Hello there, Jet fans, non-HBO subscribers, and any other folks curious about whatever the hell's going on in this week's Hard Knocks'. First, let us say a few words about Tony Dungy. I am baffled by the amount of hypocrisy he shows in criticizing Rex Ryan for swearing. First of all - though I like to keep all non-transcribed words of my work clean - the idea that swearing is offensive and "bad for the league" is complete and utter horseshit. Pacman Jones is in the NFL. Michael Vick is in the NFL. Ray Lewis became the face of the NFL! Nothing is bad for the NFL. Everyone loves it, everyone follows it. The NFL can do no wrong. Rexy saying the f-word a few times in front of 870,000 viewers isn't going to hurt anybody. In fact, it will only endear him to fans more.
Back to Vick, while we're at it. Didn't you spend the last year or so "mentoring" Vick so that he could reclaim a job in the NFL? So you fully support a man who murdered dogs for sport and lied about it being employed, but a guy who casually swears in the company of his own players for a television show broadcast on a television network that runs on a pay service and outside the FCC's boundaries is the bad guy? Complete and utter bunk.
Finally, Mr. Dungy, you shouldn't be talking about how you wouldn't hire Rexy. You are the Bobby Cox of football coaches. You had the best quarterback of his era, in his prime, with as complete a team as you can possibly have that dominated the regular season year-in and year-out, and they only won one Super Bowl. Yet, for some reason, you get revered as some sort of deity in circles around this league. Frankly, sir, I could care less. You're just another one-hit wonder. Tell you what, if Rexy wins a Super Bowl this year and it earns higher ratings than the Colts Super Bowl did -- which it will -- I want to hear you apologize and drop a few f-bombs while doing it.
On to the episode.
We open to see the depressing shot of what's left of : a small piece of one of those entry spirals and an escalator. It has been a truly sad thing, watching the place tear down piece by piece, like watching open heart surgery. I've been at the Meadowlands a lot this spring and summer, either for work or to hang out at the three-day Bamboozle Festival, and I've truly gotten almost a flipbook style look at what's happened. It bothers me that it happened this way. Stadium
Omniscient Liev Schreiber narrates that the teams have shared the stadium for three decades, as Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" -- a song written for his final concerts at the stadium in October of 2009 -- plays over highlights of both great moments at the old place and shots of it getting torn down. I haven't really seen much of the process in action before, and this makes it even more touching. I'll miss the place. Much like Shea Stadium, it wasn't an aesthetic beauty, but you always got the sense that something important was happening.
Omniscient Liev tells us that a week from "today" (presumably the 9th) that the Jets will open up the New Meadowlands Stadium. Cut to Kris Jenkins, who finds it funny that they're in upstate New York, with all the beauty and the mountains and foliage, and cannot appreciate it. The life of a football player: I have to knock the living bejesus into my fellow man, but I'd rather stand and watch the trees. Damien Woody proceeds to act incredulous that practice is happening by repeating the word "practice" in various emotions what feels like 20 times. Meanwhile, shots of coaches telling players that "we have a game a week from tonight" signifies that, yes, the Jets have a game a week from tonight.
Omniscient Liev (sorry for starting every paragraph with this) states that in the second week of camp, the stakes are higher, "everything is under scrutiny." Defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman looks disgusted and calls over Bart Scott to have a defensive meeting to let these kids know what they're supposed to be doing. Like, I'm assuming, not letting a fifth-string wide receiver catch 150 yards worth of passes in the second half of your pre-season opener, or something. Rexy tells Bart that he wants to hold a meeting himself. Rexy press conferences that the Jets are "not completely" there yet.
Mike Pettine swears for the first time in the show as he talks to his defense, telling him that their efforts right now "ain't worth shit." He says that the way some of them are playing, after cutting them, they wouldn't even spend the money on a plane ticket, they'd just get a bus. Really? Cut football players get a plane ride home? I thought the just, you know, walked and stuff. "Everybody asks how we find guys who play so hard," says Pettine. "Well, we find them, and we cut the rest of them." That makes perfect sense and no sense at the same time.
We then see Tim Knicky, a new linebacker who has just shown up in camp. That must suck if you were cut and watching this show. I didn't even know that you could sign new guys after you cut old ones. I'd be getting my angry old man fist ready. Rexy then proceeds to quiz him, military style, and he passes. He then proceeds to laugh at Rexy's jokes. I assume the latter is more important to Rexy than the former.
Omniscient Liev is back to tell us that rookie running back Joe McKnight is off to a bad start in camp. He's having Albert Haynesworth-type problems, yet has a Greek God-esque body, like the rest of these guys. The coaches gather to say that he's distracted, while running backs coach Anthony Lynn gives him the business. Brian Schottenheimer talking head's that he needs to be more consistent. McKnight gets yelled at to "try" by Lynn after a weak effort, and Santonio Holmes adds some sage advice, which Lynn appreciates. McKnight pleads ignorance to his weakness and claims "I ain't hurt, I ain't tired." Bart Scott jokes with David Harris about how McKnight's USC "education" is what led to his efforts. Ha! Timely comedy.
