Transcripts: 'Hard Knocks' press conference

Houston Texans TranscriptsOwner Robert C. McNair and Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith and NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers and NFL Films Director Matt Dissinger 'Hard Knocks' Press Conference(Transcribed by Omar Majzoub)

Owner Robert C. McNair
(opening statement) "Well, we're delighted that NFL Films and HBO are going to be with us for Training Camp. It's a great opportunity to showcase our team. We in Houston know our team. We know our players. We know our coaches. We love them. We support them. We have great fun with it, but there are a lot of people around the country who aren't familiar with us. So, this is an opportunity for them to get to know what a great team and great organization we have. We're delighted to have y'all with us, Ken (Rodgers)."

NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers
(opening statement) "Thank you Mr. McNair and Mr. Smith for having us. I say 'us' because Matt (Dissinger) and I really represent two companies up here today. Like most people in the room, HBO Sports President Ken Hershman's travel plans were impacted by the weather here in Houston, so he couldn't be here today. The thoughts of both companies and I know the Texans are with all those in the Houston area effected by the floods. I'd also like to thank Jamey Rootes, Kevin Cooper and his staff with a special thanks to Amy Palcic who, while driving myself and Matt back from dinner the other night, let us crash in her car until 2 a.m. while we were trapped by the floods. We appreciate that. It was a 'welcome to Houston' moment for us. Of course, deepest thanks to Coach (Bill) O'Brien for allowing us unprecedented access into the practice fields, offices, even homes of himself, the staff, and his team. Producing this show is something that HBO and NFL Films never take for granted and we're extremely grateful for that opportunity. A lot of people ask, 'do I have to have HBO to watch Hard Knocks?' The answer to the question is yes, but there's multiple ways to see the show. Certainly, we would love for everyone to tune in for the premieres starting Tuesday night, August 11th at 9:00 p.m. central. You can also watch OnDemand on HBO OnDemand or on your mobile device on HBO Go. For the first time this year, you can watch on HBO Now, which is a streaming, OnDemand service that doesn't require a cable subscription. There's many ways to watch, we hope everybody will. This will be the 10th year that NFL Films has partnered with HBO on Hard Knocks. It's the first time we've featured a team in this division, but we're far from strangers to Houston. NFL Films has a long tradition and appreciation for the city, it's history of professional football, and for the fans of the region. Starting from the championship days pre-merger, through the Luv Ya Blue era, and starting in 2002 here with the Texans, we love this city. We love this franchise and we're really looking forward to showing all of those things to the rest of the country. In fact, I believe Steve Sabol and Mr. McNair discussed Hard Knocks as long as seven or eight years ago, so this has been a long time coming. On behalf of NFL Films and HBO, we're again thrilled to be here. Thank you for having us."

Owner Robert C. McNair
(on how much he had to convince Head Coach Bill O'Brien to do Hard Knocks) "Well, Coach has been involved when he was at Penn State. He had a lot of filming activity, so he's no stranger to this. The main thing that were going to emphasize is this is something that is not going to be a distraction for us. We're going to go ahead and carry out our duties as we normally would. I think after a day or two everybody will be used to having the people around and it will be practice and business as usual. I think that it will give everybody in the country an opportunity to get to know our coach better. He's a great coach, great personality, and I think people will see that."

Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith
(on his comfort level with the Hard Knocks access) "We're very comfortable. We've got, as was mentioned, NFL Films and HBO Sports, we trust them implicitly to handle our preparation. You go to training camp for two primary reasons, to get your football team ready for the season and to figure out who the best 53 men are to accomplishyour goals. We feel like that by no stretch of the imagination is this going to prevent us from doing that. We feel very comfortable. We trust them. It's a great partnership. They've put a goof product out before so, from that standpoint, just as Bob said, we will operate and function just like we always do. There is a part of the editing process that we are a part of, but we trust them to make sure that we're well represented."

NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers
(on Hard Knocks having the trust of the team) "I would say the show thrives off that trust. It's something that pre-dates myself, before I was actually even born. The first time NFL Films shot a training camp, we wired Coach Vince Lombardi in 1967. That was my former boss, Steve Sabol, who was the cameraman that day. As partners with the teams, we've been shooting training camp every year. Way before Hard Knocks, we had specials on the birth of the Buccaneers, where we followed the Buccaneers for the entire preseason in their inaugural season. Since 2001, we've been doing this show. The trust is there because of the quality programming and the fact that we are interested in documenting truth. We will show what is happening here at training camp. There's no preconceived notions going in of 'oh, here's the storyline for this year and the Texans.' If you were to ask what's this show going to be about, I will say whatever the Texans goals are for this preseason. We'll show it honestly. We'll show it fully. I think that's why teams embrace the show and the ones who have been on the show have been extremely happy with the portrayal because it's the truth. It's exactly how it happened at camp."

Owner Robert C. McNair
(on what Head Coach Bill O'Brien said about being on Hard Knocks) "Well, we had discussions about it. The main thing is that we're not going to be doing anything that's going to give any of our opponents a competitive advantage and NFL Films understands that. Really that's not what they're trying to represent and present, so that was the main focus of any discussion. I think we're all comfortable with it."

(on his initial reaction to the idea) "Well, was this the best time for us to be doing this? Because we've considered it at other times. I think it is a good time for us. I think our franchise is ready to make a big move. We feel like we have a good team, but I think we're going to be a better team this year then we were last year. We just want to keep climbing and keep improving. I think it's an interesting story for people around the country to see what's happening with our franchise."

(on showing training camp when profanity is used) "Maybe we'll watch our language better, who knows? I think that training camp is an emotional time. Its hard work. You got a lot of players out there. People competing for a job for their lively hood. There's an awful lot of energy, an awful lot of activity. People are going to show their emotions, so that will be part of it. We'll try to be as clean as we possibly can."

NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers
(on showing training camp when profanity is used) "I'll also note that the premiere of each episode airs in primetime, as does the replay on Wednesday nights. But there are many re-airs during the day that are censored versions for those young fans who want to watch this team. They can watch during non-primetime hours and see a cleaner version of the same show."

(on if he censors or bleeps profanity) "We actually do both. When we can, we pull out the words completely. If the mouths are moving, we will beep. Sometimes there's even song lyrics that we want to make more family-friendly, so HBO is very committed to having both those audiences, as is the NFL. This is the one time of year where we present a documentary this real and this in-depth. This isn't a game recap. This is full coverage of five weeks of camp. The league has been very great in supporting this sort of treatment, but we want to make sure there are options available for our younger fans."

NFL Films Director Matt Dissinger
(on what storylines there will be with the Texans) "There's, of course, storylines, but we've learned to go in without preconceived notions as I said. We'll come up with 25 or so storylines going into camp that we think are storylines. A lot of them will be called from those in the room here (media). We'll certainly be reading and following everyone. We'll be here on the ground researching as well. Once we get to camp, we sort of let those storylines play out or not play out. The best part of the show are often the storylines that come out of nowhere and that we couldn't have seen coming. A young, bowling ball fullback nicknamed 'The Terminator' in New York wasn't somebody on our list. That same year, a real quiet kid named Danny Woodhead was on the show. We didn't target him as a star of the show going in and he became an important player for the Patriots and Coach (Bill) O'Brien later that year when he left the Jets. I think it would be very easy to say, 'here are the stars of the team, this is going to be the show.' That's really not the case. We follow whatever is happening and that's often a surprise to us. We really don't have many preconceived notions going into what episode one will entail. I can tell you that Coach O'Brien will appear. I can probably name some other players, but other than that who knows?"

Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith
(on if the players know and their reaction) "Well, Coach (Bill) O'Brien informed the team about this. Their reaction, I would guess without speaking for them. I can't, I haven't talked to any of them. But our guys understand that our focus is football and preparing. We had a great OTA start today. They're out there working extremely hard. They've had good sessions up to this point in the offseason program. That's their focus and I suspect that will remain their focus."

Owner Robert C. McNair
(on what's different this year than in years past that made them chose to be on Hard Knocks this season) "Well, I just felt like number one, I think we have a terrific coaching staff. I like them very much. I think that we have a number of players, you know J.J. is almost the face of the league, he's certainly the face of our franchise, we have a number of interesting stories. We have three good quarterbacks who are going to be competing for a position, we've brought in veterans like (NT) Vince Wilfork who would come in and work with some of the younger players and give us a little strengthening in the middle of the line. We've got other people in the defensive secondary and some young guys coming along. I just think there are a lot of interesting stories there, fans around the country who will be delighted to see."

