TAMPA — It's looking more and more like this might happen. The Bucs believe they are among the top candidates to be chosen for HBO's Hard Knocks, the sports documentary produced in conjunction with NFL Films.
Right now, they are bracing for it. If selected, they plan to just embrace it.
Tampa Bay is among eight teams eligible for mandatory inclusion. The Bucs lost their way into contention. You can only be selected if you don't have a new head coach, haven't reached the playoffs in the past two seasons and haven't appeared on the show in a decade.
The Bucs have vowed full cooperation but have asked the league and network for an answer next week.
"I think our players are at a point in their maturity that they would be able to handle it," co-chairman Joel Glazer said. "They recognize what goes along with it. We'll always be supportive of the league. Nobody is rushing to the podium for that necessarily. But I do feel I have great confidence in this team."
Let's be clear. Nobody really wants to be the Hard Knocks team. Not the Bears, Browns, Colts, Eagles, Ravens, Saints or Titans, who also are eligible.
The coaches, who have always worked under a veil of secrecy as if football were the Manhattan Project, don't want the intrusion into the meeting rooms. The players prefer privacy.
"But if you're part of the league, you understand it takes the fan behind the curtain," said former Jets and Chiefs coach Herm Edwards. "As a coach, the biggest concern is that guys get out of character. Some of your guys, it's hard to have a conversation with. Then the cameras show up and they become a movie star trying to build their brand."
Edwards' Chiefs were featured on Hard Knocks in 2007. His team went 4-12, not because of the television show but because their quarterbacks were Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle.
To that end, Edwards believes Hard Knocks would bring the Bucs much-needed national exposure. In fact, Edwards believes no player could potentially benefit more than Jameis Winston.
"Jameis would be the star and all over it," Edwards said. "He would be great for them. He's an emotional guy, and he's going to say some stuff. Coming out of Florida State, not everybody liked him. But the nation would learn more about the quarterback that they didn't know, and ultimately, I think that could be good for him."
A 23-year-old franchise quarterback, a team on the rise after a 9-7 season, a straight-talking head coach such as Dirk Koetter and a host of story lines make the Bucs an attractive choice.
But things can and do go wrong, all under the glare of the national television lights.
In 2010, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was a holdout during training camp. He sought a contract extension despite having three years remaining on his current deal. Hard Knocks captured Jets coach Rex Ryan and his expletive-filled tirade about Revis' agents, announcing he was ready to move on without who was then the best defensive player in football.
In 2012, receiver Chad Johnson was trying to extend his career with the Dolphins when he was charged with domestic violence after allegedly head-butting his wife of three months. Coach Joe Philbin met with Johnson to tell him he had lost his job.
"I know you're very passionate and you care about your profession," Philbin said. "I hope you know I put some thought behind everything we do. I do my best not to fly off the handle and act irrational. … I don't know if this is working for you, me or the Miami Dolphins."
Johnson never played in the NFL again.
In 2015, we watched how the Texans reacted when quarterback Ryan Mallet missed practice by oversleeping. Last year, we grew sleepy watching the Rams move from St. Louis to Los Angeles and draft overmatched Cal quarterback Jared Goff.
The hope is that Koetter and Mike Smith, the Bucs defensive coordinator, will know how to step around the land mines. They were part of Hard Knocks when Smith was the Falcons head coach in 2014.
One highlight came when center Joe Hawley, then with the Falcons, got into a fight during training camp after Smith had asked for no fighting.
"If somebody is taking advantage of your teammate, and you go to his defense, and you send a message to the guy you're playing against, that's a (expletive) good penalty," Smith said addressing his team.
The show typically airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. The final edits are made that morning and teams can request that certain items be removed from the broadcast.
"In this day and age, it's not like the old days, everybody has got their cameras out for everything," Glazer said. "There's no question, it would be good just for people in Tampa to get to know our team and our players. There's no question there are positives and a national platform for people to get to know our players."
It could happen.