We then cut to an indoor area where Mark Sanchez is ... wearing a towel on his head. He appears to be bouncing up and down while reaching and touching his knees on each bounce. This would all seem like a fairly normal exercise if he weren't wearing a towel on his head. The rest of the Jets are montage'd looking less weird and doing workouts.
On opposite news, a woman brings in M&M's for the coaching staff, which Rexy indulges in. The coaches joke about how the candies were hidden from Rexy. Mark Sanchez is craving a Pizza Hut, because he knows that any pizza made outside of North Jersey/New York City is terrible. He then proceeds to basically both promote and slander Pizza Hut, complaining about the 59 cents he's forced to pay for a topping. If I've learned anything from these first two shows, it's that football players are comically cheap.
Omniscient Liev proceeds to talk about Mr. Sanchez, and how having Mark Brunell around is going to help him. Brunell is shown being competent, and then made fun of for his age. Sanchez is impressed, likely because Brunell isn't a Pizza Hut grunt. Brunell is shown advising Sanchez, and Rexy thinks that he brings "Super Bowl experience" to the team. Yeah, as a backup. That's like saying I totally know what Woodstock was like because I watched the DVD box set. Brunell says that he's got a daughter only five years younger than Sanchez. He should probably be more worried than jokey about that premise.
More examples of Brunell being old: his daughter moves into her college dorm tonight. The camera cuts to Sanchez, almost begging him to say something pervy about said daughter. Instead, he just smiles to the point where a coach tells him "you're a dick. It's his daughter." Sanchez pleads ignorance, but the coaches tell Brunell he's thinking about bad thoughts. Like ones in the back of a station wagon? Brunell wisely states there and then that never the twain shall meet, which means we'll see them having sex in episode four. Brunell, who's daughter finds Sanchez cute: "I like the kid, but I don't like him that much."
Sanchez proceeds to be more of a creeper, asking if it's weird about his daughter, and then professing his fear of having kids. Uh oh ladies, Mr. Perfect might not be ready to commit! But hey, I'm sure you can fix him. Brunell admits it scares him too. Sanchez says that he'll grow up someday, but shots of him talking about how he loves "anything orange" and claiming to know karate beg to differ. What a strange person. Omniscient Liev claims that Mark Sanchez isn't their best player yet, but he could develop into it. Just like I could conceivably develop into a beauty queen.
Schottenheimer is the man responsible for said development, and we meet his mentor/father, Marty, who coached in the NFL himself, not long ago, which means I'm really old. Brian is clearly being hard on Marky Mark, while the young quarterback looks kind of befuddled. People joke about how Eli is a bit of a manchild, but jeez, Sanchez somehow gets an even dumber look on his face when he doesn't know what's going on. An interception that looks an awful lot like the one he threw in the game vs. the Giants angers poor Marky Mark, and Marty Schottenheimer comments that he wasn't "crisp".
Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh asks Marky Mark what he's almost ready to do, and Sanchez responds "Stop sucking?" Ha. He's like a 12-year old. Cavanaugh wants Marky Mark to take criticism more professionally. Marky Mark continues to play with his bag, because again, he's like a 12-year old. He just wants to look at anything but mom and dad as he's being sent to his room. It's legitimately troubling that he continues to act this way, if I'm a Jets coach. However, I'm also prone to saying that he's still a kid.
Meanwhile, on Revis Island, Mike Tannenbaum basically says that there's no update on the situation with the holdout cornerback. Boss Woody is also there, and he is dead serious. He's asked if they're optimistic a deal will be done before the season, and replies "The answer is no." Cold. Tannenbaum is slightly more difficult, and Omniscient Liev claims that there is now a "media blackout," which is totally something you can do when you've allowed HBO to film every aspect of your training camp.
The focus, then, shifts to No. 2 corner Antonio Cromartie and first-round draft pick Kyle Wilson, who has suddenly become a starter who's impressed Rexy a ton. Dennis Thurman thinks that, while he's not Darrelle, "who is?". Yeah, I get it, Kyle Wilson hasn't had one great season that could totally be a flash in the pan yet. Sorry Darrelle, but I'm growing weary of this nonsense. Come play again so you can prove me wrong. Anyway, Wilson just wants to get the most out of the gifted opportunity he's been given.
Cromartie's backstory is explained by Omniscient Liev: four years ago, he was a first-round draft pick of San Diego, just as he's being chewed out by Thurman, while Cromartie almost can't believe someone is talking to him in a less than friendly, worshipful manner. Cromartie is a talent, but also a challenge. We then cut to a shot of Cromartie looking awful on Shonn Greene's touchdown run in the second round of the playoffs against the Jets last year, and boy, on second look, wow. Cromartie than claims it's hard to turn off football mode and go back to being a father and husband ...
Which is difficult, because as Cromartie reveals, he has seven friggin' children. Remember, a first-round draft pick four years ago. We see Antonio kiss a woman who can somehow stand him enough to be his wife. The Internet has told you (and all of us) that those seven kids are by six different women. We then see the Cromartie clan at an indoor water park that looks like the best time ever, and would be super charming if he didn't have seven kids by way of six women. In fact, the Jets are shown having all kinds of good time fun stuffs. Including ... Jenkins driving a golf cart.
