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HARD KNOCKS: Don’t Hurt the Merchandise


July 28, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running backs coach Hue Jackson (middle) talks with tight end

Orson Charles

(80) and running back Rex Burkhead (33) during training camp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports


A.J. Green wearing a KC Royals hat.


"“You got drafted where you got drafted. All of us know now the draft don’t mean nothin’ now. This is a competition. The best men are going to be the guys this organization keeps. What you guys are about to embark on is different than anything you’ve ever dealt with. You gotta bring your A-game. These are a bunch of grown men that are going to fight to keep their jobs and your job is to take their job.When we say it is time to go, it is time to go.” – Hue Jackson"


James Harrison scares the crap out of me, and I think he scares HBO camera guys, too.

James Harrison scares the crap out of me, and I think he scares Marvin Lewis, too.

“We took him bowling and he said, ‘I’m going to kick someone’s ass,’” Lewis said. “That’s how he goes through life.”

James Harrison scares the crap out of me, and I think he scares Jay Gruden, too.

Gruden: We don’t touch the merchandise (A.J. Green) ever. [A.J. Green hangs around uncomfortably.]

Harrison: The merchandise is going to get touched.

Gruden: Not by you, not without pads.

Harrison: The merchandise comes this way, it’s going to get touched. Okay, I like touching merchandise.

Gruden: Our future relies on this motherf—er. [Points to Green.]

[Green appears to be extremely uncomfortable.]

Harrison: The future relies on him – I’m not going to kill him, but I’m not going to let him get his job done.

Gruden: [Visibly concerned.] Just relaxed.

Harrison: I ain’t goin’ to kill him. But I ain’t going to let him get his job done because that means I ain’t doin’ mine. You understand?

Gruden: Relax.

Harrison: [Raises voice.] Understand?

[Green prays to himself that Harrison is kidding around, Gruden may be on the verge of tears.]

Gruden: Do you understa-

Harrison: [Yelling] Do we understand each other?! That’s all I need to know.

[Gruden forces a laugh.]

Gruden: We do, man, we do. [Slaps Harrison’s hand.] I’m sorry, man, I’m sorry.

[Harrison has not smiled throughout this conversation.]


Gruden: But, seriously, man, don’t hurt this motherf—er.

[Gruden laughs and walks away while Harrison continues to not back down from his original statement.]

Really, the dude has a disturbing intensity. To drive this home HBO showed Harrison doing his best to avoid the cameras, shutting doors in front of them and turning away during a radio interview so the cameras couldn’t see his face. When there wasn’t an escape hatch, Harrison could be found giving the camera’s the finger and covering the camera with his hand. Mixed in with this are highlights of Harrison crushing players in practice and in games with his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A good five minutes of the show is dedicated to the insanity of James Harrison.

On one of the plays HBO shows, Harrison fills a gap to take on a fullback who is attempting to open a hole for rookie running back Giovani Bernard. The fullback in question is Orson Charles, a tight end selected in the fourth round by the Bengals in 2012. He was lined up as a fullback this time, and asked to lead Bernard to the edge of the right side of the line.

He never got there.

Harrison was in the backfield before Charles could take three steps. Harrison took him on so hard he essentially tackled Bernard along with flattening Charles. It was practice, yes, but it was the best highlight of the episode by far.

Harrison is simply a nasty guy.

So, of course, of the four injuries that occur in the episode, none of them comes at the hands of Harrison. In fact, none of the injuries occur from contact. Two players hurt themselves from diving for a ball – one hit his head a little too hard* and another has his ankle accidentally stepped on while trying to avoid his teammate who was rolling on the ground.

A.J. Green, the receiver who really looked like the thought Harrison wanted to kill him, nearly tore his ACL by awkwardly landing on his left leg while chasing after an over thrown pass. There was very little, if any, contact on that play.

The worst and saddest injury happened to rookie Larry Black. A four-year starter at Indiana, an undrafted free agent, and native of the Cincinnati area, Black was depicted as one of the few outside shots to make the 53-man roster as a nose tackle. He was the hometown hero who everyone was bound to be rooting for by the final show on September 3rd.

But during a drill Black had his leg stepped on while he tried to break through a block to get to the ball carrier. His ankle was dislocated and leg broken. The scene of him calling his family to let them know he was heading to the hospital because he was injured as he cried tear the size of my head was heartbreaking to watch. Here was a dream lost – at least for now – after a simple misstep by a teammate.

It turns out protecting the merchandise is harder than one would think.

Maybe Jay Gruden should have had that conversation with fate instead of James Harrison.


– “I’m like Si on Duck Dynasty.” Marvin Lewis

– “Every blue moon” Adam Jones doesn’t consider fill up his gas tank for his expensive vehicle.

– “No farting in my office.” Random whiteboard messages.

– Former Kansas Jayhawks lineman Tanner Hawkinson made two appearances on the show, including a brief monologue about preparing for the Oklahoma drill.