The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the featured team on HBO's popular Hard Knocks series this summer. According to Head Coach Dirk Koetter, who got the Hard Knocks experience with the Atlanta Falcons in 2014, here are a few things the Buccaneers will not be when the NFL Films cameras are around:
Let's get that top one out of the way first. After the selection of the Bucs was made official at a press conference at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday, Koetter emphatically dismissed the idea that the presence of the NFL Films crew will be disruptive to his team in training camp.
Koetter said the Hard Knocks experience in Atlanta was "in no way" distracting, and he pointed out that a fairly large handful of current Tampa Bay players and coaches have been through the process before. Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith, for instance, was the Falcons' head coach in 2014 and he was on the Baltimore Ravens' staff for the very first run of the series in 2001. Smith was also in Jacksonville when NFL Films produced a similar program called Inside Training Camp: Jaguars Summer.
Defensive Line Coach Jay Hayes got the Hard Knocks treatment with the Bengals in 2009 and 2013. During a team meeting on Wednesday morning, a dozen or more players told Koetter they had been around Hard Knocks before. He didn't identify the players but linebacker Cameron Lynch was with the Los Angeles Rams just last year when the NFL Films crew was around.
"Yeah, I don't buy that," said Koetter of the notion that Hard Knocks is a distraction. "Again, we all have a job to do. The players have a job to do, the coaches have a job to do and this is a no-nonsense business. The NFL, there are bright lights. It's just part of the deal, and I think we'll be fine. There's going to be some stuff – it's a TV show. The real TV shows are on Sunday in the fall; those are the ones I'm worried about.
Photos of HBO, General Manager Jason Licht, and Head Coach Dirk Koetter announcing the Buccaneers' participation on the 2017 edition of Hard Knocks.
"My main memory is how professional the crew was," recalled Koetter. "They actually make it so easy to get in and out [when] you're mic'd up, taking the mic on and off, the meeting rooms. Again, they're pros. It's a seamless process.
The Buccaneers will be a good Tuesday-night distraction for NFL fans for five weeks in August and September, however. Koetter things his players will provide the fodder for a very entertaining show, even though he hopes they will not specifically try too hard to do so.
"I think the main thing [is], we're not trying to hide anything over here," said the coach. "I think there are some great stories to tell and I think the players have some great causes that they're behind outside the building. I think that's a thing you try not to do. I think the thing that's corny is if guys are faking it, so we'll probably go with the 'no-faking' rule.
"We're together a lot during training camp, so there's time to laugh. We always try to get some laughs, laugh at each other. There's nothing wrong with that and I think it will be good for not only the Bucs' fans but for NFL fans around the country. We've got some great young guys here and I think there are some good stories here."
Koetter jokingly said he became pretty good at staying out of the line of the cameras during the 2014 Hard Knocks series in Atlanta. That will obviously be quite a bit more difficult for him to do now that he's the head coach, and in general he would advise his players not to put any special effort in avoiding the spotlight.
"I don't think you can do that, because it's everywhere," said Koetter. "When they're here, they're everywhere. I think you would just be knocking your head against the wall trying to do that."
As for the "predictable" part, Koetter pointed out repeatedly on Wednesday that the Buccaneers won't control the storylines that the producers and directors of Hard Knocks eventually decide to make central to the show. The show producers do give the subject team a pre-screening of the proposed episode and welcome feedback, but the most compelling material will develop organically. There are some obvious personalities to build around – Jameis Winston, Gerald McCoy, etc. – but the eventual "stars" of the production might prove unpredictable, as Koetter knows.
"They're going to have storylines that they decide on," he said. "If you watch the show, you know that sometimes they end up focusing on something that we might not expect. It might not necessarily be the stars of your team. They usually pick out a couple of guys that are on the bubble if they're going to make the team or not, and that will present itself over the course of the show. That has nothing to do with me.
"They're trying to make it an appealing television show to the audience they're shooting for. Those aren't my decisions. My job is to coach the team."