After a year's hiatus, the popular NFL reality program "Hard Knocks'' will return to HBO late this summer when it documents the training camp of the Miami Dolphins.
"We are delighted that 'Hard Knocks' will be returning this summer and placing the spotlight on the Miami Dolphins, a venerable franchise that had an exciting off-season activity," said HBO Sports president Ken Hershman in a press release announcing the decision. "This marks the first time that the series has featured a first-year head coach and we are extremely grateful to both Coach [Joe] Philbin and the entire organization for agreeing to participate. As always, there will be plenty on the line for veterans, free agents and rookies."
"Hard Knocks'' debuts Aug. 7 with the first of five one-hour episodes. This year, it will air on Tuesdays in prime time after previously being shown on Wednesdays.
The Dolphins may initially seem a curious choice for the behind-the-scenes candor that helped the network, which co-produces "Hard Knocks'' with NFL Films, win three Emmy Awards the last time it aired two years ago while featuring the New York Jets.
But while the Dolphins, who have had a losing record in seven of the past eight seasons, may not feature star power and natural story lines of the Jets, and Philbin is unlikely to utter lines as memorable as Jets coach Rex Ryan's "Now let's go eat a [expletive] snack,'' it won't require much of a search to find interesting angles for the 24-person NFL Films crew that will shoot more than 1,000 hours of video over the course of the series.
And there are interesting personalities. Philbin, formerly the offensive coordinator for the Packers, didn't get to bring Aaron Rodgers along with him when he was hired in January. Instead, he inherits a quarterback competition featuring first-round pick Ryan Tannehill, veteran David Garrard, and incumbent Matt Moore.
Philbin is working for a general manager in Jeff Ireland (a Bill Parcells protégé) who is reputed to be on the secretive side and an owner in Stephen Ross who courts celebrity. It shouldn't take two guesses to determine which one of them signed off on "Hard Knocks,'' which did not air last year because of the NFL lockout and seemed in jeopardy this year because of an apparent unwillingness of teams to commit to the program.
“All the decisions that have been made this off-season have had one guiding principle -- will it help our players and organization reach its full potential?,'' Philbin said in a statement. "This one is no different. We are convinced that our affiliation with NFL Films and HBO will allow football fans everywhere an opportunity to comprehend the significant sacrifices and demands that our players endure each day along their journey in training camp as a Miami Dolphin."
Charismatic running back Reggie Bush, a darling of the tabloids when he dated Kim Kardashian, is coming off the best season of his career. And it is the 40th anniversary of the franchise's 17-0 season in 1972.
"On the 40th anniversary of the greatest season in NFL history -- Don Shula’s perfect ’72 Dolphins -- it is perfectly fitting that Hard Knocks is heading to Miami to capture the start of a new era for one of the league’s proudest teams,” says NFL Films president Steve Sabol in a statement. “After Hard Knocks’ hiatus last summer, I know our team at NFL Films can’t wait to get back on the field.”
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.