Hard Knocks Highlights: Campbell, Staley, Hutchinson star in Episode 1


Before the opening credits had rolled in the season premiere of HBO's Hard Knocks Tuesday night, Dan Campbell fired up America with a speech to the Lions about asscheeks, toes, landfills and drowning the opposition in the "deep, dark abyss."

Of course he did.

"What are we?" Campbell said to his team at the start of training camp. "What makes us what we are and what we’re going to be? It’s grit. It's our core foundation, man. And what does it mean? Really, in a nutshell, I think it means this: We’ll go a little longer, push a little harder, think a little deeper and a little sharper. To me, it means, we'll play you anywhere. We’ll play you on grass, we’ll play you on turf, we’ll go to a fuc*ing landfill, doesn’t matter. It doesn't matter if you have one asscheek and three toes, I will beat your ass. It means that normally I’m 100 percent; 85 percent, man, that’s all I need to beat you. I don’t care. I will produce and win at 85 percent."

"There’s a number of teams as it equates to, bear with me, the ocean. There's a number of teams that just barely get to the water. You gotta get in the water to compete. Then there’s a number of teams that are in the shallows and they come in a hurry and they are all over your ass. They strike and move and they’re dangerous, man. You just gotta get a hold of them, though. If you can just get a hold of them and you start dragging their ass out to the deep, dark abyss, you can drown them. And that’s what we gotta be. That’s who we have to be, because that’s our domain. We’ll tread water as long as it takes to fu*king bury you."

If anyone stole the show from Campbell in episode 1, it might have been Aidan Hutchinson. We had heard tons about his rendition of Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean' in the Lions' rookie talent show. Jared Goff has said it was "the best rookie song" he's ever seen. We finally got to see it ourselves, and the second overall pick didn't disappoint. After a hiccup at the start, Hutchinson brought most of his teammates out of their seats as the entire room sang along.

Campbell's players love him for his energy and authenticity. Mostly, they love him because he loves them. That came across clearly Tuesday night when we saw Campbell tearing up as he asked the team to trust him after tackling drills in the first padded practice of camp.

"Look, here’s what I gotta get across, guys," he said. "I had a couple of you look at me like, ‘What the fu*k?’ Why are we going live? I swear to god I’m not a lunatic. I swear to you. And if I absolutely knew we could get to where we need to get without ever putting pads on, I’d do it. I don’t want to put anyone in jeopardy. But I do know this: the studies say you gotta get volume and you gotta intensity before a season comes. If you don’t, I’m not getting you prepared, not only physically for injury, but also for us as a team to get better.

"Defensively, what is the essence of what we do, man? What are the two things? Pursuit and tackle! Man, if you don’t work on tackling, what are we doing, man? We finally get to Week 8 and we come to life because we got enough reps? I’m telling you, honestly, I’m doing this because it actually does help you with injury, if we do it the right way. I got a plan. I swear to you. All I think about is you guys. That’s all I think about, man. That’s all I fu*king think about! Is you guys! And how I set you up for the best possible advantage I can give you to have a season. I swear to you, man. I just need you to trust me, that’s all. Please."

Then Jamaal Williams took over. If you were paying attention the past couple days, you knew this was coming. The Lions running back has become the team's emotional leader. In a speech we had seen in the lead-up to episode 1, Williams echoed Campbell and implored his teammates to "have some heart" as his voice trembled and tears came down his cheeks.

But then, if anyone stole the show from Williams and Hutchinson, it might have been two of the many former players on Campbell's staff: assistant head coach and running backs coach Duce Staley and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.

"AG, I love you, man," Staley said in front of the team in a speech about loving and trusting the man next to you. "I wanna fu*k you up between the lines, but I love you. That's real."

Staley, a Super Bowl-winning running back, and Glenn, a three-time Pro Bowl corner, played a combined 25 years in the NFL. And their competitive fire hasn't cooled. During team drills in practice, the two bark back and forth as the offense and defense go blow for blow.

"It's the former player that comes out of us," said Glenn. "We can't help ourselves, we really can't. It's just something that we've been doing since we've been here."

Speaking of Staley, what better way to end episode 1 than with the coach telling recently-signed running back Justin Jackson to stop "busting ass" during meetings in the close-quartered running backs room?

"If do gotta sh*t, get up and go outside the door. Take about eight seconds and stay out there. It's my count. You gotta use the bathroom, go. Alright? It's a serious fine if you do bust ass in here. And you get kicked out," Staley said.

And if that doesn't do it for you, how bout Campbell dropping a 'Deez Nuts' joke while speaking to tight end Derrick Deese Jr.?

Less than a week until Episode 2.

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