'Hard Knocks' recap: Episode 3


Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

HBO's "Hard Knocks" series continued Wednesday night with its third episode on the Cincinnati Bengals.

Here is a recap:

Synopsis: The Bengals wrap up the final few days of training camp in Georgetown, Ky., and cap it off with a hilarious rookie talent show. Following camp, Cincinnati travels to play its second preseason game against the New England Patriots, where a surprise kicker emerges in a 7-6 victory.

Ocho's kick: "Hard Knocks" chronicled how Chad Ochocinco became a surprise placekicker against New England. Kicker Shayne Graham (groin) was a no-go before the game and the Bengals actually planned to go for fourth downs and two-point conversions all night until Ochocinco asked "Bossman," aka Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, if he can kick during the game. It turns out Ochocinco's form was great and his extra point was the difference in the contest. Kudos for a game-winning idea from Ochocinco.

Palmer ailing: While getting treatment, Cincinnati's trainer tells a surprised Palmer that his ankle sprain will take "several weeks" to heal. Palmer responds that he heals fast and has more white blood cells than the average human being. (I'm not sure if he was joking or not.) The trainer shrugged and repeated that the team will take its time with the injury. In a shameless plug, the AFC North blog broke a story earlier Wednesday repeating that sentiment that Cincinnati is being extra cautious with Palmer and is pondering resting him for the remainder of the preseason.

America's (rookies) got talent: Perhaps the highlight of episode No. 3 was the rookie talent show. Nothing was off limits as rookies poked fun at Roy Williams' relationship with pop star Kelly Rowland, Andre Smith's 40-yard dash and Dhani Jones' eccentric ways. Even the usually serious Lewis couldn't stop laughing at these skits. I watched the segment three times myself last night on DVR. Funny stuff.

Camp surprise: Rookie free-agent safety Tom Nelson is making plays all over the field and is opening the eyes of Bengals coaches. The plays Nelson is making this year is reminiscent of some of the plays 2008 draft pick Corey Lynch made in last year's camp. But currently Lynch is struggling and Nelson is thriving as both players likely are fighting for one of the team's final roster spots.

More Smith talks: As reported in the media, Smith's agent, Alvin Keels, arrives in Cincinnati to do some down-and-dirty negotiations. Keels goes into an office with Bengals vice president Katie Blackburn and locks the door. "Are we going to get
a deal done today, Katie?" Keels asks. "It's up to you, Alvin," Blackburn responds. The two spend several hours in the room only to emerge with nothing. The pair agree to keep in touch. Bengals owner Mike Brown described the talks to his staff by saying, "We have no reason to think it will be [complete] anytime soon."

RB competition: It appears DeDe Dorsey and Brian Leonard are battling for one running back spot. Leonard is solid but not spectacular, while Dorsey brings a "wow factor" that Cincinnati is looking for behind starter Cedric Benson. Dorsey has shuffled around the NFL, including a prior trip to Cincinnati, because of inconsistencies and injuries. Leonard was a bust for the St. Louis Rams and is trying to prove his worth for another team. In a related note, Leonard faces the Rams Thursday night in a preseason contest.

Grade: B+

Why: This was another solid offering. It covered everything well -- from Palmer's ankle rehab to Ochocinco's extra point to Smith's contract negotiations. I'm still waiting for the big Mike Brown showcase episode, but maybe that's a pipe dream. Besides the occasional appearance by Blackburn, we still haven't seen much of the internal workings of Bengals ownership and the dynamics of the Brown family. But the breakdown of players, coaches and personalities have been tremendous, and this week's episode was another great example.