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What We Learned From ‘Hard Knocks,’ Episode 1

Baker Mayfield gets a lesson in RV sewage disposal, while Jarvis Landry blesses his teammates with a new mantra

HBO Sports/Ed Mulholland

No Hard Knock Life is harder than that of the Cleveland Browns. Coming off the second 0-16 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 MVPs: Drew Stanton and Tyrod Taylor

The dominant story of Browns training camp has been Baker Mayfield’s RV. The vehicle, which showed up on the first day of camp and has served as the Browns quarterbacks clubhouse. Mayfield didn’t acknowledge to reporters whether non-quarterbacks could get in, and Taylor didn’t acknowledge it even existed when asked about it. Now we know why everyone has been so secretive. Baker didn’t decide to buy the RV. The other quarterbacks made him buy the RV.

“Most position groups do team dinners and make the rookies pay for it,” Baker says. “Not here. Not the Cleveland Browns. I had to get an RV. For training camp. So good thing I signed last night.”

We see Baker getting the lowdown from the RV salesman, and based on their conversation, 90 percent of owning an RV is sewage disposal.

“Chances are you’re going to have someone come in and pump it out for you. I doubt you got a dump station here,” the salesman says, apparently unaware that he was at Cleveland Browns headquarters. He also gives Baker helpful advice, like what to do if he runs out of toilet paper (Walmart has RV-friendly biodegradable brands) and how to efficiently decompose the waste matter (there are special tablets he can flush). Baker, demonstrating wisdom beyond his years, institutes a strict no-bathroom policy in the RV.

While Baker shelled out for the RV, Brogan Roback (fourth-string quarterback, first-string name) is charged with restocking the RV every night with snacks for Tyrod and Drew. “Drew” is Drew Stanton, a career journeyman who is kind of a bully about the RV. Roback has to fluff Stanton’s pillows and buy the right protein bars.

“If I don’t lay things out the right way and the presentation is poor, they’re gonna have my ass,” says Roback, the first person in NFL history to be afraid of Drew Stanton.

Stanton takes issue with Roback’s attention to detail, and Roback calls him ungrateful.

“High expectations, Rogan,” Stanton says. “Not ungrateful. High expectations.”

This is how you change a culture.

What We Learned

Eight days before training camp, Hue Jackson’s brother died. Shortly into training camp, his mother died, too.

“You kept her together for so long,” Jackson tells his sister, Kimberley, on the phone. “It’s only me and you now, girl.”

Jackson was consoled by front-office personnel, coaches, and players throughout the episode. When a group that includes GM John Dorsey hugs Jackson, he begins to cry. Jackson sits down at his desk, hiding his face behind his hands from the cameras.

“You can’t keep it all bottled up,” one executive tells Jackson.

Jackson thanks them for coming, he tells them he loves them, they leave, and we watch him alone. The moment lingers for a long time — possibly too long on HBO’s part — as Jackson cries into his hands and talks to himself, trying to pull himself together. An hour later, Jackson is coaching and directing players on the field at practice.

Baker Mayfield Update of the Week

We see Baker arrive at his hotel a day earlier than other players to sign his contract. He gets to the room first and pretends to consider what bed roommate Nick Chubb would prefer (“that one”) before taking the bed he obviously wanted. Then he starts thinking about dinner.

“Bob Evans is really good. I didn’t know Bob Evans was a chain,” Baker says before a moment of reflection. “This Olive Garden is probably the best option.” (That’s rookie decision-making if I’ve ever seen it.)

Even signing his contract is a fun affair for Baker. Reading through the language, his agent explains all the different ways he can violate his deal.

“Does that say skydiving?” Baker asks. “I wouldn’t go skydiving anyway.”

His agent explains he can skydive as long as he doesn’t get hurt, and he can also hang glide, rock climb, race—

“I’ll pass,” Baker says. He signs the deal as Dorsey compliments his penmanship. Later, Baker is asked to stand at the front of the room and, like other rookies, announce his signing bonus and his alma mater. The entire room goes “ooooooohhhhhh” after hearing his bonus. After Hue Jackson assures him the entire team would sing along to any song he picks, Baker belts out a rendition of “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” It’s a questionable choice considering West Virginia was a conference rival. Also, nobody sang along.

“Athletes: They’re Just Like Us” Moment of the Week

Nick Chubb getting asked at baggage claim whether he played college ball gets an honorable mention, as does defensive end Carl Nassib trying to explain compound interest to his fellow defensive linemen (Nassib uses a 10 percent interest rate as an example, so maybe athletes aren’t like us). The most relatable moment, however, comes from the Browns’ starting quarterback.

You know that feeling when your birthday is coming up, but you’re worried other people don’t know, so you find a way to insert it into a conversation? That was Tyrod Taylor on Hard Knocks this week. Instead of doing it once, he mentioned it every chance he got. Tyrod’s most used phrase this week was “My birthday is on Friday,” which screams, “Please, will someone hang out with me on Friday?” Taylor’s strategy pays off when Jackson makes the entire team sing “Happy Birthday” to him after practice. Who knows whether his teammates came out with him that night (or whether Roback brought a cake back to the RV; I bet he forgot to get candles), but at least Tyrod found one person who would hang out with him.

Quote of the Week: “Bless ’em”

After a particularly disappointing practice where Jarvis Landry and Hue Jackson were visibly frustrated with the effort of Cleveland’s pass catchers, Jarvis Landry asked whether he could address the receivers room.

“Fellas, I don’t know what the fuck is going on here, and I don’t know why it’s been going on here,” Landry says, “But if you not hurt, like your hamstring ain’t falling off the fucking bone, or your leg ain’t broke, I don’t even know, you should be fucking practicing. Straight up. That shit is weakness, and that shit is contagious as fuck. And that shit ain’t gonna be in this room, bruh. That shit been here in the past and that’s why the past has been like it is. That shit is over with here.”

The words land because Landry, who the team acquired in a trade this offseason and signed to a five-year extension with $47 million guaranteed, spends the episode walking the walk. His workouts include catching medicine balls one-handed while balancing on a Bosu ball with one foot, which explains why his dazzling one-handed catches look so effortless. In practice, Landry’s aggressive work ethic routinely rises above the other players on the field. Every catch he makes is inevitably punctuated by “bless you,” which he delivers with a sincerity that is more effective than actual trash-talking.

“‘Bless ’em’ is pretty much: God gave us this ability to be a blessing to other people, so it’s no different than coming out here and going against a DB; we gotta bless ’em,” Landry explains. “It ain’t gotta be Sunday for them to get the work.”

Every moment he has, he tells his wide receiver teammates to bless the defenders. His speech diagnosing Cleveland’s contagious attitude was a crucial callout, but “bless ’em” has the potential to become a season-long rallying cry.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.