“Winner, winner, f****** chicken dinner.”

One of the most anticipated parts of the Bucs’ offseason has been HBO’s Hard Knocks, a show that goes inside NFL teams’ training camp and preseasons to see how competitive and exciting the team environment can be in this time. Last night, Episode 1 aired, and I was lucky enough to be at Tampa Theatre for an exclusive premiere of the episode. It was a great experience, and now I’m glad to be able to recap the episode and everything that stood out to me.

Dirk Koetter starts off the episode in a team meeting at the start of training camp, preaching that although the team has a lot of hype and attention, they still haven’t accomplished anything. “Teams are like rockets, most of the work is done ahead of time.” He continues, “It’s incredibly difficult to change its course mid-flight.” Koetter’s explaining that if the team starts the season off on the wrong note early on, it will become increasingly harder to turn things around and improve as the season goes along.

We then continue into Jameis Winston’s hometown of Bessemer, Alabama. Winston shows his childhood home, now owned by his aunt, and where he used to sleep. Winston says that around seven people slept in his room every night, “There were toes in everybody’s face.” He says that his home was like a daycare, often with around 20 children in it at a time. Winston shows the steps up to its house, accidentally killing a cockroach and going off on a tangent on mother nature.

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The next scene takes us back to Tampa, where star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is putting his kids to bed. He sings “Eggs and bacon, eggs and bacon” to his daughter and shares a fun moment with his son play fighting with him, where Gerald asks if he’s going to swing on him and eventually tries to get him to put his hands down. Gerald asks his son who else plays football to him, to which he exclaims, “JAMEIS!!”

From there, we see Jameis Winston check into the team hotel in Tampa and see the rest of the team start to get acclimated and ready for training camp. Gerald McCoy walks into the hotel in a kimono after he vacationed in Tokyo and Hong Kong this summer.

Jameis then walks into the locker room and tells Kwon Alexander that his vibrant red hair looks like a “red hot funyun.” Dirk Koetter continues to preach his message that although the team has seen some new attention this offseason, they have to have to stay humble and focused. A montage ensues that includes Chris “Swaggy” Baker dancing and other players preparing for Day 1 of training camp.

Entering Day 1 of training camp, the voiceover talks about Jameis Winston, describing him as a “a former Heisman trophy winner with the arm of a MLB closer and the feet of a dancer.” There’s then a segment talking about team discipline and how Jameis was accidentally hit by Gerald McCoy on the first day of training camp. Winston is then shown in Coach Koetter’s office, where Koetter tells him about Winston working on improving in nuanced areas of his game and being able to limit his turnovers and mistakes — even if it factors into the way he plays. Koetter continues, saying that with the team’s defensive improvements and the additions of new weapons, Winston doesn’t have to play with a “hero ball” mentality.

There is then a cut to last week’s Jon Gruden and Malcolm Glazer Ring of Honor presser and how Gruden took Glazer’s vision for the team and capitalized on it, winning the team a Super Bowl. Gruden goes into the quarterback film room, telling Jameis Winston to “keep pounding” and to stay focused on his goals.

We get to see some clips of the rainy days of practice in the dog days of training camp and the competitiveness of 1v1 OL vs DL drills and the general energy at practice.

A DeSean Jackson segment — featuring the Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud — is faded into from there, talking about the winding road of Jackson’s career and how Jackson’s relationship with Mike Evans has grown so quickly. Jackson says that Evans is dynamic and that he’s the best receiver he’s ever played opposite of. Evans said right at the start of free agency he texted DeSean to come join him in free agency and by coincidence Jackson was already thinking about signing with Tampa Bay. Stroud then sits down with Jackson and talks with him about his tumultuous end in Philadelphia, where Chip Kelly cut him amid later debunked concerns that he was a member of a Los Angeles gang.

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Todd Monken then makes one of the best moments of the episode, where he says that Evans’ ability to high point the ball and make concentration grabs, even in practice, is, “Winner, winner, f****** chicken dinner.”

Hard Knocks does a great job of capturing what players do on their day off of practice — some, like Bryan Anger, do exotic things like go spearfishing, whereas others do things like bowling, play cards or spend time with their families.

There’s then a segment about the casualties of camp, those who are cut, and the Hard Knocks crew did a good job of capturing just how many ways that can go wrong. Players who don’t always respond the best to coaching like undrafted rookie defensive end Evan Panfil, cut on the eve of training camp, and other players like Thomas Sperbeck and Alex Gray, two other undrafted free agents who departed the team one way or another.

Special teams coach Nate Kaczor describes how building a successful football team is like the construction job on the team’s indoor practice facility — there are many different workers doing a variety of jobs, but if even one of them makes a mistake, the whole project can fail. Kaczor says, “The road to success is always under construction.”

The team talks about how fifth round pick Jeremy McNichols has shown flashes so far in the league but still has had some issues with certain concepts and picking up blocking assignments. Running backs coach Tim Spencer and head coach Dirk Koetter give him tips on leverage and studying the playbook. McNichols then shows a funny story — one of his closest friends and personal mentor is famous hip hop artist Snoop Dogg, who’s in McNichols’ phone as “Coach Snoop.” McNichols talks with Snoop about how he needs to adjust to the learning curve in the league and how he has to remain focus to get more reps.

Undrafted free agent Riley Bullough, a big talker and large chirper, runs through drills with his hair on fire, yelling out expletives and finishing each rep. Head coach Dirk Koetter catches on to Bullough’s energy and compliments him in team meetings, saying that despite the fact he’s a third-stringer, he’s proven himself as a vocal leader and a hard worker — things that show up to both the coaching staff and other potential suitors. Bullough then take three sets of pads and starts to lug them back into the locker room.

The highlight of the episode was easily the rookie hazing and making them sing to be integrated into the locker room. Third round receiver Chris Godwin sang, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Riley Bullough sang Fetty Wap’s “649,” Antony Auclair, who attended college at Laval in Canada, got the whole team to rise by singing “O Canada,” Sefo Liufau sang Shai’s “If I Ever Fall in Love,” and second round pick Justin Evans was left to bring his phone on stage for lyrics and was booed off, with veteran tailback Doug Martin “sweeping” him off the stage.

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A clip from Jameis Winston’s football camp this summer showed Jameis taking a young girl named Zanaya up in front of the other campers and telling her to chase her dreams and to keep her head held high — a nice moment in an episode full of them.

A montage shows Jameis Winston’s struggles in camp as of late, with several incompletions and bad decisions that led to turnovers. After the latest, an underthrown ball right to corner Vernon Hargreaves, which led to coach Dirk Koetter chewing him out. “What the (expletive) is that? What was that? What was that? What was the play? That’s (expletive)ing (expletive), man.”

In the closing moments of the episode, Hard Knocks shows Winston waking up at 5 AM to get to the team facility early in the morning to work out and practice on his own and listening to motivational speaker Eric Thomas talking about a nonstop grind and waking up every day to do everything in your power to be “a victor and not a victim.” Winston deadlifts some weights and the episode cuts to glass.

In a preview of the next episode, we should get to see an inside perspective of the team’s lead trash talker, Miko Grimes, wife of Brent, the team’s top corner. The second half of the episode should presumably have footage from Friday’s road trip to Cincinnati to open up the preseason. Gerald McCoy and Chris Baker appear to talk about another HBO show, Game of Thrones, quipping “You see them little dragons? We need to act like them dragons … You know nothing, Jon Snow.”


Article first appeared on www.bucsnation.com