The Seattle Seahawks have never been depicted on Hard Knocks. But the reigning Super Bowl champions are prepared to provide some authentic hard knocks to NFL fans after granting ESPN special access to their training camp.
Rather than document the latest adventures of quarterback Russell Wilson, loquacious cornerback Richard Sherman and coach Pete Carroll off the field, ESPN's cameras will focus on their hyper-competitive personalities between the lines during SportsCenter Special: Seahawks Training Camp, which will air live for nearly two hours Tuesday, July 29. The show will coincide with Seattle's first padded practice of the summer.
Hopefully we can break new ground and give the fans some fresh and unique access they haven't seen before, Jay Rothman, who produces Monday Night Football for the network, told USA TODAY Sports.
There's more character development in Hard Knocks. Our show will be less personal, more football storytelling.
Rothman is planning a fast-paced, fluid program which mirrors the Seahawks' signature up-tempo practice sessions. ESPN talent MNF analyst Jon Gruden, NFL Live analyst Darren Woodson, correspondent John Clayton and host Kenny Mayne will be deployed around the Seahawks' picturesque Virginia Mason Athletic Center, which borders Lake Washington in the suburb of Renton. Gruden and Woodson will essentially be embedded on the field with the offense and defense, respectively.
The fact we get to watch the champions I know I sound like a little kid sometimes but what a way to kick off the season, Gruden told USA TODAY Sports.
Can't wait to spend the day getting an up-close idea of how intricate their practices are.
The objective, according to Rothman, is to explain to fans what's going and to be able to show the application for how (practice drills) translated into a Super Bowl win for these guys. And also to give fans an experience they haven't had before, that nobody's really seen before.
The magic is not being too much in tape (pre-packaged material), but maintaining the integrity of live (action) raw and real while sprinkling in a little flavor and really presenting a day in the life of Seahawks training camp.
Seattle practices are known for being lively.
Sherman's mouth rarely stops, Carroll is a constant whirl of enthusiasm, and the competitive spirit even extends to players fighting to get their music on the practice playlist.
Rothman attended a minicamp during the spring and remembers watching the defense's famed Legion of Boom secondary pick off six of Wilson's passes during what he described as a heated affair.
Gruden can't wait to be in the hip pocket of Wilson, whom he's followed since interviewing him for his Gruden's QB Camp pre-draft series in 2012.
The Seahawks have already provided a script of the nine-period practice to ESPN, allowing the network to dissect everything from individual drills to 9-on-7 periods to red-zone showdowns between offense and defense.
If the Pacific Northwest's infamous rain intervenes, everything will be filmed on the team's indoor field.
Unlike past training camp visits remember ESPN canvassing Tim Tebow and the New York Jets in 2012? there will be no SportsCenter desk on site. Mayne and Clayton, both longtime residents of Washington state, will float around the field and likely interact with the 3,000 12th Man fans expected to be in attendance. General manager John Schneider will grant an interview to Clayton.
But Carroll and the players will be focused on the field. Rothman hopes his cameras and talent are as transparent as possible and doesn't expect any other interviews to occur until practice's conclusion.
The genesis of this experiment occurred while Rothman randomly clicked onto his network in April and saw Baseball Tonight: Gameday, which entailed a two-hour insider's look at batting practice before a Boston Red Sox-Texas Rangers game at Fenway Park. Rothman didn't even know the project was in the works but was immediately hooked.
It was so raw, and it was so real, he says, again invoking buzzwords he's attached to his latest endeavor. I couldn't stop watching (and thought), 'Why aren't we doing this for football?'
Gruden, who has observed younger brother Jay take the coaching reins of the Washington Redskins during the offseason, admits that being in the middle of a camp practice will almost certainly fuel his coaching jones. He already knows what play he'll call if Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell gives him an opening.
He's got the read option, the stretch running game, Russell, said Gruden. But I'd probably call (running back) Marshawn Lynch's number to get just 3 yards.
Stay tuned. Rothman's not giving everything away after all.
We'll have a few tricks up our sleeve, he said.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis