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‘Hard Knocks’ recap: Say hello to Gerald McCoy’s moose knuckle

As the Buccaneers play their final preseason game, stars like Jameis Winston and Mike Evans rest while fringe players fight for a place on the 53-man roster.


By eliminating the preliminary cuts that trimmed rosters from 90 to 75, the NFL created a wild day of transactions as teams went from 90 players to their final 53-man teams on September 3rd. But that also compressed a lot of the drama of Hard Knocks into the final episode — and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

The scenes of players getting cut, while often filled with awkward tension, can also be dry and static. That’s not a problem when it’s contrasted with an episode of visceral, beautifully shot football scenes set to music. When the final 25 minutes of the episode consist of different players losing their jobs (and in a few cases, regaining them by signing to the practice squad), the overall experience feels like a day at the DMV. Not exactly ideal TV.

If you missed last week’s recap from Jeanna Thomas, please check it out. Here are the highlights from the season finale:

1. Mike Evans: Super Dad

As I wrote in the Episode 1 recap, anyone who’s a dedicated father gets an automatic pass from me for life, and Mike Evans joined that club during this episode. While Evans described the tattoos he got to honor his family (and, uh, Harry Potter), he noted that his Mickey Mouse tattoo was a reminder of the letters his father sent to him as a child while his father was in prison.

And then — and I cannot believe someone signed off on this — the voiceover said, “Not all of Evans’ childhood memories are good ones.” Seriously? “Ahhh yes, I’ll always have warm memories of when Pops was in jail. Good times!”

The star wideout then described how his father chronically abused his mother, and as a result, when Evans was 9 years old, his uncle stabbed his father before ultimately shooting him to death. This horrible story — previously detailed in an E:60 profile — was softened by Evans’ outlook on life now: dedicated to showing his wife and two young daughters how a man should treat women.

I would like to hug Mike Evans.

2. Who ordered the moose knuckle?

Gerald McCoy showed up to the gym early, so the Bucs’ strength coach played McCoy’s college fight song, which sounds exactly like every other college fight song (except for Texas, which insists that “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” is a fight song). The song pumped him up, he flung his shirt off., and it occurred to me that maybe — just maybe — Gerald McCoy turns it up a little when the cameras are on him.

Still my favorite Buc, though.

3. Tampa gives the 4th preseason game the attention it deserves



[a few dozen people file into the stands]

4. Episode MVP

This is the guy who fires the cannon on the pirate ship in the Bucs’ stadium. But if he’s here, who’s managing Margaritaville?

5. This team is doomed

Third-string quarterback Sefo Liufau leads the team on a touchdown drive, and Jameis Winston is FIRED UP. He goes whooping down the sideline, jumping with excitement, and pauses to high-five Dirk Koetter ... who stoically bumps Winston’s open palm with his fist.

I’ve been reading a lot of NFL season predictions, and they’re all fine (except for those who picked the Seahawks to lose a home game in the playoffs. YOU’VE MADE A POWERFUL ENEMY). Everything is within the realm of possibility, and I appreciate the range of outcomes that comes from people with different perspectives.

But that mangled high-five has me rethinking any shot the Bucs have of making the playoffs. This guy who can’t clap for his own team scoring a touchdown is supposed to out-coach “Riverboat” Ron Rivera and Dan “the comeback was Shanahan’s fault” Quinn? (Sean Payton, I’ll concede, has already mailed in the game plan from 2011).

I say 9-7, 3rd place in the NFC South. I welcome your scorn.

6. Sefo Liufau’s time to shine!

Lookin’ like the squirrel that got its head stuck in a yogurt container.

Also, we got to meet Sefo’s girlfriend of goat-rescue fame.

Nice to have closure on that.

So long, Hard Knocks. I’m ready for the REAL season to start.