For more than four decades, fans have been invited to watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers conduct training camp at One Buccaneer Place, Disney's Wide World of Sports, the University of Tampa and even something called "The Hall of Fame Hotel." During this year's camp, Buccaneer fans will be inviting the team into their homes.
For the first time since the HBO reality series Hard Knocks premiered in 2001, the Buccaneers will be the featured team this summer. That means Tampa Bay's 2017 training camp is going to be broadcast to fans in intimate detail, with behind-the-scenes footage and storylines that have never before had a public audience. A 30-person NFL Films crew will shoot roughly 1,500 hours of footage and will unencumbered access to team headquarters, including meeting rooms, training rooms and the coach's office. All of this effort and access will result in five hour-long episodes between August 8 and September 5.
This is undoubtedly welcome news for Buccaneer fans, who will gain a new perspective on their team and see another side of their favorite players. The team has chosen to embrace the opportunity and is adamant that the Hard Knocks presence will not be distracting or an impediment to its preparations for a highly-anticipated season. Still, it's hard to imagine that this significant of an addition to the training camp process won't have some effect.
That's the issue of the day as we continue with our One Dozen Debates, looking at the issues that will define this training camp. From the uncertain depth chart at safety to the rearranged offensive line to the next step in the development of Jameis Winston, we'll look at one question a day, and that will take us right into the start of football on July 28.
We may not have all the answers just yet, but we'll try to define the issues. Read along with us and each day you can let us know where you stand on each debate.
- Monday, July 17: How will the depth chart at safety shake out?
- Tuesday, July 18: Can the Bucs improve in the red zone?
- Wednesday, July 19: Which Buc can break the 10-sack drought?
- Thursday, July 20: Who will emerge as the Buccaneers' kicker in 2017?
- Friday, July 21: Will the presence of the Hard Knocks crew affect the Bucs' preparations?
- Saturday, July 22: Is the new offensive line alignment going to work?
- Sunday, July 23: Is there enough depth at cornerback?
- Monday, July 24: How will Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard co-exist?
- Tuesday, July 25: Can the defense repeat its 2017 turnover magic?
- Wednesday, July 26: What will the running game look like during Doug Martin's absence?
- Thursday, July 27: What's the next step for Jameis Winston?
- Friday, July 28: Is Tampa Bay going back to the playoffs in 2017?
Debate #5: Will the presence of the Hard Knocks crew affect the Bucs' preparations?Let's get one thing out of the way first: The Buccaneers are not and should not be worried about a Hard Knocks curse. That statement is true without any context – a curse, really? – but it is also borne out by a look at the history of the show and its subject teams.* *
Photos of the Buccaneers' complete roster.
Six of the 11 Hard Knocks teams, from the 2001 Ravens to last year's Rams, made the playoffs in the season that followed their appearance on the show, and four won their divisions. It's true that three of the last five teams on the show won seven or fewer games, but all three had won seven or fewer the year before, too. The Bucs went 9-7 in 2016; of the six Hard Knocks teams that had won at least eight games the year before, only two had a worse record after the show, and one of those two (the '01 Ravens) still won 10 games and made the playoffs. The last two Hard Knocks teams coming off 9-7 seasons – the Jets in 2010 and the Texans in 2015 – made the playoffs in their season following the show.*In other words, not only is the *Hard Knocks presence at a team's training camp not a curse (because of course it's not), it's also not proven to be an inherent obstacle to winning. Certainly, the effect on the team could be positive, though probably more in terms of providing welcome exposure for some deserving players. Theoretically, the presence of a large number of cameras and a national audience could prompt some players to work a bit harder, but that's not generally a problem in training camp. The motivation of scowling coaches, postseason dreams and lucrative jobs to be won and lost is more than enough motivation for just about any player. **
Likewise, the added presence won't change the roster decisions made by the team's architects, but it could affect the manner in which they are executed or the emotional impact they have. Specifically, the usually private process of telling players they have won or lost jobs will be shown to Buccaneer fans for the first time. A player facing good or bad news might seek to handle the situation differently with cameras present.*And, despite the team's insistence to the contrary, it is *possible that having Hard Knocks around will present a hurdle or a burden from time to time. Practically speaking, there is at least some time that must be spent by team officials each week reviewing the footage that may be aired in order to make sure nothing of strategic importance is revealed. **Again, the most likely effect of the show's presence is the light it will shine on such personalities as Jameis Winston, Kwon Alexander, Gerald McCoy, Mike Evans and others. The nation may discover that Vernon Hargreaves is entertaining to watch during practice and Donovan Smith is just as entertaining off the field. There are 90 potential storylines in the players' locker room, in fact.