'Hard Knocks' Recap: Bowling With Black Moses - Rolling Stone
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‘Hard Knocks’ Recap: Bowling With Black Moses

Things are getting hot at Atlanta Falcons camp, but Bryan Cox is there to keep us cool

The Houston Texans play the Atlanta Falcons in a pre-season NFL game.

The Houston Texans play the Atlanta Falcons in a preseason NFL game.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

If you’ve ever wondered, “Why does it take an entire year to recover from ACL surgery?” I recommend you watch episode three of Hard Knocks.

We open literally inside Marquis Spruill’s tree-trunk of a leg, as a surgeon shoves items in there using all of his might and power and will (and screws). When it’s all said and done, Marquis is left lying on a doctor’s bed talking about this “setback'” while high on morphine. Come to think of it, a spinoff show where NFL players speak nonsense on morphine isn’t a terrible idea. Just keep that in the back pocket, HBO.


As we move on from Spruill’s recovery process, the viewers are shown two very different forms of recovery – one physical and one mental. Steven Jackson is doing strengthening exercises in the pool and weight room (gentle reminder that Jax can eat you) while Real House Husband Kroy Biermann reveals his internal struggles to overcome a previous foot injury.

Speaking of recovery, we finally get some Julio Jones screen time!

Julio, Roddy White and others partake in a “dollar drop and catch” game, where, like the name implies, someone drops a dollar and someone else tries to catch it. Sounds simple enough, right? Not if you’re Roddy, who can’t seem to win at this one, despite making a career out of catching things. What’s amazing is that he just keeps making Jones drop the dollar until he does, a process that takes somewhere between 15 minutes and all of minicamp (it’s hard to tell with the editing). Eventually White treats us to an incredible handshake. Roddy White is everything at this point.

We’re now introduced to rookie Geraldo Boldewijn, who was born in the Netherlands and is heavily featured during the episode. It would appear that teammates have nicknamed him “Amsterdam” which makes me eternally grateful that nobody calls me “Washington D.C.” when I go overseas. During a film session, his coach points out Amsterdam’s ability to learn four languages and yet, he can’t learn a simple route. I’m rooting for Amsterdam to succeed.

In another film session, the wonder that is Bryan Cox is sharing photos of his family to his defensive line because of course he is. Cox then shows a picture of his daughter and says, “Keep the fuck away from my daughter, Black Moses.” This is followed by the best interaction that’s ever taken place in Atlanta:

Bryan Cox started fuckin’ when he was 10. He’s the Davy Crockett of fuckin.’ At the opposite end of the spectrum, in every conceivable way: Matt Ryan tells a roomful of QBs a joke that takes exactly 12 hours to set-up and features a punch line you can see coming from a thousand miles away. I felt horrible for everyone in that room, including Matt Ryan.

To get us back on track, HERE COMES AN AWESOME FOOTBALL MONTAGE, featuring “Hustle Hard” by Ace Hood.

On the practice field we learn that Hotlanta is in fact very hot. The heat eventually gets to Devonta Freeman, who has to get himself an I.V. due to not eating any breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day, people. Eventually Mike Smith decides “enough is enough” and allows his players to practice without pads. FYI: It’s awfully encouraging to see that NFL players have just as difficult of a time taking their pads off as I did when I was in 8th grade.

Next, we spend time with rookie stud Jake Matthews, who can apparently do everything, “except playing the piano” (though he’s learning), and super-smooth William Moore, aka “Willy Mo,” who does a life-altering freestyle that ends with a silky chorus where he just repeats the words “strong safety” over and over again. This was everything.

Continuing the stretch of excellent television, we are now taken to a bowling alley with Julio Jones, Harry Douglas and Roddy White. At the bowling alley we learned that football players are pretty awesome bowlers as Jones narrowly defeats Douglas by a score of 189 to 188. We also learned that Douglas throws the ball 35 feet in the air when bowling.

And now a tradition unlike any other: the battle of so-so/pretty bad quarterbacks between Jeff Mathews, Sean Renfree and T.J. Yates. As much hell as we give these guys for being bad, they seem to be hitting targets with pretty good accuracy during their throwing drills, despite being “so out of shape.” Yates is then seen trying to memorize plays by doing a complete whisper reenactment of himself calling plays. Even though he’s essentially playing make believe by himself, I can’t help but feel a lot of respect for Yates right now.

The Falcons are now leaving TooHotlanta and headed to Houston for a couple practices and preseason game against the Texans. During the practices we learn the following things: T.J. Yates is a fan favorite, Bernard Reedy wants no business with fist-bumping mascots, Harry Douglas isn’t afraid to throw punches, Matt Ryan is the nicest as he throws a football to a fan wearing a Texans shirt, Ryan Fitzpatrick has a damn fine beard, DeVier Posey’s wife is in labor but he isn’t there because he’s shooting the shit with Yates at a preseason practice, and J.J. Watt is still a God, as he puts Matthews through the paces.

Cut to the team hotel where we see players chilling out around a hot tub, singing and playing ukuleles because nothing says FOOTBALL like a ukulele. Brenden Daley is horrible while Levine Toilolo kind of kills it with his clean (and strangely Christian) rendition of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend.” I’d Spotify it.

Finally we arrive to preseason game number two, where everything falls apart.

During the first half we see Julio Jones drop a pass, Harry Douglas talk shit and Devin Hester score a nice touchdown thanks to a pretty block from Boldewijn. J.J. Watt sits out this game but that doesn’t matter because Jadeveon Clowney is a God in training, popping an RB in the backfield on one play, sacking Matt Ryan the next.

We also see the injury of Sam Baker, who might have a torn patellar tendon according to the beefy team doctor. I think Matt Ryan echoed all of our sentiments when he let out a frustrated “fuck, man.”

In the second half, Devonta Freeman is shown playing special teams. He misses assignments and lets his man block a punt. Luckily he makes this up by running all over Houston and scoring a monster touchdown that gets called back because of a holding penalty. Falcons gonna Falcons.

All is not lost though, as coaches put in team savior, T.J. Yates…who winds up throwing two picks and a plethora of incomplete passes. A teammate attempts to console Yates, but the former Texans QB sums up his effort thusly: “Can’t do much fucking worse than that.”

The Falcons lose badly. Mike Smith gives a weak pep talk as Matt Ryan ups the ante by telling guys to “Get your fuckin’ mind right.” As the team heads to the bus we see Mike Smith dressed as Don Johnson and Bryan Cox smoking a cigar because win, lose or draw…Bryan Cox always smokes a cigar. Take us home, First Aid Kit.

The closing credits were too good as Mike Tice reveals a big bruise on his head, caused by walking into a tree branch while smoking and texting. Cox laughs at him, to which Tice replies “I bet you if I was drinkin’ I wouldn’t have hit my head.”

I know you wouldn’t have, big guy.

MVP of the Night: William Moore aka Willy Mo (the freestyle was that good)

Line of the Night: “I told you I started fuckin’ when I was 10”

In This Article: HBO, NFL, sports


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