'Hard Knocks' Recap: Bad Times For Jailhouse Bitches

Cuts come to Atlanta Falcons camp, and some careers are over before they even begin

Tennessee Titans  Atlanta Falcons
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Wesley Woodyard of the Tennessee Titans tackles Jacquizz Rodgers of the Atlanta Falcons in a preseason game on August 23rd, 2014.
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"For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God…" - 1 Peter 4:17

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It's episode four of HBO's Hard Knocks, and the cold winds of cuts are beginning to blow. By the end of the week, the Atlanta Falcons must get their roster from 90 to 75 players, and we open with a tense coaches meeting where the piss-poor efforts of various players are being discussed.

Special teams coach Keith Armstrong is particularly outraged, and after being told by fellow coach (and greatest thing about this season) Bryan Cox that it's time to "Have a come to Jesus meeting" with his players, well, Armstrong gets biblical on his squad.

For five solid minutes he rips their efforts with a voice that cut like a righteous sword – highlights include "Who do you think you are!? The game don't mean enough to you and that's very fuckin' apparent. Selfish ass!" "How many Pro Bowls you been to? Who are you?!?" and, of course, "YOU AIN'T GOOD ENOUGH TO BE AN ASSHOLE." At one point defensive end Malliciah Goodman almost cries.

After Armstrong's fire and brimstone sermon, we're taken around camp to watch other coaches employ similar tactics, though (not surprisingly), it's Bryan Cox who shines brightest. He gives Ra'Shede Hageman so much crap during a film session that you start to feel bad for him, topping a sundae of shit-talk with this cherry: "I want you to see how fuckin pitiful you look. You just takin' ass woopins like that? They're going to make you their jailhouse bitch and you just givin' into them." This is followed by Cox running Hageman into exhaustion on the practice field. The NFL seems like a lot of fun.

We get a corny workout montage set to Xzibit's "Concentrate," which he presumably recorded between Ride Pimpings or whatever he's been doing for the past decade. And then, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we join rookie quarterback Jeff Mathews, who is the all-time leading passer at Cornell (which has led to his Falcons teammates giving a clever nickname: "Cornell.")

We discover that Mathews throws the ball "hard as shit," but we also learn that he sounds like Barney Gumble when he tries to mimic Matt Ryan's pre-snap cadence. I don't know what this guy's low-point is, but getting shit on by Matt Ryan has to be up there. This segment ends with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and Mathews evaluating things in a room with the lights off. Must be a coaching tactic.

Up next, a series of vignettes, including Osi Umenyiora revealing his dangerous obsession with Oreos ("Them cookies is dangerous, man!") rookies Brenden Daley and Ra'Shede Hageman having a True Detective-y discussion on mortality, and an artsy storm montage to break up the monotony of practice. At one point lightning knocks out the power. "Holy smokes!" says general manager/guy who definitely has a phone holster Thomas Dimitroff, mostly because he is Thomas Dimitroff.

Things dry out, and wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie is no mood to fuck around. The Falcons have an impressive cast of pass-catchers in Roddy White, Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester, but Robiskie is far from pleased with this bunch. You know this because he calls them "pretty-ass motherfuckers" for like two minutes. Then he puts White to work, and the always talking wideout walks-the-walk with impressive day of practice. Then he complains that they worked him too hard. Keep being you, Roddy.

Then, we get to know a real man's man, Joe Hawley – aka Joe Brawley – via a super-cut of all the fights Hawley has gotten into since the show began four weeks ago. This included one against a rookie and another that resulted in him getting kicked out of a scrimmage. Hawley's badassness is on full display as his coaches praise his efforts and he's shown chewing tobacco, eating sunflower seeds and drinking coffee all in one sitting. Joe Hawley is tougher than us all.

Cut to Hawley doing pottery as a Yanni B-side plays in the background.

Then this happens:

Now it's time for preseason game number three against the Tennessee Titans. It's no secret to anyone that this game will determine the fate of many of the guys on the field, and everything is coming up Falcons in the first half. Devin Hester and Julio Jones score touchdowns and the defense is solid too, as Prince Shembo collects a few big hits and Kroy Biermann shouts "Come on Blind Side!" to Michael Oher. And Hawley's streak continues, as he gets into a fight protecting Matt Ryan.

The biggest development of the first half was the impressive work of the special times – they have seen the light and Keith Armstrong now sits at the right hand of God.

The second half doesn't go quite as well for Atlanta. Coaching God Bryan Cox implores his team to stop "holding each other's dick" during his a halftime speech, which seemed to strike a chord with Ra'Shede Hageman. While Hageman plays well, Jacques Smith does not. He eventually gets himself kicked out of the game by hitting a guy after the Titans scored a touchdown. Not the best move. The real MVP of the game was the guy insisting on fixing Smith's shoulder pads after he has been ejected. DO YOU, SHOULDER PAD GUY.

Finally, we arrive at the first wave of cuts. As guys begin getting called in, it's evident they know what's coming, and just in case they don't, their fate becomes really apparent when they look around the room and see Jeff Mathews sitting there. We say goodbye to fringe players like Jerome Smith, Theo Agnew and Tramaine Thompson. Mathews is super-salty about getting the axe, which is so Ivy League (Mostly Yale. Fuck those guys.)

As the end credits play, we are treated to the musings of the best film critic on earth, Bryan Cox. Needless to say, they do not disappoint. Some highlights:

Bryan Cox thinks Vanilla Sky is "a fluffy movie" (he's never seen it). He loved Shallow Hal, Life, Ride Along, 21 Jump Street. Even though it's a girl movie, Cox enjoyed Love & Basketball. The Best Man Holiday is the best movie Cox has seen in the last five years. BRYAN COX WENT TO SEE TAMMY. Any Adam Sandler movie that comes out, Cox is there. Finally, Bryan Cox will only see movies that get three-star reviews. Four-star movies are Oscar contenders, which makes them "some boring-ass movies."

MVP of the Night (not named Bryan Cox): Keith Armstrong

Line of the Night: "You ain't good enough to be an asshole."

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