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Jones: Koetter-Winston exchange highlights latest 'Hard Knocks'

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston calls audibles during training camp. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston calls audibles during training camp. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
Published Aug. 23, 2017

There are certain things that make HBO's Hard Knocks must-see television.

Like the moments when viewers can eavesdrop on funny conversations between teammates. And players getting cut from the team have long been a Hard Knocks staple. It's hard to watch, but you can't look away either.

But, the part that always seems to be the most interesting is the exchange between coach and player, specifically between head coach and quarterback. As we watch games on Sunday afternoon, we see the head coach and quarterback talking all the time. Sometimes those exchanges can get heated. And we can only imagine what is being said.

Well, with Hard Knocks, we don't have to imagine. We get to see and hear it all.

And if you're a Bucs fan who watched last week's preseason game between the Bucs and Jaguars, there was one exchange you couldn't wait to see.

You might remember when the Bucs were about to go in for a score when Jameis Winston went back to pass and was immediately under pressure.

If there's one knock against Winston it's his occasional penchant for making a dumb throw, mostly born from never wanting to give up on a play. It's been something he has struggled with since his days at Florida State. He knows it, and Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has spent the past two seasons trying to remove that chip from Winston's brain.

So last week, Bucs fans watched Winston throw a ball up from grabs while he was practically lying flat on his back. Only an iffy call by the official kept it from being a Jacksonville interception.

We then all watched Koetter go nuts on the sideline. And, on Tuesday's Hard Knocks, we finally got to hear what was said.

"You (expletive, expletive) me?" Koetter screamed. "You (expletive) kidding me? Why you got to do that? You're playing a great game and then your greed takes over. You're so much better than that. Playing a great game. … And then you do that?

Throughout, Winston kept saying, "I got you."

Koetter then said, "You can't do that. Ever ever ever."

It might have been the best exchange we've seen on Hard Knocks so far this season. And it give us a great insight on the relationship between Koetter and Winston.

And, as mentioned above, watching a player get waived is tough stuff. That was the closing scene in Tuesday night's episode. It was the type of closing that leaves one a bit moved and craving the next episode of the ground-breaking show.

This pivotal moment surrounded rookie defensive back Maurice Fleming. First, we saw a cringe-worthy scene when Fleming hurt his knee in the Jacksonville game. Then, it was heartbreaking to watch him struggle to play despite having what he said was no feeling his knee.

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He clearly should have come off the field. But it just goes to show how desperate these players are to keep their dreams of playing in the NFL alive.

This is when the masterful skills of HBO and NFL Films take over. Cameras followed Fleming the next day as he had an MRI on his knee and anxiously awaited the results. On the show, the MRI revealed that more tests needed to be taken.

No matter. Fleming was summoned to Koetter's office, where he was informed that he was placed on waivers. You felt horrible for the kid.

Chances are, Fleming will negotiate an injury settlement to be paid for as long as he's sidelined, but it is another example of the brutal business of the NFL.

Fleming's ordeal took up the final 10 minutes of the show thanks to superb direction and editing that allowed the scenes to breathe and build drama.

The Winston-Koetter exchange, as well as the Fleming storyline were the two best parts of Tuesday's third episode. And two more examples of how coach-player exchanges and players being cut are what make Hard Knocks so compelling.

Here are some of the other highlights from Tuesday's show:

• There's one thing Doug Martin might do better than run the football and it's a shocker. He can ride a skateboard. He picked it up in college and looks pretty comfortable riding it through his neighborhood. Just remember, Doug, avoid those potholes. Hit one and your skateboarding (and football days) may take a long vacation.

• We always knew offensive lineman Ali Marpet was a different type of cat. And a chill one at that. Now we know for sure as we saw him hanging out on Picnic Island with a book and a ukulele. He plays like Jack Johnson, too. Who wouldn't want to be his sidekick for a few days?

• Three episodes and former Bucs coach Jon Gruden has been on two of them. We got to see him in an ESPN production meeting, talking to Winston and making a comparison that many already do: Jameis and Brett Favre. That's both good and bad. Winston makes great plays, but occasionally makes that "What were you thinking?" play. Turns out, Gruden's question was a preview as to what was to come in the Jacksonville game.

• If there is a Hard Knocks Hall of Famer, it's former Bills and Jets coach Rex Ryan. He ended up making an unexpected appearance Tuesday as a part of ESPN's announcing team. And, man, I miss that guy. Here's hoping he gets another job and ends up back on Hard Knocks again.

• Cool scene with Winston telling running back Peyton Barber to hit the hole in practice and hit it hard. "Bring the noise!" he said. Even in practice, Winston is all-out competitive.

• There are few things more fun than watch Koetter calmly yet forcefully lay into his team after a subpar practice performance. "That was pathetic," Koetter told his offense. Oh, and to be clear, a few expletives were removed from that sentence. Meantime, what defensive coordinator Mike Smith lacks in curse words, he makes up for in volume.

• Cool to watch Winston studying the playbook with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy McNichols in a Jacksonville hotel room. They even went through a walkthrough of plays, between the bed and the desk.

• Without question, defensive lineman Chris Baker is the Bucs' best trash talker. He was heard giving it to Jags fans, wondering if three wins this season was possible. Ouch.

• Without question, defensive lineman Gerald McCoy is the best teammate. Anyone who springs for lunch for 90-some teammates and that lunch includes wings, barbecue and snow cones? You can clear your cards, we have a winner, people.

• Okay, it's way too early to make a mountain out of a molehill, but it was not encouraging to hear Jackson complaining about not getting the ball in a practice.

• Winston is a heck of a quarterback. And a heck of leader, too. But, his pregame rhyme to his teammates for the preseason game against the Jags was a dud. Thank goodness Ryan Fitzpatrick said what needed to be said: "Your rhyme was a little long. It went a little over." Amen.

• The funniest moment Tuesday was watching Gerald McCoy eating a hot dog on the sideline, then telling Baker, "You're so fat. You gotta be the fattest dude I know." But that didn't stop him from sharing a hot dog with Baker.

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