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It’s A Hard Knock Life For The Dolphins Tonight

Posted Aug 7, 2012

Vontae Davis had just come off the field at the end of a training camp practice when he met with a group of reporters.

Along with talking about several football-related issues, the fourth-year cornerback was asked whether he had noticed all the NFL Films cameras and microphones scattered around the field to gather footage for this year’s installment of “Hard Knocks.”

“I didn’t even know I was mic-ed up until somebody told me,” Davis pointed out. “I forgot I was mic-ed up. I’m just working out here to get better. Right now it’s about football.”

Indeed, it’s all about football this summer for the Dolphins, more specifically preparing for the start of the 2012 regular season.

Yes, they have embraced the opportunity to be the team featured on this year’s “Hard Knocks,” which takes viewers behind the scenes of an NFL training camp, but they’ve also made sure not to get caught up in what’s going on around them.

“You don’t even notice it, man,” said second-year center Mike Pouncey. “You’re out here practicing, trying to get better. It’s great that we have ‘Hard Knocks’ out here, but we really don’t notice it while we’re out here on the practice field.”

To compile about 300 hours of footage before it’s whittled down to 60 minutes for each of the five episodes, NFL Films cameras are everywhere - in the meeting rooms, in the locker room, even in the middle of the practice field. According to show director Rob Gehring, there are five cameras shooting at all times, along with eight robotic cameras.

That kind of intrusion can be distracting, which is why not every team likes the idea of doing the show.

But Dolphins players and coaches say they barely notice a difference.

 “The only time the (cameras) get pointed out is by you guys,” defensive end Jared Odrick told reporters. “For some guys, they’re all up in the cameras. But we’re practicing the same, if not better, knowing that there’s more eyes upon us across the world.”

NFL Films crew members get pretty close to the action at times during practice, but Odrick says they never get in the way.

“No, more referees than anything,” Odrick said. “They don’t even have to carry a camera. Just more referees. We don’t even worry about the ‘Hard Knocks’ guys.”

The Dolphins got a trial run at the “Hard Knocks” experience during the offseason when players were mic-ed up and cameras were allowed behind closed doors.

Second-year tight end Charles Clay said that was a big help.

“It was very weird,” Clay said of the first experiences with the cameras. “There were times in meetings where you’re taking notes and you see the big lens, and it would kind of throw you off. I could not crack a smile a lot of times. Now, it’s kind of second nature. You get used to it.”

The Dolphins are so used to it, in fact, that rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill said he had forgotten about “Hard Knocks” when he reported to the Dolphins training facility late on a Saturday night to sign his rookie contract.

But he was quickly reminded.

“I get in the locker room, I turn around and there’s like eight guys with cams,” the Dolphins’ first-round pick said. “Whoa! It’s definitely different, but got to make the best of it.”

That was the message first-year Head Coach Joe Philbin passed along to his players after the Dolphins agreed to be this year’s featured team.

It’s definitely a different and new experience for Dolphins players and coaches, although not everybody.

The Dolphins have two players who have appeared on “Hard Knocks” before — wide receiver Chad Johnson with Cincinnati in 2009 and linebacker Jamaal Westerman with the New York Jets in 2010. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle also was with the Bengals in 2009.

What Coyle told his players was that they would get used to the extra cameras as time went on.

“The first time I went through this I didn’t really believe that prior to it happening, but honestly it’s that way,” Coyle said. “They’re in the meetings and the first day or so, I think the players were conscious of it, the coaches were conscious, but now you kind of go about your business. Our guys are feeling that way.”

Not surprisingly, the outgoing Johnson was a star when “Hard Knocks” featured the Bengals, and he was expected to get a lot of air time again in this edition.

But Johnson, who is set to star in a VH1 reality television show with his new wife this fall, said his focus was strictly on football.

“I’m not really paying the cameras any attention,” he said. “I’m just going.

I don’t pay attention, so whatever they catch, they catch. If they see it, they see it. I just continue to focus and continue to hone in on my craft out there.”

Sean Smith, the cornerback who has faced Johnson the most in practice, is another outgoing player who has never minded the spotlight, but like Johnson, he said he wasn’t going to go out of his way to get on “Hard Knocks.”

“No, no, no, no because whenever you look, they always seem to stop recording,” Smith said. “The key is just to be yourself. You don’t want to have to put on an act too much.”

There was no “Hard Knocks” series last year because of the lockout, and this year’s edition debuts tonight at 10:00 pm (ET) and will run for five episodes.

The series took a hiatus between 2002 and 2007, although footage was shot in 2004 at the Jacksonville Jaguars training camp. The footage was turned into “Inside Training Camp” and aired on the NFL Network.

New Dolphins quarterback David Garrard was a member of that Jacksonville team, so he’s also no “Hard Knocks” rookie.

“The cameras weren’t quite as much in my face, but I got used to them then and you get used to them now,” Garrard said. “After a few days with them running around poking a camera in your face, you can actually talk to them and tell them, ‘Maybe not right now.’ Or you just keep going on doing what you’re doing. You don’t have to act. It’s not acting. It’s not like we’ve got to put on a show for the cameras. We just do what we do and if that was a good bite for them, then great. If not, they’ll just find something else to plug in there. So it’s all good with them.”

While they weren’t about to let “Hard Knocks” become a distraction, guard Richie Incognito and wide receiver Davone Bess were happy for the exposure the show will give the Dolphins.

Bess said “Hard Knocks” would “show the world what Dolphins football is all about.”

While saying that, though, Bess was hoping to escape the camera’s eye the way he’s been escaping opposing defensive backs for the past four seasons.

Asked before the series debut which players on the team might surprise fans with their personality, he replied: “I don’t know. I’m trying to stay out of the camera, man.”
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