The Cleveland Browns get their turn in the spotlight as the subject of HBO’s series “Hard Knocks.” Here are a few highlights from the first episode Tuesday night.
“Baker Mayfield!”: All eyes are on Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner and first overall pick, and he felt that as he came out for his first practice. With a loud patch of fans chanting his name repeatedly and no sign of letting up, Mayfield noted that “this is a little bit different than Oklahoma training camp.”
The “Hard Knocks” crew featured Mayfield throughout, from him arriving in Cleveland to checking into his hotel (when he realized that Bob Evans restaurants are a chain) to signing his contract.
“We’ve got $14.2 [million] coming by Friday,” agent Tom Mills says.
“Think that will pay for college tuition?” Mayfield responds.
With Mayfield now getting paid like a future star quarterback, his coach challenges him to commit to it like the veteran he’s backing up, Tyrod Taylor. Hue Jackson greets Mayfield before a practice and asks him what time he woke up that morning. “You ever come in with your boy, 5?” Jackson asks, referencing Taylor, who has quickly become known for showing up first every morning.
“You start your career how you want to, you see what I’m saying? It’s a competition, everything you do, baby,” Jackson said to Mayfield.
Message delivered by Landry: An HBO spokesman declared Jarvis Landry‘s speech in the first episode as top-five all-time for “Hard Knocks,” and it didn’t disappoint. With the list of players sitting out practice growing and general sloppy play becoming more common in camp, Landry stood up in a meeting and tore into his teammates. He used 22 F-bombs to get across his point that if you aren’t hurt you better be out there practicing because you can’t “be great” standing on the sideline.
Landry, who led the NFL in catches last season with the Dolphins before being traded to Cleveland, is one of several veterans the Browns brought in to try to change the culture that goes with a 1-31 record over the past two seasons. “Just being here is a blessing in itself,” Landry says. “It’s kind of almost like my story being an underdog, always feeling like you have to prove something. I just want to win. That’s it.”
Stocking the QBs’ RV: Not much has been said by the co-habitants about the quarterback-only RV in the parking lot during camp. Taylor feigned ignorance when asked by the media, and Mayfield has been relatively tight-lipped. But fourth-string quarterback Brogan Roback revealed some more details about the quarterback hangout. Roback has been put in charge of stocking the fridge, securing and arranging the snacks, even fluffing the pillow of veteran backup Drew Stanton. And he has to take his job seriously.
“If I don’t lay out things the right way and the presentation is poor, they’re going to have my ass,” Roback said.
The fridge is stocked with mostly Diet Coke and water. As much as Roback wanted fun stuff like Pop Tarts, the snacks are healthy as recommended by the team nutritionist.
“Most position groups do dinners and make the rookies pay for it. Not here. Not the Cleveland Browns,” Mayfield says. “I had to get an RV for training camp. It’s a good thing I signed last night.”
Support for Hue: Jackson suffered tremendous loss about two weeks apart when his brother passed away followed by his mother. Jackson gets the news from his sister Kimberly on the phone in his office. “It’s only me and you now, girl,” he tells her.
A scene later in the episode shows how Jackson is determined to stay focused on work even as word gets out around the team. After GM John Dorsey stops by his office to ask how he’s doing, Jackson, sitting in a meeting with other coaches, informs the room of his loss.
“I’ve lost my brother and my mom in the same month, within two weeks of each other. It’s crazy, man. So this is inside zone, right?” Jackson says as he dives right back into watching film.
The cameras show Jackson mostly holding his emotions in check until team personnel, including Dorsey, come into his office and give him a group hug, reminding him that they are all in this together. Jackson retreats to his desk, both palms against his face, letting some of the emotion overtake him. Once he’s alone again, he whispers to himself, “Keep going.”
Where’s Josh Gordon? Jackson breaks the news to some of his coaches that Gordon, the star receiver who has missed 43 of the Browns’ past 48 games due to suspensions, will not be reporting to camp. Jackson promises the players that Gordon will be back but he’s just “working through some things” right now.
After hearing about Jackson losing his brother and mother, Gordon texts him his condolences along with the promise that he will “see you soon.”
Best quote: “Jarvis is f—ing good,” an unidentified Browns player can be heard saying from the sideline as they watch a brilliant showing by Landry, including a one-handed catch on a pass thrown by Taylor.
What’s next: Episode two airs at 10 p.m. ET Tuesday on HBO.