So now, here we are: the point in the episode where we're gonna' have the big cursing discussion. Brian Schottenheimer talks to Rexy -- who has been noticeably quieter this week -- and mentions a story when a player asked his father once why he had to use that language. "Uh, because I want to and I feel like it?" responded Marty Schottenheimer, I hope. Rexy basically says as much.
Omniscient Liev states "Its not the f-word Rex Ryan loves most, it's the c-word." Woah! Way out of line here, even for HBO! Not cool, Rexy. Oh, Omniscient Liev states that it's "coaching". Okay, we're back on board. I think. A montage shows Rexy, the teacher, and then a LaDanian Tomlinson touchdown allows Rexy to sarcastically "I told you so" towards his coaches/the rest of the world about the signing. "What were we thinking?" ponders Rexy. "God, I love being right." Aw, never change Rexy.
Tannenbaum is seen talking to rookie tight end Jeff Cumberland, who knows his way on to the roster is "special teams, special teams, special teams." He tells him to learn everything about Mike Westhoff, special teams coach. Omniscient Liev life story's Westhoff by saying he had cancer more than two decades ago, and he almost completely lost the leg. He's shown limping on the Jets' sidelines in various way. Westhoff seems pretty bad ass with a "titanium prostheses" in his leg. In montage form, he is shown as an extremely energetic, devoted coach, which he claims is because he has his life back. Westhoff seems to be searching for an identity out of his unit, and clearly doesn't want to be the weak link on the club.
And now ... shake weights. A whole delivery of them to the club. Why? I hope this is part of some Rexy comedy schtick. Also, a woman is shown saying "shake weights? are those the weights that you shake?" Wow, great deduction there Watson. Are baseball bats those bats you play baseball with? Are murder weapons those weapons you murder with? Mike Tannenbaum reveals that it is someone's practical joke. This was all punter Steve Weatherford's - who has a fauxhawk - idea, and then he proceeds to provide an extended commercial for the shake weight. I can't even describe this anymore.
Jenkins and Nick Mangold are shown as daily rivals, which must be one of the more interesting parts of training camp, and we a little bit of our seemingly mandated "boring, football nerds only" part of the show.
Omniscient Liev introduces Vernon Gholston, a 2008 first-round pick who was supposed to be a star, so the Jets will be changing his position from linebacker to defensive end to get him some sacks -- something that eluded him his first two years -- but he is still not doing well. Rexy seems to think he's improving bit-by-bit, and seems to really believe in him. Gholston took a pay cut before camp, and Rexy thinks "his nuts will drop right before our very eyes." It's not TV, it's HBO. The coaches debate trying to set up a fight between a player and Gholston, which is why there totally needs to be an NHL edition of Hard Knocks.
Bob Turner is seen as the man to do it. Cut to a medium-range shot of practice, which seems like it could've been better, since, you know, HBO knew this was happening. Gholston rips down Turner to the ground. Rexy looks extremely pleased, and makes the timely "Down goes Frazier!" jokes. He loves being right, and looks extremely pleased towards the media. Later, Rexy wants to go over uniform policy with the team, which gives them an excuse to ignore that and go to the movies. Then they actually go and see Dinner For Schmucks. I hope the HBO crew got to see it too.
Meanwhile, back to the fullback battle that I'm totally uninterested in. John Conner continues to impress and battle with Tony Richardson for the starting spot. Omniscient Liev calls him "a machine." Richardson continues to compete, but is also helping teach Conner. Boss Woody, Rexy and Mike Tannenbaum are as impressed as can be. Which I'm sure they'll totally remember when they have to cut Richardson.
Finally, to the Meadowlands! The team is in it's final meetings before game one. Talk is made of "making a statement." They want everyone to know that they are more than just Darrelle Revis. Brian Schottenheimer wants them to focus on "Attitude, heart and goals." At the stadium, Boss Woody is stoked that the Jets are allowed signage during the Jets games at the New Meadowlands Stadium, which is totally going to change for Giants games, but I imagine Woody just can't get tickets to those games. Expensive stuff, dude. Woody, Rexy and the coaches are seen socializing with the Giants folks.
Onto the game, which you all ignored, so I'm not going to recap it. The Giants won, Eli Manning bled, and no one really cared. Though I kind of wish we heard the "whomp whomp whommmmmp" sound effect during Sanchez's interception on the first play. Sanchez is seen kind of annoyed with himself, but Brunell's seen it all before and knows very little matters.
After the game, Rexy is impressed with Victor Cruz, but little else. He is unhappy with the second-half performance. He wants anyone who wears the Jets logo to be "a bad mutha." Is that OK with you, Tony Dungy? He feels it's unacceptable, and that the rest of the team needs to decide "whether you wanna be a Jet or not." Cruz can totally be a Jet if he wants to, though.
NEXT WEEK: Bowling! A night off! Sanchez learns Spanish! Position battles! Braylon Edwards' beard! See you next week.