NFL: Chatty Jets to be featured on HBO's 'Hard Knocks'
DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Sports Writer
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Get ready for Rex: Unplugged.
The chatty New York Jets and their brash coach, Rex Ryan, will be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" training camp series this summer. The team announced Thursday that it was chosen by the cable channel and NFL Films for the five-episode documentary.
"We're going to let the fans in on something that they've never seen up close and personal," owner Woody Johnson said. "This is going to be kind of the king's new clothes. I think you can argue that there's no other team in the league right now that's kind of more interesting than the New York Jets."
The Jets certainly seem perfect subjects, starting with the loquacious and charismatic Ryan, a Baltimore assistant during the show's first season in 2001, and trash-talking linebacker Bart Scott. GQ quarterback Mark Sanchez, All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and newly signed LaDainian Tomlinson are also sure to get plenty of camera time.
"I have to tell you that in all of the years that we've done this, this is the right team at the right time with the right coach, the right transparency, philosophy ... this is going to be a big hit," said HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg, who acknowledged being a longtime Jets fan. "We have our Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg in Rex Ryan."
The sixth installment of the series that follows teams through camp will debut Aug. 11; the hourlong episodes will run five consecutive weeks until the finale on Sept. 8.
"This is going to be a great opportunity, even just for the casual NFL fan, to sit back and jump on board this Jets bandwagon," Ryan said.
It's uncertain where the team will hold training camp this summer, although a return to Cortland, N.Y., is likely. Ryan raved about the facilities at SUNY-Cortland — located in central New York — and repeatedly referred to the team-building experience the players had during camp there.
Regardless of the site, there will be no shortage of story lines this summer, and it all starts with Ryan.
"This might have motivated me earlier," said a smiling Ryan, noticeably slimmer after undergoing lap-band surgery a few weeks ago. "I probably should've had the surgery maybe a year earlier. I'd be down to about 220 (pounds), and maybe I would get that opportunity to have that romantic scene with Heather Locklear one day."
NFL Films president Steve Sabol said getting a coach with a personality like Ryan's was a major factor in going with the Jets, who turned down a similar opportunity last season. Gone are the Jets' tightlipped days of former coaching regimes, which likely never would have allowed cameras and microphones into meeting rooms.
"We're not hiding anything," Ryan said. "We have nothing to hide."
General manager Mike Tannenbaum said he was a bit reluctant at first, but was convinced that it would be good for the team and not hinder their day-to-day operations, compromise competitive advantage or distract players.
Sabol addressed that issue, saying former Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi used to have him set up cameras even when he wasn't filming.
"His phrase was: There are no slackers when the eyes of the world are watching," Sabol said.
"Well, me and Lombardi are very similar," Ryan said, laughing.
Johnson also dispelled speculation that the Jets agreed to participate in the project in order to help sell personal seat licenses for the new Meadowlands Stadium, which they'll move into this season with the Giants.
The Jets are coming off a season in which they lost in the AFC championship to Indianapolis in Ryan's first year. He made headlines regularly with his bold statements, self-deprecating humor and refreshing this-is-who-I-am approach.
Ryan was at it again in the offseason, getting fined $50,000 by the team for making an obscene gesture at a mixed martial arts event in January, and undergoing the weight-loss surgery.
"In my experience with 'Hard Knocks,' the head coach is the axis around which the show revolves — even though that axis is a little shrinking," Sabol said.
Viewers also will get a closer look at Scott, whose mouth is always running with jokes, wisecracks and insults — anything to lighten the mood for teammates or get under opponents' skin.
There's also the franchise quarterback in Sanchez, who's coming off knee surgery and entering his second NFL season after an up-and-down rookie campaign.
Another hot topic will be Tomlinson, who was regarded as the most dynamic player in the NFL just a few years ago, but is trying to prove he still has something left after being cut by San Diego last month.
"When it's football business, it's football business," Ryan said. "There's time for playing and there's time for work, and our guys know the difference."