Welcome to Los Angeles, where the weather is sunny, the people are gorgeous, and the new NFL team is mediocre. Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Los Angeles Rams premiered last night, and to celebrate the 11th season of the new greatest show on turf, we’ll be breaking down each episode with what you need to know.
After an auspicious introduction, Rams center Eric Kush delivered on his promise in the season premiere by treating viewers to a guided tour of his extensive tank-top collection. The fourth-year lineman boasts a tank for every occasion, establishing a clear distinction between going-out tanks, workout tanks, classic Gold’s Gym tanks, patriotic tanks, “stringer tanks” (no idea), and “not too much, nice” tanks (for when he’s “trying to show off the arms, but not be too much about it”). According to Kush, who also brought enough socks to avoid ever having to wash a pair, tank tops are “the most important part about training camp,” and who are we to disagree?
There was a glaring lack of self-referential marijuana jokes from Kush (maybe he needs a few episodes to warm up), but he made up for it with the highlight of the episode, in a scene where he informed rookie quarterback Jared Goff precisely where his hands need to be when taking a snap:
Given HBO’s tendency to use its actors across different shows, don’t be surprised if you see Kush and Goff in the inevitable reboot of Real Sex.
Most Interesting Thing We Learned
At the beginning of training camp, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher instituted two rules: (1) be on time and (2) no guests. Pretty straightforward, right? Not for second-year wideout Deon Long, who was cut for having a female visitor in his dorm room. Now I really want to see Goff or Todd Gurley violate this rule, because I’m sure Fisher would hold them to the same standard. (Long has since caught on with the Eagles; here’s hoping that Doug Pederson is more lenient when it comes to conjugal visits.)
We also discovered that all-world defensive tackle Aaron Donald should probably be representing Team USA in table tennis at the Olympics.
Donald and fellow D-lineman Eugene Sims took on some random undergrads at a rec center on the UC Irvine campus, where the Rams are holding camp, and took a tough L, and it was clearly because of Sims. Donald gave him a vicious side-eye, and will presumably find a new doubles partner for Episode 2.
Your “We’re in L.A.!” Reminder of the Week
The episode’s opening intro depicts Los Angeles like you’ve always seen it before. As an unidentified Rams player runs along the Santa Monica coastline, bikini-clad ladies take a break from their strenuous tanning routine to gawk at him. They are lounging under a Rams umbrella, because TRUE Angelenos shill for Stan Kroenke on the beach.
If this doesn’t get you fired up to watch some football practice, then nothing will. My girl is all about the Rams — she’s probably already tatted “7–9” on her back:
Cut to Fisher coolly observing some footwork drills, then to our runner scampering along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A Jared Goff billboard hangs overhead, but he’s moving, sort of like a painting in Harry Potter. The runner travels through Beverly Hills and makes his way up to the Hollywood sign, and dramatically reveals himself to be Gurley. Get your popcorn — and In-N-Out Double-Doubles — ready.
Rudy of the Week
Goff could throw an ABC party in his dorm room with UC Irvine coeds and still not be cut, but if you didn’t know he was the Rams’ presumptive quarterback of the future, you’d probably assume he was on L.A.’s roster bubble. In practice, he throws picks, bobbles snaps, lobs ducks, and trips on air with alarming frequency. He can’t complete a fade pass to Kenny Britt to save his life, and when Weinke observes that most signal-callers are intelligent, Goff admits that he doesn’t know where the sun rises and sets. Goff earned defensive coordinator Gregg “Bountygate” Williams’s ridicule for his play-calling struggles; pissed off Fisher by purchasing window fans for the offensive players and coaches but not the defensive side (no a/c in the Irvine dorms, folks!); and copped to having an unrequited crush on Taylor Swift. Oh, and he isn’t exactly a physical marvel:
“Athletes, They’re Just Like Us” Moment of the Week
When you lead a busy life, it can be tough to fit a balanced meal into your daily schedule. Rams receiver Tavon Austin knows this struggle all too well: After eating just two bananas for lunch, he cramped up and got carted off the field during an afternoon practice. In a show of support, the fans offered Austin some polite applause, which Fisher promptly mocked: “Clap for him because he’s fucking cramping?! How ’bout drink some fucking water!”
Quote of the Week
“I’m not fucking going 7–9.” — Jeff Fisher, who’s led the Rams to a 7–9 record in two of the past three seasons.
Fisher then rattled off more records he wouldn’t be pleased with, in a bizzaro version of LeBron’s “not one, not two, not three …” speech. “Or 8–8 … or 9–7, OK? Or 10–6, for that matter!” Well, that settles it: The Rams are going 6–10 this season. Or 5–11. Or 4–12.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.