HBO and NFL Films announced on Thursday something that we've known for months: That the 2020 edition of the NFL reality show "Hard Knocks" would feature both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.
What we didn't know was that both head coaches, Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams, and Anthony Lynn of the LA Chargers, would be available to the media on a video conference call the same day. Needless to say, some of the remarks on that call were much more interesting then the delayed announcement of the show.
McVay asked the question that most fans of football have been asking for months: how exactly would the NFL season be played in era of face coverings and social distancing?
“There’s such an influx of information that is ever changing. It is a little bit mind-numbing when you get down to it,” said McVay on the topic. “It’s figuring out what is going to be the best way to operate and having the agility to adjust. Is this crazy coach Lynn? we’re talking about some of this stuff and we’re playing football. We’re going to social distance but we play football? This is hard for me to understand this. I don’t get it, I really don’t.”
Ironically, Thursday also marked McVay's return to the Ram's practice facility in Thousand Oaks, CA. Coaches and other non-essential personnel were not allowed at the facility due to COVID-19 guidelines. It's possible in his first day back at the office McVay got an overload of information on how football will look in the present and near future.
McVay's comments were voiced on the same day that Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended that the NFL play out the 2020 season in a "bubble" environment, similar to how the NBA, WNBA, and MLS are resuming their seasons.
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“The protocols, practice schedule, how teams use practice and locker rooms, we’ll have to adjust to that,” said NFL Films' Ken Rodgers, who is the senior coordinating producer of “Hard Knocks" said. "When you consider some of the players are going to be meeting their coaches for the first time and then going through the protocols, it is going to be an empathetic process for the audience to watch."
For the first time in the history of "Hard Knocks," the show will feature not one, but two NFL franchises. If focusing on two teams whose facilities are located over 80 miles apart wasn't a daunting task enough, the filmmakers will also have to deal with the coronavirus pandemic as it continues to devastate the country.
The filmmakers said that the current pandemic, and the NFL protocols and guidelines on testing, training camp, and practices would be a major storyline of the show, in addition to both teams inaugural season playing at the brand new SoFi stadium in Inglewood.
The Chargers will be making their "Hard Knocks" debut this fall, whereas the Rams will be making their second appearance on the show, the first was back in 2016, when the team first moved to Los Angeles. The show is narrated by veteran actor Liev Schreiber, of "Ray Donovan" fame.
The Chargers are coming off a down year in 2019, where they finished 5-11 and missed the playoffs. Longtime quarterback Philip Rivers parted ways with the team after 14 years and signed with the Indianapolis Colts. The Bolts then drafted Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert in the first round of the NFL Draft, and he will compete for the starting job with veteran Tyrod Taylor.
“We want to make sure it is done the right way and make it a great show. I'm excited for the country to see our players in this light,” said Chargers' GM Tom Telesco on the call.
Meanwhile, McVay and the Rams have had winning seasons in each of the last three years, all with the young head coach on the sidelines. After losing in the first-round of the NFL playoffs in 2017, the Rams made the Super Bowl in 2018, only to mis the playoffs despite posting a 9-7 record in 2019.
The roster has been gutted since their Super Bowl run, and many fans will tune in to "Hard Knocks," to see how this current roster navigates the season with a much-improved NFC West.
McVay’s question about how football will look and be played during the COVID-19 pandemic will also be answered on the show, which is scheduled to debut Aug. 11.