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Thursday, March 24, 2011
'Hard Knocks' a mixed bag for Bucs

By Pat Yasinskas

We reported earlier this week from the NFL owners meeting in New Orleans that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are being considered to be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks’’ this summer.

Again, there hasn’t been any firm decision yet, but the Bucs are very much a player in this one. The show provides an in-depth look at a team during training camp and, obviously, the current labor situation could interfere with or eliminate training camps.

Is this really a good idea for the Bucs?

Freeman
Hosting "Hard Knocks" in Tampa Bay would give rising stars such as Josh Freeman much-needed exposure, but there would be potential downsides as well.
“There are a bunch of positives and some negatives,’’ coach Raheem Morris said.

That’s very true. Let’s start with the positives. The exposure would be tremendous and, of all teams, the Bucs could stand to really increase their national audience. They didn’t sell out a single-home game last season. Despite last season’s surprising 10-6 record you still get the feeling that a lot of fans in Tampa Bay aren’t totally convinced with this team and I hear more fans worrying about a step back next season than talking about a step forward.

This is a chance for the Bucs to really open up their locker room, dining room and meeting room during camp and put on a good show. They’ve got some potential superstars in quarterback Josh Freeman, receiver Mike Williams and running back LeGarrette Blount. Freeman, in particular, is a very likeable guy and this would be a chance for the world to get to know him.

They’ve also got Morris, who can be one of the league’s more entertaining coaches.

“Any time you’re asked to be on 'Hard Knocks,' that means there is interest in your team,’’ Morris said. “We’ll have to see. They want (the) hard unedited versions of Raheem Morris.’’

And that leads us straight to the flip side. Morris is a gregarious and energetic guy. He’s great in the setting of a five-minute news conference, but, even there, he sometimes says way more than he should. Putting cameras on Morris virtually all the time could bring all sorts of potential downsides.

Morris is quite capable of saying or doing something controversial. So are most of his players. The Bucs have a pretty good group of guys in their locker room, but they’re the youngest team in football and young people tend to not always say or do the right thing. Even a veteran like Kellen Winslow demonstrates the downside. Winslow has been pretty well behaved and low key since coming to Tampa Bay. But he generally stays out of the locker room when the media are around. With cameras and microphones on him all day, that might be too much of a window for Winslow.

From past years of “Hard Knocks,’’ we know the featured team gives the television crew almost total access. That’s a great way for fans to get a feel for what a team is all about. But every NFL team, heck, every large group of people, has some warts and there are certain things that should remain private.

If the Bucs go down this road, there will be no privacy. Everything they do will be under the microscope. I’m not saying doing the show is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s some of both. All I’m saying is, if the Bucs decide to open the window to their house, they better be prepared for the good and the bad aspects that will come.