Episode 1 of Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Cleveland Browns, begins with the voice of longtime HBO Sports narrator Liev Schreiber, narrating the tearing down of an enormous Lebron James banner. As the contracted city worker strips down the image of a living sports legend, Hard Knocks raises the question:  Will the Cleveland Browns give the titular city anything to look past the loss of basketball icon Lebron James, and cheer for a team that produced an abysmal 0-16 previous football season? It is time to find out as another season of scrutiny on the gridiron gets underway. 

HBO cameras brilliantly capture the uphill battle to a winning season for the Browns.  Like any organization, the franchise is riddled with professional and personal problems.  For starters, Josh Gordon, a promising wide-receiver was suspended for large portions of the 2016 & 2017 seasons.  After drug abuse-related suspensions were completed, Gordon has taken time to himself to mentally recover. This leaves another receiver, Jarvis Landry, alone in the deep field. Landry is certainly up to the task but voices his frustration with the lack of effort that he sees in the training camp. In an f-bomb laden motivational speech, Landry calls out teammates for feigning injuries and being there to simply receive a paycheck.  Landry’s desired and undesired choice of words may have been a key factor in coach Hue Jackson’s decision to have players earn the brown/white stripe that is normally superimposed on the orange helmet.

Hue Jackson’s plight gives vindication to the saying “having one’s work cut out for them.”  Jackson’s record is currently 1-31, and the training camp thus far is producing average results, save for Jarvis Landry’s stellar efforts and a glimmer of hope from the one leading the offense.  This hope is newly signed Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Mayfield is showing that he will not be an NFL bust, but this will ultimately be determined on the gridiron during actual competition with teams that all have had better records in recent seasons.

This season’s Hard Knocks will capture what is likely the final Cleveland Browns helmed season of Hue Jackson, or his redemption. Either way, sadly this will be without his mother and brother, both who died too soon. The phone call that delivered the news of Jackson’s mother’s death was captured during production.  Capturing professional turmoil, intermixed with private tribulations has always been the bread and butter of HBO Sports. 

Get ready for some football. Get ready for Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Cleveland Browns Tuesday nights at 10:00pm on HBO. 

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