One thousand, one hundred and 21 men have played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their four-decade history, and at some point each one heard the good news from his coach: He made the team. Many, many more hopefuls have heard the opposite news, that their NFL dreams were being put on hold. Never before have these emotional conversations been witnessed by Buccaneers fans.
That's about to change. The 12th season of the enormously popular HBO/NFL Films series Hard Knocks will feature the Buccaneers this August during training camp. The five-episode run will begin on Tuesday, August 8 and conclude on September 5, airing exclusively on HBO.
"A tremendous amount of hard work goes on behind the scenes to prepare for an NFL season and HARD KNOCKS does a great job every year of giving the fans the type of unprecedented access that only NFL Films can provide," said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. "Our fans will get to know our players, coaches and support staff like never before."
The Buccaneers will appear on Hard Knocks for the first time, and will be the 10th team to be featured. Dallas and Cincinnati have each been the subject of two Hard Knocks runs. The series debuted in 2001 with the Baltimore Ravens and has been repeated each year with the exceptions of 2003-06 and 2011. The Buccaneers succeed the Los Angeles Rams, who were last year's Hard Knocks team.
As a young team that appears to be on the rise, the Buccaneers were an attractive option for HBO and NFL Films. Led by charismatic 23-year-old quarterback Jameis Winston and 23-year-old Pro Bowl wide receiver, Tampa Bay finished 9-7 in 2016 and just missed the playoffs on a third-level tiebreaker. Other potential storylines include an all-out battle for the kicker job between 2016 draftee Roberto Aguayo and veteran Nick Folk; the integration of big-play wide receiver DeSean Jackson into the offense; and the development of such young potential cornerstone players as Vernon Hargreaves, Ali Marpet, Kwon Alexander and Noah Spence. NFL Films cameras will go behind the scenes to capture the outsized personalities of such Buccaneers as Winston, Jackson, Gerald McCoy and Donovan Smith.
Hard Knocks is one of the most unique shows on television, particularly considering its incredible quick turnaround time between shooting the raw footage and airing a complete episode. The series has won 14 Sports Emmy awards. It's 57 episodes and one anniversary special have been met with critical acclaim, and over the past three years its episodes have averaged 3.9 million viewers.
NFL Films will bring a 30-person crew to One Buccaneer Place, with the anticipation of shooting more than 1,500 hours of footage. The crew will be given unprecedented access to all facets of the Bucs' operations, from meeting rooms to training rooms, from the practice field to the players' personal living spaces. The opportunity to give fans a look at such previously hidden scenes was important to the Buccaneers, who are excited to be this year's featured team.
Indeed, Koetter and Smith, the Buccaneers' head coach and defensive coordinator, respectively, got the hard knocks treatment in 2014 with the Atlanta Falcons. Smith was Atlanta's head coach at the time, with Koetter as his offensive coordinator.
"We have multiple coaches who have prior experience with Hard Knocks, so I have a good understanding and appreciation for how HBO and NFL FILMS work with the players and coaches to document all that goes on in preparation for the upcoming season," said Koetter. "We have a roster full of players who will be focused on competing and improving each and every day during training camp. It will be good to give our fans that rare opportunity to see just how much work our entire organization is putting in to prepare for this season."