The doors of the Dolphins’ inner sanctum open for public consumption this week, as “Hard Knocks” begins a weekly series taking viewers behind the scenes of the league’s highest-scoring team.
NFL Films staffers have been ubiquitous inside Dolphins headquarters during the past week, mounting cameras inside meeting rooms and other areas typically reserved for players and coaches.
At least eight episodes will air at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on HBO and the network’s streaming service. The series could run as long as 12 episodes if the Dolphins make the Super Bowl.
How intrusive have the cameras been?
“Honestly, I forgot all about it until I walked in,” linebacker Jerome Baker said. “We’re professionals. We say we don’t like the cameras, but a little bit in us, we all know we’re excited for it. It’s a little invasive, but with any media, if you know how to use it, it can be to your advantage.
“There are so many personalities in this locker room. I think they’re all going to love it. [NFL Films/HBO] have little cameras in the corners [of team and position meeting rooms] but you don’t really see it. Once you get in rolling and looking at plays, you’re not paying attention to anything except doing our jobs.”
Mike White said the Dolphins’ quarterbacks have had fun with the cameras in their room.
“The first day cameras were in there, Tua [Tagovailoa] made a joke, said something and we all looked at each other like, ‘that doesn’t sound like him,’” White said. “And then he immediately laughed. It’s fun. You know in ‘The Office’ [the popular former NBC sitcom] how they will pan and look to the camera? We’ll try to do that a couple times just to have fun with it.”
White said cameras were installed in the “top corners” of the Dolphins’ quarterback room.
“When you first hear about ‘Hard Knocks,’ you’re iffy about it [and wonder] is it going to be a different” working environment.
But “we’ve cultivated such a good culture and environment here, you really don’t notice it,” White said. “They’ll be sometimes you walk in and are like, ‘Oh that’s right, there’s cameras in here. They do a pretty good job of lurking in the shadows and not bothering us too much. Going into it, I thought a lot was going to change. Kudos to Mike [McDaniel] and the environment. He’s made sure it hasn’t changed anything. It hasn’t been bad.”
Right tackle Austin Jackson said ‘Hard Knocks’ cameras accompanied the offensive linemen to their weekly dinner at a Fort Lauderdale waterfront restaurant last week.
“It was a cool experience,” Jackson said. “Not often do you get to be on television.”
As for NFL Films cameras inside the team facility, Jackson said he “very aware” of them but appreciates that “they don’t interrupt stuff.”
The Dolphins did not volunteer to do “Hard Knocks” — “I wouldn’t call it a team decision,” McDaniel has said.
But NFL teams have the authority to tell HBO and NFL Films to remove anything they want cut from the show before it airs.
McDaniel said last month that the Dolphins initially were “worried about some of the competitive advantages leaving the building. In our short talks with the league and HBO, we’ve had those” concerns allayed.
“We will take it for exactly what it is and make sure that we use it only to our advantage,” McDaniel said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing for people to see our day-in, day-out hard work. I know there’s a lot of guys on this team that will garner interest, really.
“I think that a platform for them to showcase who they are and really the fan base to get to know the players and coaches better, I can understand the value to the National Football League, to HBO, to NFL Films, and I can understand the value for the Miami Dolphins.”
“Hard Knocks” is best known as a training camp series, but HBO began airing in-season episodes in 2021 with the Indianapolis Colts. The Arizona Cardinals were featured last year.