It’s been a long time coming for the Buccaneers to be featured on Hard Knocks, but what better time than the present? Out of the eight teams that per NFL guidelines weren’t allowed to pass on participating in HBO’s behind-the-scenes training camp docuseries this year, the Bucs have plenty of characters who might have sealed their selection: a second-year coach who led them to a 9–7 record and almost a playoff berth in 2016 (and who’s been featured on a previous Hard Knocks season); an up-and-coming quarterback with a huge personality (and some controversial baggage); and a host of young talent looking to lift the franchise to the playoffs for the first time since the 2007 season.
Oh wait, this is Hard Knocks. Guess the Bucs are going to have to put their playoff aspirations on hold for a season.
Every season of Hard Knocks follows rookies and fringe players working throughout training camp to avoid being cut from the team. Aside from that mainstay plot line, here are a few stories we’re anticipating when Tampa Bay makes its series debut.
• There’s no question that Jameis Winston will be the star of this show. During his first two seasons in the NFL, the Bucs QB has tried to fly under the national radar, especially in the wake of settling his lawsuit brought on by a woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her while in college. But Winston has already admitted that he will “embrace” the attention and the cameras, allowing viewers to see what he’s like on a day-to-day basis. Whether or not that will change anyone’s opinion of him one way or another remains to be seen.
• Doug Martin, the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2012, closed out last season on a low note when he was suspended four games for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy and subsequently checked into a treatment facility after testing positive for Adderall. Coaches have spoken positively of his progression so far this off-season, and his situation should provide some seriousness amid the absurdity of NFL training camp ... just don’t call him “The Muscle Hamster”.
• Ever seen a kicker battle play out on national television? Well, here’s your chance. The rookie-season struggles of Roberto Aguayo were very well-publicized last fall after Tampa Bay traded up to pick him in the 2016 draft—and to add a little spice, the Bucs signed mediocre kicker Nick Folk this spring to compete for the starting spot. So there’s no doubt that both Aguayo and Folk will be attempting (missing?) many kicks each episode. The kicker who can get used to drilling kicks in front of a huge crew of cameras wins the job.
• The Bucs signed big-play wideout DeSean Jackson in the off-season to line up alongside from third-year receiver Mike Evans, and it appears that his relationship with Winston is off to a great start. Just a few days ago, the Bucs QB called DJax “a Bentley with a Ferrari engine” ... which I believe translates to “he’s fast and flashy.” There’s no doubt that that relationship will get some screen time.
• The head coach is always prominently featured in Hard Knocks, and while Dirk Koetter has already experienced a season of Hard Knocks as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator in 2014, he doesn’t quite have the personality to create compelling TV (think more Jeff Fisher and less Bill O’Brien). But that’s not to say he doesn’t appreciate the attention—in the weeks leading up to the team’s announcement, Koetter, along with GM Jason Licht, regularly hinted that they would not be opposed to having tons of cameras stuck in their faces during camps. “I look at it as part of the deal,” Koetter said during the team’s press conference on Wednesday.
• Miko Grimes, the wife of Bucs cornerback Brent Grimes, won’t let an opportunity for publicity pass her by—and if producers want high ratings, they would be crazy to not put her in front of the camera. Grimes is known for being incredibly outspoken and vulgar on social media, even going after her husband’s teammates, front office members and the local media. When Grimes was cut from the Dolphins, the team cited her frequent social media attacks as reasoning. So Hard Knocks fans, be ready for a heavy dose of Miko.
• Busch Gardens is a mere 20-minute drive from One Buc Place, the Tampa Bay training facility. If HBO producers don’t send a few rookies or players’ families to the theme park with a GoPro to ride the roller coasters, they’re doing it wrong. I mean, can you imagine Gerald McCoy strapped into the car?
• Since this is Florida, there will be weather talk. It’s rains promptly at 4 p.m. every day in the Tampa Bay area during the summer, and the humidity can get out of control, so we’ll certainly hear complaints ... and at the very least, buckets of sweat. NFL training camp takes place in the heart of hurricane season, and practices have been derailed by an unwelcome storm or two: