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‘Hard Knocks’ recap: Embracing chaos one day at a time

HBO does it again with a gripping first episode of Hard Knocks.

Los Angeles Chargers v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The first episode of Hard Knocks: Los Angeles premiered last night and it. Was. AWESOME.

The producers, narrator Liev Schreiber, and everyone involved absolutely killed episode one. A big round of applause to everyone.

Oh, my favorite part you ask? Well, this was pretty cool if I’m being honest:

Momma, your son made it to HBO ... kind of. It’s better than nothing!

But other than my entire life peaking, here’s the rest of the important points from the show with all my thoughts and feelings. Enjoy!

Anthony Lynn announced he had COVID-19

This was a hell of a way to begin the show, especially given the grave feeling around the league regarding the coronavirus. In the series’ opening scene, Anthony Lynn is seen setting up his Zoom for a conference call with all of his players. The conversations starts with some words of encouragement before delving into some darker topics, including this bombshell:

Somehow, some way, no one let it out of the bag that Lynn had tested positive for the coronavirus. Not a single soul outside of the Chargers and HBO knew until they unveiled it last night. I got chills when I heard him say it, and I’m sure a lot of other people watching did as well.

Lynn also echoed a sentiment that he told the media two weeks ago on his first conference call of training camp in which he stressed the need to “embrace chaos” this season. In a world where plans are no longer ever 100% certain, this is the mentality the Chargers need to have to navigate through these murky 2020 waters.

Lynn keeps it old school on the grill

The Bolts’ head coach got a lot of camera time to begin the show and I, for one, did not complain. Going from the seriousness of his initial scene to him drenching some ribs in barbecue sauce was an excellent jumping point to get away from the ever-prevalent pandemic around us.

Lynn shared the story of how him and his wife met in Cleveland, Ohio, which was quite enjoyable, especially when he mentioned that all he knew about Cleveland at the time was from a magazine which said it was the “worst city in America for young, single men.” But that’s supposedly where he met his wife, so it worked out in the end. Life’s funny like that sometimes.

Player arrivals and initial testing

The first player shown on July 28 when players were able to report was Melvin Ingram in a striking blue slingshot. In true Ingram form, he started yell-rapping to his own song that was blasting through the speakers the second he put it in park.

The scene shifted from the parking lot to the hallways and into the testing rooms as more and more players arrived at the facility. Denzel Perryman, Justin Herbert, and Casey Hayward were three of the players followed with Hayward being the show’s main focus for the Bolts in the testing room. He had a pretty eccentric response to getting the swab in his nostrils, but according to him, it actually wasn’t as bad as others that he’s been through.

To be fair, I expected the swab to go much further up their noses but it looked to be much less evasive. I now feel a little bit better for the players because my expectations combined with their frequency of testing would have called for a very inconvenient time in camp.

Justin Herbert got some major hype

When it was the quarterback’s time to shine for the cameras, it was almost exclusively Herbert. After showing Tyrod Taylor working with the first team for a minute, the focus was quickly shifted to Herbert going through target practice drills where he was tasked with threading the ball through nets standing about seven feet high scattered out in front of him. The opening couldn’t have been more than two feet in diameter, and whether it was just good editing or not, it seemed like the rookie was having a heck of a performance. Quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton was hyped-up at the end when Herbert came back to hit the target after hitting the edge of the net on the previous ball.

Now Taylor is, of course, going to be the day one starter, but the Chargers wasted no time in giving Herbert some added confidence after his first week of NFL training camp.

What did he just say?

On the side during Herbert’s passing montage, some of the UDFAs were watching him throw and added their own little commentary to the moment. Running back Darius Bradwell, in awe of Herbert’s passing, said, “I love his balls, bro.”

A few moments later, fullback/tight end Gabe Nabers giggled and responded with, “You said ‘I love his balls ...’” — which garnered even more chuckles from fellow UDFA Bobby Holly who was standing within earshot.

It was a small moment, but it showed how these players are still able to enjoy the little things, especially when it comes to adolescent humor.

....haha ... he said balls.

Big Bear, Big Emotions

The biggest story to come from the Chargers in the last month has definitely been the signing of Joey Bosa to his new five-year contract extension, which made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

While going through the paperwork, Bosa recalled the time he phoned his father to give him the good news. The Big Bear’s voice suddenly seized up and you could tell the memory was extremely emotional, in the best way, of course. To be able to call his father, his role model, and tell him that he’s achieved a long-held dream will never not be one of the most incredible feelings for an athlete. The usual stoic Bosa was overcome with joy and that’s exactly the type of human vulnerability I love to see when covering sports. It truly helps bring fans closer to these guys.

Joey Boat-sa and the S.S. Double Swipe

Now with everyone at practice following the news of Bosa’s new contract, all of his teammates wanted to be the first to congratulate him on the good news. Mike Pouncey was the first shown one who ran up to Bosa and asked, “Did it clear yet?” — referring to the check — but Bosa responded “No ... wait, maybe.” That got the conversation steered towards what Bosa is going to buy first. Ingram guessed a mansion in Florida before Jerry Tillery said he should get himself a boat before asking what he’d name it. Bosa came up with “The Double Swipe” and said he’d put two engines on it. That got a great laugh from the defensive line, especially Ingram who said that name would be “low-key hard.”

After the scene, the Chargers social media staff through this bad boy out there:

The side of cuts we don’t usually see

The show concluded with a look into one of the hardest things that coaches and general managers have to do when constructing a team. To get the roster down from 86 to 80, Lynn and Telesco had to cut a handful of players before they even step foot on the field for legitimate work.

In the scenes shown, Lynn called Roderic Teamer, Koda Martin, P.J. Johnson, and Jared Rice before meeting with Andrew Vollert in person. While we didn’t hear much in the way of the phone calls on the other side of the line, we heard everything that went down between Lynn and Vollert.

After walking into Lynn’s office, Vollert was quick to voice his extreme displeasure of the decision to release him.

“Are you f***ing kidding me?!” he said.

Now that takes some huge huevos to talk to your coach like that, but it’s understandable. Vollert has worked his tail off ever since tearing his ACL in last year’s preseason when he had a real shot of earning the final tight end spot that year. This year, the team now has Stephen Anderson — who has some starting experience with Houston — and the 6’8 Donald Parham who saw a lot of success in the XFL. He was unfortunately the odd man out at the time.

The part that put a smile back on your face was Lynn making a beeline for Telesco’s office tin order to tell him that they should put Vollert on the “short list” of guys to call back due to his intensity he displayed just moment’s ago. Lynn liked that fire and that tells a coach just how passionate they are about the game.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vollert back with this team at some point this season should the opportunity present itself.