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Hard Knocks: Atlanta Falcons Episode 1 Recap

A detailed recap of the first episode of the HBO series Hard Knocks, featuring our Atlanta Falcons.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The episode opens in the middle of camp, featuring some shots between various players - including Joe Brawley Hawley. Ryan Schraeder shows some nice boxing technique, for what it's worth. Cut to intro. The awesome slow-mo, player drenched intro.

Three days before training camp, Smitty and the rest of the coaches are in a meeting room emphasizing the need to be tough and physical. Smitty talks about how every player is tough if they're in the NFL, but they need to emphasize being physical on the team.

Cut to a cow-ranch - featuring Bear Pascoe, with a wicked awesome Cowboy hat. I don't know what more I can add to that. Pictures are mandatory to understand the greatness of these shots.

We're taken next to an art exhibit, with Steven Jackson showing off his own art work. Players like Terrell Owens and Chris Long are there to support him. Steven is interviewed about his numerous travels and his love of art - and the outlet it is for him.

We then head out to the University of South Dakota and Tyler Starr. His golden locks tossing around as he prepares for the upcoming off-season.

Now to Atlanta and the home of Harry Douglas. He's packing for camp. His wife tries to help him, but he is incredibly insistent that only he packs his stuff. Neatly. VERY neatly. OCD Neatly. Great quote from his wife: "When you're home, it's like having 5 kids in the house. But we don't have kids."

Next up: the Biermann home and his wife randomly talking about John Elway. They are interviewed for a bit about how hard it is for their 3000 kids to watch him go off to camp. Kroy clearly loves his family - it's a great shot that humanizes him a good bit. They talk about her show, their family life and their general craziness. There's even a quick shot of THIS SITE yet again (we're famous, y'all). Despite their crazy life, they seem like a happy and relatively normal family - 3,000 kids not withstanding.

Now we see rookies showing up at Flowery Branch for the first time. Ricardo Allen, Rashede Hageman, Tyler Starr all drop in. Jake Matthews is filmed meeting with Coach Smith, who tells him he's going to be a "leader of this group." Other rookies like Hageman, Devonta Freeman and Tyler all meet with Coach Smith for brief exchanges about family, nervousness and being ready to work.

Team leader Matt Ryan is driving to camp, talking about how he looks forward to this time of year and how important it is for building team chemistry. He's obviously disappointed by 2013, but has high hopes for the potential of the team. And of course, he's one of the first to arrive.

In what will likely be one of the more talked about moments from the episode, Harry Douglas shows up to camp, and while unpacking - admits that he uses women's deodorant (Secret) because he doesn't like the smell of men's deodorant. No - I'm not kidding.

In the meeting room, Coach Smith is telling the players how hard the next few weeks are going to be. He tells them roles can change and how WHEN someone goes down, the next person has to step up and play at the same or an even higher level. "Out-work, out-physical, out-run, out-hit anyone we go against."

In one of the great shots from the show, we're treated to a mix of slow-motion shots of on-the-field action at training camp. Almost everything you can imagine - great passes/catches, tackles, camaraderie - is all captured in this segment. Words don't do it justice.

In another great moment, Steven Jackson is filmed speaking to the other running backs in camp. He imparts words of wisdom while also letting them know that he's there to help them and support them. He welcomes the competition, but wants these guys to know they are brothers and he is there for them. It's an amazing moment, and shows Jackson's leadership and integrity.

Then, we're treated to some Roddy - and Willy Mo - going at it during camp. It's clear these guys love talking, and they do it non-stop - taunting each other at every opportunity. We're then reminded about Julio being out most of 2013 and how badly we missed him (thanks for that bad memory HBO!).

Finally, we get to the Kroy/Jake build-up. Kroy is shown jumping off the line repeatedly, as he's eager to get back into action. Tice even takes a shot at Kroy, telling him he's gotten his a$$ kicked all camp. Then they show Kroy finally tangling with Matthews, and Jake refusing to back down. The OL and DL groups separate the two. In a cut to Dimitroff and Smitty talking in an office, Smitty laughs about the Biermann/Matthews fight and even liked it - saying "that's good."

In a surprising shot, we see several players getting photographed topless. The reason? Smitty shows off before pictures (end of 2013 season) compared to the new pictures - to the entire team. Several guys really stood out, with both Worrilow and Bartu being the most impressive. The segment is used for laughs as well, as pics of Matt Bryant draw some chuckles, while a picture of a bare-bottomed Hawley is shown for big laughs. In fact, HBO treats us to some old footage of Smitty in the very first season of Hard Knocks, when he was a coordinator with the Ravens.

