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The annotated 'Hard Knocks': Watch entire first episode free without HBO

As Lavonte David is lifting the weights, the director has Bucs tight end Cameron Brate watching him in the background, just impressed by what Lavonte's doing. [HBO/NFL FILMS]
As Lavonte David is lifting the weights, the director has Bucs tight end Cameron Brate watching him in the background, just impressed by what Lavonte's doing. [HBO/NFL FILMS]
Published Aug. 14, 2017

By now, you've probably seen the first episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks," chronicling the Bucs in training camp. If you haven't, even if you don't subscribe to HBO, the entire first episode is available for free via YouTube (above). Here are 10 tiny things you might have missed with so much as a blink in closely edited shots.


You'll see this in each episode — a montage of orchestrated shots before the "Hard Knocks" logo comes up. Jameis Winston throws on the field, DeSean Jackson pulls up in his $250,000 Ferrari (we wrote about that here), Noah Spence runs shirtless in the sand, Lavonte David lifts weights, Gerald McCoy goes after a tackling dummy and Kwon Alexander runs in a resistance pool.

But if you look really closely, there's another Bucs player in the intro. As David is lifting the weights — a carefully constructed scene — the director has Bucs tight end Cameron Brate watching him in the background, just impressed by what Lavonte's doing.


As Jameis Winston takes the NFL Films cameras around the modest home he grew up in back in Bessemer, Ala., the camera pans the bedroom where he slept, sometimes three people in one bed ("Toes in everybody's face"). But a shot of one wall in the room shows a prescient pirate nod to Jameis' future — a sign for "The Jolly Roger" ("warm food, cold beer") on the wall. There's also a graffiti Stewie on the wall, so we know somebody's a "Family Guy" fan.


Griffin was in the yoga pic, and when Gerald McCoy goes in the elevator, he's greeted by Griffin. When Jameis Winson walks into the locker room (yes, that's his signature Sprayground backpack on his shoulder), fans get a glimpse of the locker room at One Buc. Mike Evans and Channing Ward are standing to the left, the basketball backboard is overhead, and again, Griffin is playing pingpong against rookie linebacker Richie Brown. Outstanding dialogue between Winston and Kwon Alexander, who describes his new red hair as "red hot, like a Cheeto." Jameis points out that "I like the red hot Funyuns." Endorsements await!


I've been in Dirk Koetter's office once since he became head coach. There's a wide shot from a camera mounted in his office as Koetter and Winston talk about being cautious with turnovers. So much to share — Koetter has 11 helmets lined up behind his desk for every stop in his coaching career. From left, you have Falcons, Oregon, Boston College, Boise State, Arizona State, Idaho State, Jaguars, Missouri, UTEP, San Francisco State and Highlands High School (in Pocatello, Idaho). He has two Bucs helmets below, with the old-school Bucco Bruce on the left.

On the right, you can see his framed Pat Tillman jersey from Arizona State — we wrote about that here and how much it means to Koetter. Look closely at the bottom, on the table, and you'll see a copy of Dr. Seuss' "Oh, The Places You'll Go," which Koetter admires and sometimes gives as a gift. "There's a lot of good life lessons in that book," he told our Tom Jones in a column last year.

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There's a cool scene with Jason Licht and the front office staff out for a lunch meeting — you can see the inner circle of the Bucs' personnel side. Here's a screengrab — from left, you have Mike Biehl, director of college scouting; John Spytek, director of player personnel; Licht, Mike Greenberg, director of football administration; and Rob McCartney, director of pro scouting. Waitress asks if she can get them anything and Licht points to his glass of beer and says "this one had a hole it."


Another great scene left on the cutting-room floor was part of the "Players' Day Off" montage — shirtless, sweaty Bucs players doing hot yoga, in what reminded the Times' Rick Stroud of the famous volleyball scene in "Top Gun." How many did you recognize? This screengrab shows four we can share — from left, that's tight end Austin Johnson, along with the three roommates Stroud wrote about last fall: WR Adam Humphries, Brate and QB Ryan Griffin. Others in that montage — punter Bryan Anger is spearfishing for lionfish, and defensive end George Johnson is the one ballroom dancing with his wife, Rebecca. In the card-table scene, that's tight end Tevin Westbrook dealing, and left to right, it's assistant Skyler Fulton, tight end Alan Cross and receiver Freddie Martino he's dealing cards to.


Having "Hard Knocks" at practices means lots of pics of people taking pics — their cameras are everywhere. Because the Bucs' practices are open to the public, we're fortunate and don't have restrictions on taking video clips of practice. So some of us reporters set up shop on the sidelines, kneeling to not block fans' views. They're just phone-camera videos, but you have content that's hard to find online, so they can do well on Twitter. It's a constant routine of recording and trying to edit and post a short video without missing a key play while you're posting. We pop up in the background of practice shots a lot — in this screenshot, I'm just to the right of receiver Josh Huff, squinting at my phone, while Pewter Report's Trevor Sikkema, who does a great job posting video, is just to the left of linebacker Riley Bullough, with his hat backwards.


One of the most popular scenes in the first Bucs episode was the rookies singing, and Doug Martin — walking in with a broom from the start — hilariously moonwalking and helping "sweep" bad acts off the stage after they're booed. It's a great nod to the "Sandman" from the old Apollo Theater, and if you look close when Martin first goes up on stage, his shirt says "it's a Doug thing, you wouldn't understand."


Fans really liked the Winston montage at the end of the episode, which had a motivational speaker doing voiceover as Winston woke up at 5:15 and got to One Buc Place, working out by himself before sunrise. The speaker's name is Eric Thomas — you can hear the exact speech HBO used here. I like how careful the NFL Films folks are in a shot of Winston walking out of his hotel room — even though they've been careful to include a shot of a uniformed officer guarding the floor players are staying on — so fans don't get any ideas — they've also discreetly covered up the room number.


Players have routines as they come out onto the practice field — some touch the grass, genuflect, point to the sky in reverent thanks. One even drops to a knee in the corner of the end zone for a short prayer, and it was interesting to see the "Hard Knocks" cameras get really close in filming. It's probably the only time I've wondered about a player's privacy when everything is being recorded around them as it is. Having said that, one of the coolest scenes in the first episode showed Winston in an empty locker room, at his locker, on his knees in prayer, with just enough audio to pick a few phrases up — "I pray for wisdom and thank you," and with a red clock in the foreground showing you it's still only 5:58. It's also cool as he works out to see that he isn't alone — even at that hour, the Bucs' strength and conditioning coach, Dave Kennedy, is watching and supervising his workout.

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