koetter said.

"This is the NFL. There are bright lights. I look at it as it's just part of the deal. I think we'll be fine. There's going to be some stuff. It's a TV show. The real TV shows are Sundays in the fall. Those are the ones I worry about.

"In different markets around the country, there is more attention paid (to different teams). We're not, by any means, a team that's paid the most attention. We'd like to be. We'd like to be the team that's playing at the end of the season. Once again, this is just part of it."

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Even so, all those cameras have been known to turn the most introverted player into Carrot Top. And Koetter knows the process of picking the best 53 players for the roster in a highly competitive environment is never easy.

"One of the things we've got to look at is when they come in here, there's 90 guys fighting for 53 jobs," Koetter said. "So, yeah, there will be some fun, there will be some different stuff for the players, but at the same time, this is a hard business, and I think HBO and NFL Films do a good job of pointing that out."

It's official: Bucs and 'charismatic' roster set for 'Hard Knocks' 04/19/17 [Last modified: Thursday, April 20, 2017 12:44am]
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