Guys - Smitty once had an epic 'stache. He rocked it. Hard.

In a short interview segment, Smitty talks about some of his recent experiences, but talks about the disappointment of 2013 and even says he may have "...lost my way a little bit." He also looks back at the 2013 training camp tape, and says that's not what they wanted and that this year would be different.

In a moment few Falcons fans will forget, they show the cheap shot Ryan took from Vacarro in the first game against the Saints. Blank noticed that no one went to help Ryan, and it really bothered him. Smitty hates using the word tough, but does talk about physicality and recalibrating the roster to emphasize that.

Naturally, some focus is giving to Mike Tice and Bryan Cox and their attitudes being instilled on the guys in the trenches. Tice talks about how toughness is about having your brothers back and not letting them tough the f***ing quarterback. Bryan Cox talks about wanting to be the baddest SOB out there.

Then, we get to see that physicality in action as shots are shown of one-on-one drills and more importantly, the Oklahoma drill. It's clear there's a ton of energy in this camp and the players are loving it. It's also clear that Smitty loved it and was fired up for it as well.

And as has been the story all camp, we see - in action - some of the things we've heard reported. Including Travian Robertson absolutely destroying Joe Hawley; One of Hawley's confrontations with Jacques Smith and Gabe Carimi throwing some wild punches. We even see Ryan Schraeder throw some wicked punches at Jacques Smith, who stands there and takes it nearly un-phased. Smith was impressive, if for that reason alone. What is clear is that this OL group is already coming together, standing up for one another. It's a nice sight to see.

Cut to Smitty getting news about Jackson's injured hamstring. Talks about Devonta getting more opportunities while Steven is out. We get to see some clips of Devonta's impressive running ability, but we're reminded that he's a rookie, when one of the coaches has to pull him aside to keep him from letting his emotions get the best of him.

In a great segment, we see the comparison of Freeman looking for a starter home compared to William Moore and his house - which has an indoor poor, with a palm tree in the middle of it. That was not a typo. It's a funny segment that underscores the potential for some of these players, but the humble beginnings they start off in.

We find out that one of the players has gotten the nickname of "cupcake" - Donte Rumph. He was given the name by Coach Cox when he was down on the ground with a hyperextended elbow. It took two consecutive good days of practice for Rumph to lose the nickname.

In one of the more shocking moments of camp, we see footage of Peria Jerry retiring. Players are shocked, and when we see him talking with Smitty, it's clear the Coach is in some disbelief over what's happening. Smitty asks Jerry if he's carefully considered this, that once he makes the decision there's no turning back. Jerry just seems lost - like someone who doesn't know where he's going, but he can't stay here. It's a sad scene, and one that will stick with fans.

At this point, we're treated punished with the rookie hazing ritual, as several players get up and sing. Guys like Jeff Matthews and Jacob Pedersen are booed off the stage. However, Rashede Hageman gives us a great moment when - as he is delivering the lines to an R. Kelly song terribly - gives us the phrase "I'm feeling on yo booty." I had to pause my DVR to wipe the tears from my eyes. Not to be outdone, Dezmen Southward does a fantastic impression of Keith Armstrong and has the team laughing hard.

In a great moment between two veterans, Osi and Roddy are speaking. Osi tells White that his jersey will be retired one day and his kids will be able to come to the stadium to see it. Roddy tells Osi he admires that he has two rings, and that he dreams of having just one.

Cut to Friday Night Lights footage. We see Jackson giving Devonta Freeman a pep talk. It's clear the players are pumped up for the event and loving every minute of it. Hageman even jokes to Tyson Jackson - as the guys parachute into the stadium - that Jckson would need 2 parachutes by himself. The ribbing continues as linebacker coach Mark Collins tells Tyler Starr this crowd is bigger than anything he saw in his small college (which may actually be true).

We're treated to some clips of the action that night. Matthews offering perfect protection. Reedy torching down the field for an easy TD. Hageman getting knocked over and Coach Cox riding him continually. Jackson giving grief to Freeman for getting the wind knocked out of him on a passing play. Roddy watches as a player drops a pass and tells Matt Ryan that "that's why those guys will keep eating Kentucky Fried Chicken." Great moment.

The episode draws to a close as Smitty reminds the players that in just one week, they have their first preseason game. As fireworks go off in the background, we see the players smiling and giving out autographs to eager fans.