Staging for the tough picks on the list

Editor’s note: This story includes excerpts from the show shared on social media and contains language that some may find objectionable.

In the words of Brad Holmes: It’s about getting down to business.

The first three episodes of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” took Detroit Lions fans on an adventure.

The first one introduced viewers to coaching staff and rookie sensation Aidan Hutchinson. The second spotlight Malcolm “Rodrigo” Rodriguez, D’Andre Swift, Amon-Ra St. Brown and David Blough and his wife. The third showed life on bubble with undrafted free agents Kalil Pimpleton and Obinna Eze as well as the trials and tribulations of running back Craig Reynolds and the incarceration of his brother.

Episode 4 shed light on the hardest part of the profession – roster reduction. He highlighted the intricacies of this process, from Holmes, the Lions general manager, and head coach Dan Campbell, to staff assistants and the personnel department.

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“It’s the cold hard truth – we’re sitting at 80 and we need to get to 53 and that’s a bitch,” Campbell said after the preseason loss to Pittsburgh at the end of the episode. “That’s the worst part of this (expletive) job.

“Blood, sweat, tears, devotion; whatever you put into it, you have my respect. … I wish I could keep you, all of you. But that’s not how it works. But we really appreciate you because you gave us your best.

How sausage is made

Lions head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes leave the field during the first practice of pre-season camp with pads on August 1, 2022 at Allen Park.

This is the first time the series delves into Holmes. The second-year general manager explained how he does his best to ensure that people at all levels and from all angles of the organization are involved.

At the start of the episode, dozens of coaches and reception staff are in a conference room at Lions headquarters in Allen Park, mixing and matching different combinations of staff as they try to negotiate the roster. .

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At one point, Lions offensive line coach Hank Fraley said he clearly had his top five and wished his chamber could keep 10 in order to have “those first two groups”. .

Running backs coach Duce Staley points out how safe D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams are, but ’28’ (Jermar Jefferson) and ’46’ (Craig Reynolds) ‘know they have to step up a bit their (expletive).”

Holmes tells the whole room not to hold back if there is someone they really like.

“We are running a very collaborative process,” he explained. “We’ll start with a position, that position coach will go through the ranking at a current time and a member of the personnel department will go through that same group of positions. Then our coordinator will sum it up at the end. All of our evaluators are artists and their works are exhibited — I’ve always said that the beauty of scouting is to encourage independent thinking and encourage the art of evaluation.

“After all of this, me and Dan take all this information and sit down and meet about it.”

Let the players lead

Holmes and Campbell eventually meet and discuss how, in the last week before the cuts in the listthey want the players to show what they are made of.

This opens the episode the player-led practice Campbell called last Monday. He and the coaching staff scripted the plays for the team; but the exercises, speed and organization depended entirely on those of the pads

“The coaches work in Pittsburgh, so they won’t be there; I’ll be the one and I’m not a coach,” Campbell told his team. “I’ll have the whistle, I’ll blow it to get everything regulated, but I’m not saying a word. … If we get into a situation, don’t ask me because I’m not telling you.

“Let’s see what you do with it, customize it.”

Lions quarterback Jared Goff walks by during warmups before preseason action against the Falcons on August 12, 2022 at Ford Field.

The team seems to be doing well. Tracy Walker jokes about looking like Campbell as he starts calling plays. Another micro player with a good day: Jared Goff.

“Really excited about Jared,” quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell said. “He loves what we do and loves who we do it with. He’s throwing amazing shots, and I think we’ve got a glimpse of what he’s going to be like for us this year.

Campbell told Goff during players-only practice: “You’re on fire right now.”

“They go for balls and make plays,” Goff told his coach. “It just gives you confidence.”

This is the first time we’ve gotten a glimpse of Goff in this season of the show. He doesn’t speak directly to the camera in an interview or break down the film, but the show goes to a reunion as he teaches lessons to high schoolers in partnership with his clothing line.

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Interaction is limited, but he chooses a design from the group of teenagers he worked on, saying he could see the potential.

“I think it’s going to be one of the bestsellers,” Goff said. “I can see people wearing it around town (and) wearing it to games.”

Two groups trying to make it

From there, it’s all business.

August 28, 2022;  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) carries the ball while Detroit Lions defensive end Demetrius Taylor (62) and safety DeShon Elliott (5) defend during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium.

Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn tears his unit apart for allowing Goff to complete 16 of 18 passes the day before and points out that Goff completes 72% of the passes during camp.

“(Expletive) buckle up,” offensive coordinator Ben Johnson said. “I went through AG’s office. … He wouldn’t even talk to me, and you think I’m kidding, he let his guys know. They are going to be bloodthirsty today. No problem, we have enough ammo here.

That’s followed by a cut from the Lions’ night training on Tuesday – their most intense of all training camp. After a long night – the last fully in the pads – Campbell explains to his team where things stand.

“There are almost two groups vying for the last spots,” he said. “There’s a group of guys that it crushes you, they do everything right and you probably know who you are. You go non-stop, you’re very competitive, you’re reliable but that’s it, ‘Man, have- they quite The talent?’

“Then there are guys who have ability now, but can we trust them? Here’s what I would say for the first group: “Go ahead, do it again. Be that reliable guy who does (swear) all the time. Make it (expletive) hard on us. ”

Poor in Pittsburgh

The final part of the episode is dedicated to the Lions’ final exhibition game in Pittsburgh. Just as we saw through the eyes of Eze and Pimpleton’s family in Week 3, Rodriguez’s family and Reynolds’ dad are on mic during the game.

The main focus in the last game was determining the second quarterback on the roster. Unfortunately for the Lions, Tim Boyle and David Blough struggled.

Boyle, who was scheduled to play the entire first half, threw a bad interception, causing Campbell to change his mind.

“How do you feel about putting Blough with those?” he asked into the headset.

It didn’t go much better, with the Lions getting the shutout until midway through the second half. Pimpleton dropped what would have been a touchdown late in the second half and as he battled on the sidelines for it, Blough and other teammates told him to get rid of him.

“I’m so grateful the opportunity was there, whatever the outcome I’m blessed,” he said as he left the pitch.

Detroit Lions quarterback David Blough (10) comes under pressure from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Vaughters (96) at Acrisure Stadium.  The Steelers won 19-9.

That was the sentiment many shared after the game.

“I love you bro no matter what,” Reynolds said as he walked off the court alongside Brock Wright.

Campbell gives a speech in the locker room after the game, but the broadcast portion is not about the game at all. That’s about it, over the next 72 hours, a third of the team will be cut.

That prompts left tackle Taylor Decker to remind the team to stay close and watch each other.

“Reach out to your boys, let them know you care,” he said. “It’s a tough time for a lot of guys. Family in three.

“One, two, three, family.”

Contact Tony Garcia at apgarcia@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @realtonygarcia.

Charles P. Patton