The series spotlighted the New York Jets in 2010, when the team certainly wasn't lacking characters. None was bigger, so to speak, than head coach Rex Ryan. When he wasn't unleashing foul-mouthed monologues, Ryan concluded his team meetings with the immortal words "Let's go eat a snack." Sexy Rexy at his best.
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The 2008 Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys were featured twice: in the show's second season in the summer of 2003 and fourth in 2008, when they really made waves. If it wasn't Terrell Owens, it was Pacman Jones (just reinstated by the NFL following a 17-month suspension). If it wasn't Tony Romo (dating pop star Jessica Simpson at the time), it was Wade Phillips. But somebody on the Cowboys always made for good TV.
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Hard Knocks's fifth season profiled the Bengals in 2009, and Chad Johnson, nee Ochocinco, was the star of the show. The diva receiver offered a number of memorable moments, including his deep love for McDonald's and his unsolicited advice on picking up women. Ochocinco was affable, at times unbearable and—child, please—never dull. And who could forget, of course, his emotional (is it dusty in here?) release from the Dolphins captured on camera in 2012?
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The Miami Dolphins got the Hard Knocks treatment in 2012, and while Ochocinco's release was the moment that stuck, David Garrard provided his share of intrigue as well. The Dolphins were targeting Garrard as a potential Week 1 starter at quarterback, so when he hurt his knee, tensions rose. Then-GM Jeff Ireland gave a visceral reaction for the ages, slamming his phone down on his desk in frustration when he heard the news. The series went on to chronicle Garrard's efforts to claw back in rehab before he was eventually cut from the team on the day the season finale aired.
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Ryan Tannehill, at the time preparing for his rookie campaign, was yet another compelling figure of the Dolphins' feature. In particular, his negotiations with management provided a rare look into how teams nail down contracts with their players. Tannehill's wife Lauren was a star in her own right, too. Tannehill's most memorable moment had to be his complete ignorance of the NFL's divisions.
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Antonio Cromartie, another member of the 2010 Jets, garnered some attention when he, a father of nine children, attempted and failed to name all of them. The scene was poignant if a bit tragic.
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Cornerback Vontae Davis was on the Dolphins at the start of the 2012 offseason, and Hard Knocks was there when the team informed him he'd been traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Davis's reaction was incredible to watch, as was Ireland's stoicism in delivering the news.
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The Baltimore Ravens starred in the show's inaugural season in 2001. Former tight end Shannon Sharpe was his usual boisterous self, particularly when he lamented his son's desire to get tattoos like Allen Iverson.
The third season in 2007 featured the Kansas City Chiefs. Bernard Pollard's killer dance moves were perhaps his most memorable moment.
The Bengals got their second Hard Knocks run in 2013, joining the Cowboys on the short list of teams to appear twice. The 2013 season had a number of memorable moments, and linebacker James Harrison was easily one of the biggest standouts. His gruff attitude, especially toward HBO's camera crews, was always a treat.