On Tuesday, August 8, the latest season of HBO’s Hard Knocks debuted and at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, August 9, HBO uploaded the episode to its streaming service so that I could finally watch it.
The teasers surrounding the show have highlighted a focus on Jameis Winston, an obvious choice given his status as Tampa Bay’s franchise quarterback and a personality that was meant for superstardom.
“Jameis is truly a unique player. He’s been great to work with. He’s been all about access,” said Matt Dissinger, the director of Hard Knocks. “We get to know who he is. I think the Buccaneers are anxious to have the nation get to know who he is. And we’re more than happy to put that on display. I think you’ll see [in the first episode] a lot of the things we found really compelling about him.”
As a result of that intrigue, we get a whole bunch of Winston screentime.
Here are some of the highlights:
- After a cold open that shows Dirk Koetter giving a nice ol’ speech about Tampa’s potential for the season and an intro that features a shot of Winston throwing footballs into one of those football throwing net things (is there an actual name for those?) morphing into DeSean Jackson getting out of a super cool car (is there an actual name for those?), we’re treated to an five-minute opening scene of a journey back to Winston’s hometown of Bessemer, Alabama.
We previously saw this in ESPN’s Draft Academy, but it was again pretty cool to see his roots and the family that surrounded him back home. The highlights of this scene are him seeing one of his cousins walking down the street while he’s driving and calling her over to dap her up, showing off the family’s new grill compared to the old one and his narration of two cockroaches mating.
"What’s up cockroach, you good? We just killed one. This cockroach havin' a baby! The cockroach havin' a baby, for real! See it, look! Or they mating. It's one of 'em. This is mother nature at its best, I feel like the crocodile hunter with roaches. But yeah, we would just pee right here.”
(The last line might be a little out of context. You probably should watch the whole scene.)
- As the narrator talks up Winston, they show a nice edit of him in practice spliced with the highlight of his Tampa career so far, that ridiculous throw to Mike Evans against the Chicago Bears last season. A perfect combination of skill, athleticism, persistence and pure dumbassery, it’s still unbelievable that he pulled it off.
Jameis Winston will be talking about this one for a long, long time. https://t.co/TK8LamBlAv— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@TBBuccaneers) November 13, 2016
- One of the funniest moments of the show comes during practice, when Gerald McCoy accidentally strip sacks Winston. McCoy tries to slow down as he comes in, but Winston takes a step into his path and they make contact.
From high school and on, hitting a quarterback in practice is the biggest no-no in football, and McCoy’s reaction illustrates that. He starts immediately apologizing, and starts joking that the Bucs are gonna trade him. Him and Winston have a nice bro moment after practice and shake hands.
- The rookies, at one point, have to sing in front of the entire team and the best one comes from undrafted linebacker Riley Bullough, who goes total white girl with a guitar on YouTube and sings an acoustic rendition of Fetty Wap’s “679.” Winston reacts with incredulity at first, but turns into his biggest fan by the end.
Antony Auclair, a rookie tight end, chooses to perform the Canadian national anthem and Winston is the first to stand up and place his hand over his heart.
- At this point in my notes, all I wrote is “Jameis Winston is f***ing funny.”
- Towards the end of the show, Winston gets chewed out by Koetter for throwing an interception at the end of practice. We get a few nice solemn lingering shots of Winston taking in the criticism, followed by an intraining montage that might rival J.J. Watt’s from two seasons ago in pure hilarity.
Except instead of hearing Watt rap “Remember the Name,” we get a nice voice-over of a Winston motivational speech. You can pick which one you’d prefer.
Already, this season of Hard Knocks has a bit more intrigue than last season’s with the Rams. Winston is the biggest force of personality, but McCoy, Burroughs, Jackson and Mike Evans all provide great moments.
You can watch the first episode for free on the Buccaneers’ website, or you can hit me up on Twitter and maybe I’ll bless you with a login.