Browns set for HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers

CLEVELAND » Ready or not, the Cleveland Browns are get­ting their close-up.

Com­ing off a historic, dis­mal 0-16 sea­son, the Browns have been cho­sen to appear on HBO’s pop­u­lar “Hard Knocks” se­ries, which gives NFL fans a be­hind-thescenes look at train­ing camp.

The Browns have turned down pre­vi­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties to be on the award-win­ning se­ries. But with re­newed op­ti­mism around Cleveland fol­low­ing the re­cent draft, and the se­lec­tion of quar­ter­back Baker May­field, the team is grant­ing HBO un­lim­ited ac­cess to its up­com­ing camp.

Cleveland is the 13th fran­chise to par­tic­i­pate in “Hard Knocks,” which be­gan in 2001 with the Bal­ti­more Ravens. The Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers were fea­tured last sum­mer.

Although they’ve won only one game the past two sea­sons un­der coach Hue Jack­son, the Browns see the show as a pos­si­bil­ity to high­light some of their younger play­ers and put a pos­i­tive spin on their re­build.

And for HBO, May­field’s quest to win the start­ing job is just one of sev­eral juicy story lines.

“NFL Films has al­ways been ex­cep­tional at bring­ing fans closer to the game and they do an out­stand­ing job with ev­ery show they pro­duce, in­clud­ing HBO’s Hard Knocks,” Browns own­ers Dee and Jimmy Haslam said. “We have been asked mul­ti­ple times about be­ing fea­tured on Hard Knocks, and we re­ally felt like it was our turn this year and the tim­ing was right. We want to be great part­ners in this league, and we also rec­og­nize Hard Knocks gives fans a spe­cial op­por­tu­nity to learn more about our team and play­ers.”

HBO’s cam­eras are cer­tain to fo­cus on May­field, the brash Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner from Ok­la­homa the Browns chose over other quar­ter­backs. May­field is ex­pected to back up Ty­rod Tay­lor this sea­son, but their com­pe­ti­tion could make for the kind com­pelling TV that has made the se­ries a must­watch for foot­ball junkies.

A 30-per­son film crew will be at the team’s train­ing fa­cil­ity in Berea to record more than 2,000 hours of footage for the five-seg­ment se­ries, which will de­but Aug. 7.

The Browns have some good young play­ers who are not well known out­side Cleveland. But “Hard Knocks” will give na­tional ex­po­sure to bud­ding stars like de­fen­sive end Myles Gar­rett, May­field and safety Jabrill Pep­pers and give the net­work a chance to tell the well-doc­u­mented story of for­mer Pro Bowl wide re­ceiver Josh Gor­don, who has missed most of the past three sea­sons be­cause of drug sus­pen­sions.

Jack­son and Browns de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gregg Wil­liams have both been on “Hard Knocks” — Jack­son with the Cincin­nati Ben­gals in 2013 and Wil­liams with the Los Angeles Rams in 2016.

“Be­ing able to bring our fans in so they can get to know our play­ers and our or­ga­ni­za­tion in a dif­fer­ent way will be a huge pos­i­tive for us,” Jack­son said. “I want peo­ple to see how much our play­ers and coaches care, how hard they work and how badly they want to win for Cleveland. This will be a great op­por­tu­nity for our team.”

Browns gen­eral man­ager John Dorsey had reser­va­tions about the se­ries, but feels the team is equipped to han­dle the added scru­tiny.

“Once we sat down and talked about it as an or­ga­ni­za­tion, I feel a lot bet­ter and un­der­stand why the time is right,” said Dorsey, who has been over­haul­ing the team since be­ing hired in De­cem­ber. “Hue and I both feel like this team is in a good place and that we are in the process of build­ing some­thing that will lead to suc­cess.”

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