Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the New York Jets has made its premiere on HBO and Max. As expected quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the primary focal point. The episode began with a montage featuring footage from the glory days of Jets football mixed with news surrounding the April trade for Rodgers.
Here are some of the highlights from the opening episode.
Eagles vs. Crows
Addressing his team, head coach Robert Saleh used an analogy of crows being the only bird willing to attack eagles. The Jets were the eagles, and the team’s critics were the crows. Saleh noted the expectations the team faces, and embraced them. He then talked about how when a crow attacks eagles by landing on their neck and pecking at it. Eagles fend off the attack by ascending high enough in the air to make the crows suffocate. Saleh challenged the players to motivate themselves to put in the extra work necessary to ascend and fight off the crows trying to bring them down.
The Aaron Rodgers Effect
As already mentioned, it comes as little surprise, but Aaron Rodgers was the star of the show. The early parts of the episode show Rodgers receiving a raucous ovation from the fanbase as he took the field at practice. More significantly, Rodgers’ presence has resonated with teammates. A number of Jets, including Garrett Wilson and Mecole Hardman talked about watching Rodgers play when they were kids. After Rodgers hit a difficult pass, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich didn't get upset with his defense in the film room. He praised the job they did and sounded giddy that Rodgers is the team's quarterback.
Garrett vs. Sauce
The episode briefly turned the focus on practice battles between the NFL’s two reigning Rookies of the Year. Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson go head to head each day, and seem to be making each other better.
Cameras followed Gardner to his recent graduation from the University of Cincinnati. Sauce discussed what it meant to graduate for his mother and the example he is proud to set.
Visitors to Training Camp
A number of familiar faces have visited Jets training camp over the last few weeks. Names familiar to football fans like Tiki Barber, Jason Garrett, and Curtis Martin have been around. Martin joked that he thought the excitement was so great that he could return to the field and rush for 500 yards.
Method Man was also a visitor to Jets training camp, and Robert Saleh let him close out practice one day citing one of Bill Parcells’ favorite lines.
In perhaps the most meta moment in series history, Hard Knocks flew in Liev Schreiber, the Voice of God on the show, by helicopter to the team facility. Prior to the series filming, Rodgers described Schreiber as the only thing he liked about the show. This led to a conversation with Rodgers full of jokes.
No Look Passes
Rodgers’ no look pass drew plenty of imitations from his teammates.
Wilson provided the Hard Knocks staple, the young player down on his luck looking to turn his career around. In this segment, we got a look at the detailed advice Rodgers provides Wilson on the practice field for how to attack specific defensive looks.
Rodgers on Hackett
Rodgers also discussed his affection for his offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett. He discussed how well Hackett treats people. He went into detail talking about the coach’s ability to build team camaraderie. In Green Bay, Hackett encouraged team celebrations to accompany the Lambeau Leap after touchdowns. Rodgers noted that previously an offensive lineman, Bryan Bulaga, seldom participated in celebrations after scoring. Hackett made sure to change that.
The Pylon Game
In down time at practice, Jets quarterbacks and other personnel play a game where they try to hit one of the end zone pylons with the football. Participants get two points for hitting it on the fly and one point for a bounce. Teammates are also allowed to yell out anything to psych their opponents out as they throw, borrowing the technique from the movie Baseketball. The most hilarious psych out was when Hackett had, “Sean Payton!” yelled at him as he thew.
The final minutes of the show provided behind the scenes footage of the Jets’ preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns in Canton, Ohio. We saw Rodgers express the same surprise most of us felt when DeMarcus Ware sang the national anthem. We also saw that Rodgers told Zach Wilson to throw it to Malik Taylor just prior to their 57 yard connection. And while it is unclear how significant this actually is, I took note of Robert Saleh gushing about Chaz Surratt, a linebacker battling for a roster spot who recorded an interception in the opener. The Jets went on to lose their first preseason game, but there were solid performances turned in.