No hard-knock life is harder than that of the Cleveland Browns. Coming off the second 0-16 season in NFL history, the Browns drafted one of the most exciting QB prospects to enter the league in years and added veterans that say they hope to change the culture. The team is giving an all-access look at their progress for Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Cleveland Browns, and we’ll be breaking down each episode with what you need to know.
Episode MVP: Todd Haley
Todd Haley is the breakout star of Hard Knocks through two episodes. It started in Episode 1, when he went back and forth with head coach Hue Jackson about resting players and made this face while listening to Jackson speak.
Haley, who has never been known for his people skills, outdid himself in Episode 2. He accidentally lobbied for “No Love” by Eminem and Lil Wayne to be played in the episode, and he roasted defensive end and self-appointed financial guru Carl Nassib.
“Can you imagine seeing a little baby and naming him Carl?” Haley said. “Ohhhh here, Carl lil’ coochy coochy coo. Caaarlllll. Seems like you only get that name later in life.”
Haley’s barbs are cutting, concise, and as strangely endearing as they are funny. Unlike defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who yells for the sake of yelling, Haley is always getting a point across.
The best moment from Haley—and of the entire episode—came during the team’s preseason game against the Giants after wide receiver Antonio Callaway scores a long touchdown. Haley turned to wide receiver Jarvis Landry on the sideline and told him to mentor Callaway, who is immensely gifted but has faced off-field issues.
“Hey, you need to take that kid on,” Haley said. “I don’t care if he’s fucking living at your fucking house. We can’t have him fuck up. Can you do that? … You got all this passion, just take the kid under your wing. Larry Fitzgerald would.”
Best Fly on the Wall Moment: Antonio Callaway’s Week
Some of the best moments of watching Hard Knocks come when we get to see how the headlines surrounding the team developed in real time. The main event this week seemed like it would be receiver Corey Coleman, who was traded to the Buffalo Bills last Sunday. (As defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah described the 2020 seventh-round pick the Browns got in return for Coleman, “That’s like saying, ‘Here, we don’t need your ass.’”) Yet Coleman asked for a trade, was granted one, showed off his weirdly large shoe collection, and said “Adios, Cleveland” all within the first four minutes of the episode.
Instead, the moments truly worth being a fly on the wall for involved Coleman’s replacement. The first practice after the Coleman trade, Callaway looked tired and rattled beyond all hell in what was supposed to be his coming-out party. Players and coaches kept asking him whether he was OK.
“You gotta hydrate or anything? You OK?” Haley asked.
Callaway, perhaps sensing that he was mic’d and on camera, froze.
“Need a hug or anything? You OK?” Haley asked. “You look like a puppy dog. You look like a little puppy dog! Come on. We need you. We need you.”
Of course, we knew what had happened. Callaway, a first-round talent who fell to the fourth round in 2018 because of an allegation of sexual assault—which he was ultimately cleared of—credit card fraud, and a failed drug test at the draft combine, was cited for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license at 2:59 a.m. on Sunday, August 5. But the news didn’t come to light until August 7, and Callaway hadn’t yet told any of his coaches. After the news broke during the episode and the team found out, Jackson and general manager John Dorsey called a meeting and invited Callaway to “stay a while.” Callaway explained there was a roach in his car (the episode did not show him mentioning the bullets also found in the car).
Jackson told Callaway that the next time anything happens, he has to call Dorsey or Jackson, and then addressed the entire team to say everybody gets one mulligan. Then Jackson took the, um, unorthodox step of “punishing” Callaway by … making him play nearly every single snap of the preseason game against the Giants. Callaway rose to the occasion, catching three balls for 87 yards and a touchdown, but it’s still a bizarre move on Jackson’s part. Reps are a currency in training camp, and while preseason snaps may not mean much to fans, an impression in preseason games can be make or break for the players on the roster bubble. That playing an entire preseason game could ever be considered a “punishment” is a new interpretation of discipline.
Baker Mayfield Update of the Week
Baker did most of his talking with his play when he went 11-of-20 for 212 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants in the preseason opener. Still, we saw that Baker took Hue’s advice last week to heart by showing up earlier—we see him studying hard at 6:13 a.m. He also puts fourth-string quarterback Brogan Roback in his phone under his nickname “Brobie.” Brogan suggested he spell it “BRObie.”
The best Baker moment, however, came when he was talking to legendary running back Jim Brown, who told him if he ever needs anything to give him a call, and said, “We’re all behind you.”
The real question is: How many times has Jim Brown given a Cleveland quarterback this speech? Was Jim giving DeShone Kizer and Brock Osweiler this pep talk last year? Has Jim Brown recycled this speech for 30 separate quarterbacks?
“Athletes, They’re Just Like Us” Moment: Carl Nassib Not Knowing Anything About Money
Last week, defensive end Carl Nassib laid out a convincing case for teammates to save their money: compound interest! Nassib explained that with a 10 percent interest rate, players could double their money in seven years and be worth billions of dollars. This week, offensive lineman Anthony Fabiano questioned Nassib’s financial forecasting and mentioned that even hedge funds struggle to get a 10 percent return.
“It’s called the Rule of Seven!” Nassib sniped back. “If you get 10 percent on your returns, you double it every seven years. Fight Tony Robbins about it—he’s my hero.”
Nassib said that the American economy has grown by 10 percent annually for 90 years, and the two begin to argue over whether that information can be projected forward as financial advice. I won’t tell you who won the argument, but I’ll just say Fabiano went to Harvard, while Nassib admitted earlier in the episode, “I started reading shit because I noticed I was getting stupider.”
Gentle Giant of the Week: Myles Garrett
I’ll be damned, Myles Garrett is a poet and now we all know it. He loves to rhyme, he explained, and writes whenever he can fit in the time—lunch, downtime, whenever. He said people want him to write about sacking the quarterback, but he writes poetry to take his mind off of football.
“I was a boy who liked to write before I was a man who liked to hit people,” Garrett said. “I’m not going to change for anyone, not gonna hide who I am. I’m going to stay true to myself.”
The camera cut to Garrett doing pass-rushing skill work before Garrett got into a tussle with tackle Greg Robinson. The poetry is an escape, but there’s no escaping football.
Quote of the Week: Devon Cajuste
Hard Knocks loves to home in on a few unheralded players unlikely to make the team every year, but Cajuste’s story went from zero to 60. Cajuste, battling injuries but trying desperately to make the team, called his dad and asked him to come to training camp for emotional support. The next day, his dad got on a flight.
Devon explained his dad’s health issues: two heart attacks, a stroke, a tracheotomy, and a pacemaker. His father corrected him, saying he recently had a third heart attack he didn’t tell Devon about.
Devon learned about his father’s third heart attack on camera. It’s a real “Oh my god, is Hard Knocks making me cry?” moment.
When Devon was 13, he was told his dad had five years to live.
“I just laugh now because I’m 25 and he’s right here you know?” Devon said. “At the end of the conversation … [my dad] goes, ‘You know one thing, no matter how hard it gets, in anything you do, don’t ever quit. Don’t ever stop, don’t let somebody tell you you can’t do something. I don’t care how bad you think you can’t do something or you’re not good enough. If the world is weighing on you, we’re Cajustes, and we’re fighters, and we do not quit.’”
I am going to weep openly the day he gets cut on television. Until then, we are all Cajustes.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.