Photo from Tampa Bay Times.
By Terrance Turner
March 28, 2022
The NFL announced at its annual meeting Monday that the Detroit Lions will appear on the HBO show “Hard Knocks” this summer.
HBO Sports and NFL Films are partnering up to take viewers inside the Lions organization, following head coach Dan Campbell and a roster of both new and veteran players. According to a news release, a 30-person NFL Films crew will capture Lions’ training camp in Allen Park this summer, shooting more than 1,750 hours of footage. Typically, cameras have access to practices, some areas of player living quarters and many meetings during filming. The five-episode series, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at training camp and the preseason, is scheduled to run Aug. 9-Sept. 6.
This is the first time that the Lions have ever been featured on the program. But according to Sports Illustrated, they were one of only three teams that could not turn down a “Hard Knocks” invitation, due to NFL rules. The other two teams are the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets. Yahoo! Sports explains: “The Lions, Carolina Panthers and New York Jets were the only three teams who were eligible without any rights of refusal. Teams with a first-year head coach cannot be forced to be on the show nor can teams who have made the playoffs in at least one of the past two seasons and teams who have been on the show within the past decade.”
“We are excited about the opportunity to showcase the City of Detroit and the amazing culture we are building at the Lions,” Lions team president and CEO Rod Wood said. “HBO Sports & NFL Films are the best of the best and we know they will be excellent partners in sharing our story with football fans around the world.”
“As Hard Knocks enters its third decade inside NFL training camps, we are both thrilled and thankful for the opportunity to feature a historic franchise like the Lions,” said NFL Films Vice President and Senior Coordinating Producer, Ken Rodgers. “The city, the culture and the coaching staff in Detroit all have an exciting energy that will make the show must-watch television this summer.”
This development is all the more intriguing, given the current state of affairs in Detroit. The lions are coming off a 3-13-1 season — their fourth losing season in a row. Meanwhile, their long-suffering quarterback Matthew Stafford (who was traded last year in a blockbuster deal) went on to win a Super Bowl title with the Los Angeles Rams. The Lions, meanwhile, lost both of their last playoff appearances and haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. But their fortunes may improve with this new “Hard Knocks” appearance: Eleven of the last thirteen teams featured on HARD KNOCKS have equaled or improved their win-loss record in the regular season.
This could also be a boon for HBO and NFL Films, who have a history of high achievement in their cinema verite style of capturing the daily lives of pro football players and coaches. According to the NFL’s press release, ‘Winner of 18 Sports Emmy® Awards to date, HARD KNOCKS launched with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, followed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2002, and resumed in 2007 with the Kansas City Chiefs, subsequently spotlighting the Cowboys (2008), Cincinnati Bengals (2009), New York Jets (2010), Miami Dolphins (2012), Bengals (2013), Atlanta Falcons (2014), Houston Texans (2015) and Los Angeles Rams (2016). The 2017 edition chronicled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and captured the Sports Emmy® for Outstanding Serialized Documentary. The widely acclaimed 2018 series with the Cleveland Browns earned two Sports Emmy® Awards for production excellence.”