NFL Films Director Matt Dissinger
(on techniques and skills used to gain the high quality shots used in Hard Knocks) "What we have on the ground is about five to six crews, two to three people per crew, and those are the man cameras that we have. We also have up to eight robotic cameras that we place in the coaches offices. What eventually happens inevitably in every one of these camps is that we blend into the background, and some point between weeks one and two, inevitably a coach or player will say, man I don't even notice you guys are around anymore. Once you get to that level of comfort and relaxation and trust, I think that's when people let their guard down and can't help but act naturally."

NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers
"Our footprint is actually super small when you think about what's on the show and how much material is on the show. Matt and his crew are under 30 people that will be here. It's out on practice, those five crews of three people each, you're talking 15 to 16 people at practice, and everyone who's been at practice knows that's not much of a footprint. Really has a lot to do with the wiring, we can shoot far away and pick up things that are happening without being in peoples faces. That's really a credit to our technological staff, our cameramen and our audio technicians. The simple answer is when Matt and his crew get here, their first goal is to make great television, and their second is to stay out of the way. By staying out of the way, they gain more material from the players and coaches."

NFL Films Director Matt Dissinger
(on when they determine to start and end shooting during the day) "The answer is before anyone gets here and after everyone leaves. That's one thing that I pride myself on and my crew, is that we put in the hours, we put in the training camp hours. These are, as long days as anyone on the team has, we want to be here longer. That's how this type of show gets made. If you're not here all the time you're not going to be able to capture the best show. Not all of my crew are going to have to work those hours, I'll manage it, but we pride ourselves on being here all the time."

Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith
(on teams who have been on Hard Knocks in the past not having great records) "I will say this, over the years historically, there's been some concern about competitive advantages that people may have from watching the show and what I will tell you is those concerns have really been mitigated by two things. I think we're in a different age, access to our players and what we're doing in practices is just so much increased that I don't know that they get that much more information. Then secondly, over the years as we've talked about this and obviously making the decision on having the invitation to do it this year, the level of trust that's been developed by us watching the show as well as the conversations that we've had with respect to their information and knowledge of what's competitively a problem and what's not. Then again, we have a part of the editorial process that if there's anything that's there that we think might hurt us from a competitive standpoint, we have the ability to make sure that that gets eliminated."

NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers
(on teams who have been on Hard Knocks in the past not having great records) "I'll note that we will not take credit for the last five teams to appeared on Hard Knocks that have a better record than the year before they were on Hard Knocks, but we also don't feel we're in any way to blame when the team has a rough season. We have so much respect for what it takes to win football games, that if we thought it was a distraction or affected on-the-field performance at all, well the league wouldn't allow it, the teams wouldn't allow it, I don't think we would allow it because we grew up under Steve Sabol and his respect for the teams and what the sport means. Every play of every game has more importance than whether or not you appear on Hard Knocks when it comes to your win and loss record. It's a great television show and it's for the fans. As I said, our second goal next to making great television is to stay out of the way."

NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers
(on if coming to Houston last year to cover the Atlanta Falcons pushed their decision to chose the Texans this year) "I think one thing we saw was not necessarily the players or team because we were covering the Falcons, while the Texans were really great in welcoming us to camp, they knew that we were only covering the Falcons. So we didn't have a chance to put microphones on any Texans and that's not something we really did a lot of reconnaissance of, but we did see a great fan base and the practices here being something that generated a lot of excitement locally, and that's something we look for strongly is a fan base that's interested in camp because the energy at camp is really great when fans are there. You can feel it through the microphones and cameras, you can feel the players are amped up when the fans are out there, and the fans just bring a great level. We've rarely seen a camp as exciting as the one when we came here last year. Although we had been thinking about the Texans for quite a while as a possibility on the show, our couple days here last year really helped cement the fact that this is a great city and franchise to cover."

NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers
(on if they will be able to show behind the scenes access to injuries that happen) "If it doesn't affect competitive balance. Injuries are part of camp, certainly there are some injuries that are more sensitive than others, we've had plenty of tough, season ending injuries on the show. I think that's something that we don't expect access to be denied but we certainly don't want to affect any competitive balance whether it's in the preseason or in the regular season. If there's a knee injury and it's public, we're not going to show what the time table is if it's not public because we feel that might affect preparation for week one, two, three or four, that's a sensitive area and something we're well aware of at NFL Films to keep our eye on."

Owner Robert C. McNair
(on what he hopes people around the country take away about the Texans during Hard Knocks) "Well first of all, the last year has not been the best year for public relations for the NFL. Our team has not had the kind of problems that existed with many teams. I think it's a wonderful opportunity for the rest of the country to see that we've got a first class group of players and coaches and this is the way we would like to see the game presented and these are the type of participants in the game. I think it's something that can be very positive, not just for us but for the league. I'm quite proud of our players and the way they do represent us."

NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers
(on what the process for picking Hard Knocks is like) "We don't discuss the selection process in detail, but I can say as we do every year that we discuss the show with several teams. The Texans were at the very top of the list of teams we were interested in so we're thrilled to have them. I think nationally there's going to be a lot of interest in what's going on here in Houston. Certainly we've recognized that nationally there's interest in this team in the last year. I will say though that the selection process sort of has this reputation of kind of being cloak and dagger, and you have to understand, NFL Films works with the teams, all 32 clubs, year round. So this isn't like asking someone out on a first date, we're working with these teams year-round. We've mic'ed Coach O'Brien multiple times, we spent the season with him in 2009 when he was part of the staff of the New England Patriots when we did a football life on Bill Belichick and spent the entire season with the Patriots coaching staff, we've been in the draft room with Mr. Smith, we've shot Mr. McNair in the owners booth, there's multiple projects, we produce 1000 hours a year of programming. This was like talking to a friend about the show. We consider the Texans friends and this wasn't some big ask, it was really just one of many conversations that we have about our various programming throughout the year."

NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers
(on if the Texans coaches get to see what goes on the air beforehand) "Rick alluded to it, there is a process. Tuesday mornings, the morning of air, the Texans can watch to head off any competitive balance issues that we missed. That does happen. There are sometimes phrases or single words in let's say an action montage where it's just a bunch of rapid cuts of yelling and screaming and hitting and punching sleds, and there might be one word in there and it might be 'dogpile', and we don't know what that is it's in there, and the coach will say hey that's one of our audible calls can you take that out, and we'll do so. Again, our role isn't to help other teams for competitive balance, our goal is a character driven show that really x's and o's haven't been a big part of this show because the HBO audience is watching things like Game of Thrones and they're looking for characters, they're looking for stories, they're not really looking for the x's and o's breakdowns that you can find on other networks."

Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith
(on if the Texans will have the same number of public practices as in previous years) "We are in the process of finalizing all of those dates. We are still looking at exactly how we're going to organize practice, but we would have as many as we've had, it would be just as we've done it in the past. We'll have those open practices like we've done in the past."

NFL Films Supervising Producer Ken Rodgers
(on if the NFL Films staff will be following the team to New Orleans for the preseason scrimmage) "We will be following the team, New Orleans and the Saints won't be part of the story line, we'll be following just as we followed the Falcons here last year, we'll be following the team to their home and away games, so that'll be part of the story is their trip to New Orleans. But again it's not, not that that team has anything to do with Hard Knocks, we'll be following the Texans as they travel not the team on the other side of the line of scrimmage."

Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Rick Smith
(on General Managers on previous Hard Knocks' having a pretty significant role and if he plans to embrace that) "I don't know that I'm embracing that, this is an emotional time during, it just depends on what the conversation is. If we've got an extension or something like that I'll be happy. It is an emotional time, it's a tough time, those conversations are not taken lightly and so again, part of the reason why this is such a successful show is it's an organic show and it shows the reality of pro football. There are times when that's not a fun part of the experience. I think our football team will be ourselves and I think that's all we're being asked to do. I think we represent, we handle those situations as sensitively as we can and as professionally as we can and we'll continue to do that."

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