DAVIE, Fla. — The microscopes, er, cameras have arrived in Cincinnati.
Filming has begun at Bengals camp for the latest edition of ‘Hard Knocks: Training Camp.’ The five-part HBO series will hit the air starting Aug. 6.
The Bengals are the second team to repeat in the eight seasons the NFL reality show has been on, having also been featured in 2009. (The Dallas Cowboys being the other). But about 80 percent of the roster has turned over since then.
So, if anybody on the Bengals wants advice, they can find holdovers from four years ago. Or they could talk to those on the Miami Dolphins, who endured being under the ‘Hard Knocks’ microscope last year.
“My advice,” said Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick, “would be, ‘Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that guy that gets knocked on your (butt in a drill). Don’t be that guy that’s late to a meeting.’ “
A year later, many remember who fell into the category of being “that guy” on the Dolphins, one embarrassed for all to see around the country.
Guard John Jerry was shown throwing up on the field and coaches lambasting him for being out of shape and ineffective. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was filmed blasting then rookie tight end Michael Egnew, saying the third-round pick was looking so bad he would be cut if he were the general manager. And running back Daniel Thomas was shown being chewed out by Miami coach Joe Philbin for having been late to a weightlifting session and to the team plane before it left for an exhibition game.
Jerry and Egnew didn’t want to talk much about their negative Hard Knocks experiences, although Egnew did say he’s never watched last year’s show and never will because “I was there.” Thomas looked back at his low moment and expressed relief that at least ‘Hard Knocks’ has gone elsewhere this summer.
“Yeah, definitely,” Thomas said about that. “The cameras were everywhere. … I’m happy they’re not here because it was a kind of a distraction. Guys are just focusing on practice.
“Everybody back home (in Hilliard, Fla., population 3,000) last year was watching (when Thomas was called out). It’s a small town so everybody was tuned in every night. For that to happen, it was kind of hard.”
The HBO cameras followed players into places where regular media members could not go. They were practically in the huddle at practices, were at closed workouts and were behind the scenes in the locker room and in meeting rooms.
When Philbin had meetings with players in his office that would have been private at any other training camp, there were hidden cameras chronicling the action. That’s what happened when Thomas was chewed out and when Philbin told wide receiver Chad Johnson he was being cut after having been arrested for allegedly head-butting his wife.
“Yeah,” Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll said of being glad HBO is not around at this training camp. “Cameras were all over the place. You get distracted. You’re trying to have a normal conversation and you can’t even really have it. Those cameras, they follow you to the hotel, they follow you into the bathroom, the players’ lounge. So you never get any quiet time to yourself.”
When it comes to the latest edition of Hard Knocks, Carroll said of the Bengals, “They can have it.”
Miami players generally either disliked being on the show or were indifferent. Of more than 10 interviewed, nobody thoroughly lauded it.
As for Philbin, that’s another story. He said last year it was a great experience for the Dolphins, a team in need of publicity, and he reiterated that Sunday.
“‘Hard Knocks,’ those people (working on the show) were consummate professionals, good people to be with, fun people to be around,” Philbin said. “It really wasn’t a big deal.”
Defensive tackle Cameron Wake did say Hard Knocks was “able to give a little insight” into the Dolphins and “give people a better idea of who we are.” Center Mike Pouncey did say it was “good exposure” for the team. Still, neither held a pity party when the cameras left.
“It was like an interview 24/7,” Pouncey said.
“There’s probably a little bit more loose lips,” Wake said of players at this year’s training camp. “That’s how the locker room is. It’s our safe haven. … (Last year) you might not be telling stories about your girlfriend or anything like that.”
Defensive end Olivier Vernon was a Miami rookie last season. He didn’t know what to expect from training camp.
So which does Vernon prefer, a camp with Hard Knocks around or one without one? That’s an easy question.
“There’s not cameras now every time you look over your shoulder,” Vernon sad. “And now we don’t have to worry about microphones everywhere.”
Now, that’s for the Bengals to worry about. Vernon was asked what advice he would give those in Cincinnati who haven’t been through the show.
“One thing about ‘Hard Knocks’ is they can make you out to be the good guy or they can make you out to be the bad guy,’” Vernon said. “So just stay on their good side.”
Vernon was thankful he ran into no issues last year. The same can’t be said for Jerry, Egnew and Thomas.