After the high-flying Atlanta Falcons plummeted from a 13—3 record in 2012 to 4—12 last season, it would have been easy to lie low ahead of the 2014 campaign. Instead, the HBO reality series Hard Knocks is following the Falcons into training camp for much more than a bird's-eye view (premiering Tuesday, at 10/9c). "The story this year," says producer Ken Rodgers of NFL Films, "is the story we tell all of our children: It doesn't matter how you get knocked down; what matters is how you get back up."
While head coach Mike Smith admits that he dodged the cameras when he was with the Baltimore Ravens, the first Hard Knocks team back in 2001, Rodgers says, "There's no hiding, and I think he's much more comfortable with how things are presented on a show like this."
Each week, 300 hours of footage will be condensed into a 60-minute show. While Rodgers says Atlanta has plenty of recognizable names, like quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones, "the real success of Hard Knocks hinges upon the players no one knows anything about: the rookies, the free agents, the draft picks, the long shots. These are guys who are trying to simply earn a job."