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Sunday, May 18, 2014
Circling back on Rams and Hard Knocks

By Nick Wagoner

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As the news came Friday that OWN was postponing its plans for a docuseries on St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam, it seemed to kill any chance of a distraction in the form of reality television for the team in 2014.

But there still remains another possibility that could result in the Rams being featured on the small screen. Namely, the HBO series 'Hard Knocks' has yet to announce the team it will follow during 2014's training camp. And the Rams are one of eight teams the NFL can force to participate.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher has generally been opposed to the idea and clearly wasn't enthused with the potential distraction of the Sam docuseries. The organization and the NFL had some brief discussions about putting the Rams on the show last year but those talks didn't progress.

Last week, Fisher was asked if he'd be open to the idea while appearing on Dan Patrick's radio show.

"You know I probably would have to give that some thought," Fisher told Patrick.  "I think I would prefer, actually, to maintain a sense of privacy in our building, as most coaches would. But I think we'll cross that path if we need to."

To this point, the Rams have not been formally asked to do it and there are no indications that they plan to volunteer for the job, either. But that doesn't mean the Rams are out of the mix. In fact, one could build a case that the Rams might be the most appealing of the pool of eight candidates the league can force to participate in the series.

New measures were approved in October which allows the NFL to choose a team to participate so long as it meets the following qualifications:

1. The franchise has not appeared on the show within the past 10 years.

2. The franchise has not hired a new head coach in the offseason.

3. The franchise has not reached the playoffs in either of the previous two seasons.

After that announcement was made, Fisher was asked what his opinion on the possibility was. He opted not to voice his opinion but has previously made it known it's not an idea he's too keen on. I asked multiple players what they would think of it then and that was met with multiple eye-rolls.

This time, though, the Rams might not have a choice and it would make sense if the league chose them. After Sam's agent told ESPN's NFL Live that the league was aware of plans for Sam's docuseries, the league quickly responded and made it known it was not aware of the idea nor had it approved the use of logos, brands, etc.

The Sam docuseries was postponed in no small part because the Rams were a bit taken back by it and had no plans to offer additional access. But the league can do whatever it wants and it stands to reason that if someone was going to document Sam's journey through training camp (and the rest of the team's), the NFL would want to do it via its own vehicle.

Barring a team outside of the list of eight teams who can be forced to do the show, the NFL will choose from a group that includes the Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders, in addition to St. Louis.

There are plenty of story lines there including popular teams in large markets such as the Giants and Bears. Last month, reports surfaced the league had narrowed the choices to the Steelers, Giants and Bears though those reports later proved inaccurate.

And while those choices would all make sense, none offer the historic aspect of Sam's pursuit of a roster spot combined with the overall intrigue of a young team looking to make a move in the league's toughest division.

Fisher has a longstanding relationship with the league as a prominent member of the competition committee. If indeed he doesn't want the camera crews rolling into Earth City, perhaps that could help his cause. And there are some in the Rams organization who wouldn't mind the exposure from a marketing standpoint.

Ultimately, the decision belongs to the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Rams avoided one potential television distraction already but another still lurks.