Detroit Lions training camp is set to kick off Wednesday, July 27. About two weeks later, the first episode of “Hard Knocks” the HBO documentary series will debut, giving fans unparalleled access to the Lions both on the field and in meetings behind closed doors.
Most teams don’t want camera crews filming their most vulnerable moments—discussing strategy, talking unfiltered about their own players, or revealing potentially embarrassing gaffes in regular conversation. But it appears the Lions are not only not too worried about that, but they actually embraced the opportunity to be in the limelight.
The Detroit Free Press recently interviewed Shannon Furman, director for this year’s season of Hard Knocks and a senior producer for NFL Films. During that interview, she revealed that the Lions actually requested to be featured on the show this year.
“There was some interest from both the Lions and the Jets, I think, which were the two teams that were on the list this year,” Furman said. “But there was a mutual agreement, the Lions kind of reached out, we were on board. Whenever anyone seems like they’re on board and wants to do it, we want to do it.”
The caveat here was that the Lions knew they were in a position in which they may have been forced to do it. The NFL has a rule that if a team doesn’t meet each of the following three criteria—first-year head coach, made the playoffs in one of the past two seasons, been on Hard Knocks in the past 10 years—then they could be forced to do it.
This year, the Lions, Jets, and Panthers were the only teams that qualified. So it sounds like the Lions knew the writing was on the wall and decided to embrace the opportunity. It makes you wonder if it wasn’t a complete coincidence that the NFL announced the Lions would host the 2024 NFL Draft on the exact same day the Hard Knocks announcement was made (though it’s worth pointing out that Lions president Rod Wood said no quid pro quo existed to his knowledge.)
The Lions' willingness to participate in Hard Knocks should not come as much of a surprise. Although coach Dan Campbell expressed some subtle contempt in a meeting with media this spring, general manager Brad Holmes—who experienced the presence of Hard Knocks crew twice during his time with the Rams—said he was excited about the opportunity.
“I think it’s great for the fans,” Holmes said. “The fans drive our game, they’re everything. And the other thing is, yeah, to allow them to get that peek behind the curtain. It’s all about learning. The fans can learn things they may have not known, not only about us but just kinda how the league works.”
Holmes later added, “The times that I’ve had with it it’s been an enjoyable experience, and I’m fired up about it this time.”
The Free Press’ interview with Furman is definitely worth your time, as she discussed their process, what they’ve accomplished already, and what they’re expecting to cover once camp starts. Here’s a taste:
“One of the things I know that we’re definitely interested in is this coaching staff, so I was kind of trying to watch for that. Everyone obviously knows Dan Campbell’s going to be a big figure in this, but he was more mild-mannered, just in what I noticed. Aubrey Pleasant was someone who stood out to me. Defensive coordinator, coach (Aaron) Glenn, he stood out.”