Can the NFL Force the Packers to Appear on Hard Knocks in 2018?

The HBO documentary series “Hard Knocks” embeds a camera crew in an NFL locker room for training camp. The cameras capture everything, including practices, conversations in the locker room, talks between the general manager and the head coach about personnel decisions, and sideline footage during preseason games.

It’s a raw, close-as-you-can-handle look at an NFL team. You see the conversations between the coaches and players when a player is released. You see the training staff working on an injured player.

If the Packers aren’t at the very top of the NFL and HBO’s wish list for 2018, they’re in the top three. Fans travel from across the country to attend training camp in Green Bay, and unique events like the shareholders’ meeting and the tradition of players riding children’s bicycles to practice make the Packers an appealing subject.

Not to mention that 2018 marks a likely fascinating year for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers will have missed most of the previous season with a collarbone injury, and if the Packers don’t make a major change in the coaching staff, the pressure will be near an all-time high to win.

Teams generally volunteer to be the center of attention on HBO’s show, but recent years had found the league and the show’s producers struggling to find teams willing to appear.

As a result, the NFL passed guidelines in 2013 on how a team can avoid being chosen to appear on Hard Knocks.

Can the NFL force the Packers to appear on Hard Knocks in 2018?

Those guidelines outline three ways a team can avoid being required to appear on the documentary series:

  1. The team’s head coach is in his first season.
  2. The team has made the playoffs once in the previous two seasons.
  3. The team appeared on Hard Knocks once in the previous ten years.

Since the show’s debut in 2001, the Packers have not appeared on Hard Knocks. Because the Packers appeared in the playoffs during the 2016-2017 season, they would be permitted to decline to appear on Hard Knocks this offseason.

Would the Packers ever want to appear on Hard Knocks?

The decision to volunteer for Hard Knocks would likely be made by president Mark Murphy, general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy.

In October 2013, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reported both Thompson and McCarthy “would never want to be part of it.”

Andrew Brandt, a former member of the Packers’ front office, recalled a time when the league and HBO asked if Green Bay would entertain appearing on the show:

For what it’s worth, even star quarterback Aaron Rodgers would not be a fan of the series filming in Green Bay.

“I wouldn’t like that kind of intrusion,” Rodgers said in a 2013 radio interview with ESPN Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde. “I wouldn’t want that kind of access.”

Even writer Vic Ketchman tackled the question of the Packers appearing in Hard Knocks in a May 2017 “Ask Vic” column.

While it’s possible under the league’s guidelines the Packers could be required to appear on the show, Ketchman noted “the Packers don’t need the exposure or the potential for controversy and distraction that accompany the show. “Hard Knocks” subjects have traditionally been teams seeking exposure.”


Quick SlantsGary Zilavy