When reports began surfacing Friday evening that the Cincinnati Bengals are returning to HBO's Hard Knocks, many naturally began digging for the off-the-field storylines. In a way, it was shocking (though not surprising). A little sad. Not because the tabloid-driven fan is obsessed with the Cincinnati Bengals -- we ignore those with such a limited knowledge of the NFL to take them seriously.
Yet summarizing twitter and comments from various sites since Friday, it boils down to: Adam Jones, Adam Jones, Adam Jones. Really? That's the engaging storyline? Is that a case of ignorance about the Bengals? Is that all that interests the self-titled football fan when their own teams are ignored?
It's sad because football isn't enough. Training camp storylines, the quality presentation by NFL Films, the speeches, meetings, interactions, practices, things that engage the general football fan are all there. For many, there has to be more. Legal issues, contractual disputes, controversial segments, and outrageous personalities neutralizing the entire point. Are people even fans of the sport or just their own team?
Heck. We could watch Oklahoma Drills, with any team in the NFL, for an entire episode.
By focusing on the various position battles and leaving the player's personal lives on the shelf, you receive access that you otherwise wouldn't. Who cares about the issues off the field? It's not important.
The most that we're going to get out of the team's wide receivers is A.J. Green's impressive juggling talents. Mohamed Sanu has an engaging personality, which figures to highlight the team's wide receiver competitions. However, don't expect Child, please moments where a phrase is added to society's lexicon. Rey Maualuga's "second chance" might be interesting, though admittedly to Bengals fans at most (or maybe that's just me)..
John Clayton with ESPN compares the 2009 Bengals to 2013:
This year's team is different. In some ways, it might be a little boring, which is a good thing. Most -- if not all -- of its star players are class acts. It's a young team that is being built well.
If anything, the Bengals being on "Hard Knocks" might be more of a graduation than anything else. This team is talented enough to challenge Baltimore and Pittsburgh for the AFC North title.
Football fans are football fans. You'll enjoy the show's premise, the compelling storylines during training camp. The Miami Dolphins last year were fun, and not for anything off the field. We enjoyed watching Joe Philbin adjusting to being a first-year head coach. It was hard not to like him. Those are the best perspectives.
If you love the sport, you'll love the show's access no matter which team is being featured. And if you love the sport while being unaware of the Cincinnati Bengals, then you'll enjoy Hard Knocks this year.
Here are a few storylines that we're looking forward to.
- Assortment of individual stories, ranging from Geno Atkins, A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, and any number of quality-driven personalities on the roster. These are the players that drive Cincinnati, on the field with quality characters off of it. Vontaze Burfict will be an interesting character.
- Rookies like Tyler Eifert, Giovani Bernard, Shawn Williams and the team's youngest players adjusting to the life and speed of the NFL. Welcome back Jonathan Hayes -- remember his appearance with Chase Coffman in 2009?
- Plenty of training camp battles, starting with the backup quarterback, starting strong safety, and wide receiver combinations. Cincinnati will have engaging storylines as the team determines a roster packed with talent.
- Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden. They could be the most compelling personalities on the show.
- Who will be the starting center? Kyle Cook appears to finally be 100 percent, which he'll need to be in order to fend off a younger Trevor Robinson.
- Integration of James Harrison into Zimmer's 4-3 defense. Well, that and the fact he's with a new team this year.
- Andre Smith's return and how being separated from the team for so long has impacted his conditioning.