Episode three of HBO's "Hard Knocks" was the most entertaining episode to date, on a number of levels. It was one of the more comical ones, be it from James Harrison's aversion to the camera crew, or Mike Zimmer poking fun at Michael Johnson's bank account. It also pulled on the heart strings in showing the release of three players.
It's an interesting thing, really. We knew who was getting cut and we knew the outcome of their game against the Titans, yet this was an extremely engaging episode, regardless. We thought that this was a team full of a bunch of dry personalities, but my opinion changed with the rookie talent show and other candid moments of player conversations.
Some of the more entertaining and interesting moments:
+James Harrison continues his aversion to the cameras. As was noted last week, Harrison told Geoff Hobson that he didn't care for the crew being there because they aren't putting in the work that the players are. On a different note, for the second time in as many "Hard Knocks" stints by the Bengals, a player showed his affinity for acupuncture. In 2009, linebacker Dhani Jones was shown getting treatment of this nature, and now Harrison is another Bengals player getting holistic work done. Harrison's acupuncturist says that Harrison routinely gets 300-plus needles per session. It was also interesting to see that Harrison was an example of hard work to the other linebackers when he was in the weight room, a little after 6AM.
+"I remember my first practice like it was yesterday". Aaron Maybin was featured heavily in the episode, which was expected because we already knew of his release. Though he didn't do enough to make the Bengals, Maybin seems like a hard-worker and is an excellent artist. His reminiscent sentence was an ominous one to the end of the episode.
+One of the most comical parts of the show was the rookie talent show. There was a pot-shot taken at Taylor Mays and his sense of style, as well as a celebrity look-alike slide show that victimized Andrew Whitworth and Jermaine Gresham. Onterio McCalebb was the emcee of the talent show and dressed like rapper Flava Flav.
+Speaking of Mays, he was featured in the show because of an injury to George Iloka. He once again showed off his goofy side with his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume and spending time with his girlfriend playing with a Barbie-themed deck of Uno cards. And, in case you're wondering, Mays isn't a big fan of actress Gwenyth Paltrow.
+Another hilarious moment was Marvin Lewis ripping running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis having a tender moment with owner Mike Brown. After Brown personally escorted "The Law Firm" to the practice field on his famous golf cart/buggy, Green-Ellis thanked Brown and inexplicably touched his leg upon exiting the vehicle. Lewis showed the whole thing in a team meeting and the entire room howled with laughter.
+Safety George Iloka was looking good in camp and against the Falcons, but an injured hand has hampered him of late. How did he do it? By swinging at teammate Jordan Campbell on a special teams play in practice--something that was kept mum until this episode. A very serious moment happened when Iloka met with Marvin Lewis in his office to explaing what happened and apologize. "I just want to apologize to you, coach. I let my emotions get the best of me".
+As expected, linebacker Jayson DiManche was beginning to be a featured player in the series. He had an excellent game in Atlanta and continued some good things in practice. Paul Guenther is keeping on DiManche, but also praising him behind closed doors. Still, he was the object of scorn of Lewis and Zimmer during the Titans game.
+Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is the man, in case you didn't know. Adam Jones called Mike Zimmer "the father I never had" and Vontaze Burfict talked about Zimmer keeping on him with playing disciplined football. Both players expressed not wanting to let Zimmer down. Zimmer's response to Burfict in particular? "I've got his back".
+Oh yeah, and Burfict? The dude is crazy on the field. His mouth moves almost as fast as his feet and his play backs up his words. In case you didn't see the game versus the Titans, Burfict made some quality tackles against Chris Johnson and let him know about the hits. Bengals fans have to start getting uneasy about his Arizona State reputation of having a number of after-the-whistle penalties rearing their ugly head.
+How does quarterback Andy Dalton get pumped up before a game? What are some of the songs that he listens to? He listens to Christian worship songs in the locker room before games. A pretty cool and intimate moment shown of the team's starting quarterback. Also, Dalton knows that he's "the best looking guy on the field".
+Though the fullback position battle wasn't talked about a bunch, Orson Charles' in-game performance was chronicled. Jay Gruden told Andy Dalton to relay a message to Charles about going and getting his block for a goal line carry to Giovani Bernard. Though Bernard plunged in for the touchdown and Charles sealed off defenders, he didn't really have a big block on the play. Still, he was an important part of that play and told the coaches that "they were avoiding me".
+Before the Titans game, former Bengals running back Eric Ball worked with Charles on blocking. Not only was he coaching the second-year H-Back, but the guy looks like he could still suit up and play. Impressive for a guy that hasn't donned a Bengals uniform since 1994.
+Two interesting in-game aspects that were profiled against the Titans. One was before Dan Herron's long touchdown run in that the coaching staff said "we might get a touchdown here" before the snap was even made. Another is a little less specific, as we saw coaches' phone conversations with certain players on the sideline.
+God bless Mike Brown. The man is the head of this football team, but he has the uncanny ability to put a room full of coaches to sleep when he talks. Still, give him credit--he had a good pulse on some of the bubble players and where the coaching staff's head was at with those players looking at getting cut.
+How classy did Maybin take his release? He was appreciative and understanding in talking with Marvin Lewis and still calls football his primary passion.