The Atlanta Falcons will be the featured team on HBO's Hard Knocks this summer, the team announced Thursday. The series will begin on Aug. 5.
The long-running documentary series, entering its ninth season, follows one NFL team as it goes through training camp in preparation for the season. The Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets have been featured most recently.
The Falcons will be doing the show for the first time, though owner Arthur Blank and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have reportedly been interested for several years. ESPN reported in 2012 that the team had extensive internal discussions at every level of the organization about being featured, before ultimately declining the opportunity.
This season's series will focus on a team that saw its record drop precipitously in 2013. The Falcons were considered potential Super Bowl contenders, before injuries ravaged key players in what was supposed to be a high-powered offense. Those injuries left an underwhelming defense overexposed. Atlanta fell to 4-12 after going 13-3 with a trip to the NFC Championship Game game during the 2012 season.
Blank released a statement in conjunction with the announcement, via the team's official site:
"We are excited about the opportunity to give our fans a behind the scenes look at what it takes to prepare an NFL team for the rigors of a 16-game regular season and beyond," said Falcons Owner & Chairman Arthur M. Blank. "This marks the first time that our franchise will be featured on HARD KNOCKS and we look forward to showcasing our great players and coaches to football fans all across America."
Beginning Tuesday, Aug. 5, five hour-long episodes will be shown at 10 p.m. ET on the same day each week, culminating in a Sept. 2 season finale. Each week's episode will be replayed at 11 p.m. every Wednesday.
The Falcons will be the seventh different team to be featured on Hard Knocks. The Bengals (2009, 2013) and Cowboys (2002, 2008) have been featured multiple times. The Baltimore Ravens (2001) were the first subject of the series. Joining those three teams have been the Kansas City Chiefs (2007), the Jets (2010) and the Dolphins (2012).
Obviously, this is great exposure for the Falcons and an opportunity to get the kind of national love that sometimes eludes this team. It also is going to be a sharply divisive show for Falcons fans, with some already excited and others viewing it as an unnecessary distraction after a 4-12 2013 season. I'm not 100% certain how I feel about this yet-the announcement blindsided me-but as a fan of the team, I'm at least going to enjoy getting deeper insight into the players from the show.