Atlanta Falcons picked up for HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’


May 16, 2014 Flowery Branch – Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Devonta Freeman #33 runs on the practice field during the first day of Mini-Camp for rookies on Friday, May 16, 2014. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

The Atlanta Falcons will be the featured team this year on the training camp documentary series “Hard Knocks” on HBO.

The team has plenty of interesting story lines after a disappointing injury-ridden 4-12 season.

Will  quarterback Matt Ryan raise his game and get the Falcons back into the playoff picture? Can wide receiver Julio Jones bounce back form foot surgery? How will the team deal with linebacker Sean Witherspoon‘s season-ending injury? Can they effectively replace retired tight end Tony Gonzalez?

The series, a popular series going back to 2001, starts a five-episode run on Tuesday, Aug, 5  at 10 p.m.

Past teams that have been chronicled by “Hard Knocks” include the Dallas Cowboys, the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets. Last season drew 3.6 million viewers per episode.

My colleague Jeff Schultz wasn’t too keen on this idea, which tends to be heralded by the marketing folks because of the exposure. Coaches? They usually only see this as an intrusion and a distraction when they prefer secrecy and discretion. I’m sure for players, it’s a mixed bag.

(At least defensive end Kroy Biermann is already used to these types of shows because he’s married to Kim Zolciak of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” fame and has shot two spin-off shows as well.)

Falcons coach Mike Smith, according to Schultz, hid from the cameras when “Hard Knocks’ shot the Baltimore Ravens a few years back.

Owner Arthur Blank was cool with this back in 2009 when HBO approached them. The coaches balked. The coaches won that argument that year. Not this year.

According to, “About 30 Hard Knocks staffers work onsite during the filming of the show, working 12- to 14-hour days and often clocking 100 hours per week. The crew typically shoots 300 hours of film for each 55-minute program.”

UPDATE: Falcons owner Arthur Blank held a 30-minute press conference to talk about “Hard Knocks” on Thursday, June 19. Watch him here. 

He acknowledged doing this was not a “democratic vote.”


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