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D. Orlando LedbetterD. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons to be featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks

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Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones stretches during team practice on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Flowery Branch. His return will be a big story on HBO Hard Knocks this summer. (Curtis Compton)

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones stretches during team practice on Tuesday, June 10, 2014, in Flowery Branch. His return will be a big story on HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer. (Curtis Compton)

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons will be featured on HBO Sports’ award-winning documentary series Hard Knocks, the team announced Thursday.
 
The Falcons, HBO Sports, and NFL Films will team up for an all-access, behind the scenes look at what it takes to make it in the National Football League when Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Atlanta Falcons debuts on August 5.Falcons Hard knocks

The Falcons have been approached before, but have been reluctant to appear on the hit show.

The Falcons turned down an offer from HBO a few years ago.

The sports documentary chronicles the team’s training camp. Last season, the Cincinnati Bengals were in the show.

“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,” Falcons owner Arthur M. Blank said. “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.”

While the football operations folks have been opposed to appearing on the show, Blank and the business side folks see being on the show as a major “branding” opportunity for the franchise. The five-part series on the Bengals last August averaged 3.6 million viewers per episode. 

“We are thrilled that the ninth edition of the Hard Knocks series will spotlight the Atlanta Falcons,” said Ken Hershman, HBO Sports’ president. “It’s exciting to feature a team, a franchise and a city for the first time on Hard Knocks. We are grateful to head coach Mike Smith and the entire organization for agreeing to participate.”

Falcons coach Mike Smith was not a big fan of the show. When with Baltimore as an assistant coach he went to great lengths to avoid the HBO cameras.

He apparently has changed his tune.

“We are looking forward to connecting with our fans across the country as the program chronicles our 2014 training camp,” Smith said. “The series will give fans a behind the scenes look at the competition between players as we build our roster and prepare for the season. We are looking forward to the start of camp in late July.”

Here’s some background on the Falcons and how they viewed the show.

“I truly believe that an organization has to be in the right spot to jump into something like Hard Knocks,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in an interview back in 2011. “I think it sheds a lot of light on our league.  This is a league of entertainment. There are some traditionalists that struggle with it, but they have to work against the grain a little bit and see that this is about entertainment. Hard Knocks is a good show for the fan base.”

The team wasn’t ready when previously approached.

“Two years ago we were approached and decided that it wasn’t right for us at that point,” Dimitroff said back in 2011. “That’s not to say we wouldn’t go down that road if it was presented to us at another time. We are much closer to being in that spot where it’s not going to be as much of a distraction as it would have been another time.

“It’s such an individual thing. Hard Knocks could be right for some of the teams that are fairly entrenched. It could be right for some team that wants to kick off some more brand recognition.” 

PHASE THREE OF OFFSEASON PROGRAM

–Today, June 12 – OTA No. 9.

–Friday, June 13 – OTA No. 10.

–Monday, June 16 – Physicals.

–Tuesday, June 17 — Day One: Mandatory minicamp (5 practices over three days)

–Wednesday, June 18 – Day Two: Mandatory minicamp.

–Thursday, June 19 – Day Three: Mandatory minicamp. (Offseason program ends for veterans).

TBA – Rookie Symposium

TBA – (Late July) – Report to Training camp.

PRACTICES WITH TEXANS — Wednesday, August 13 and Thursday, August 14.

THE LATEST FROM OTAS

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What’s next for the Falcons at linebacker?

Javier Arenas gets to watch longtime role model

Falcons cut Szczerba, Yoklic

Falcons minicamp is open to the public

VIDEO CORNER

Sean Weatherspoon to miss 2014 season

Matt Ryan on Harry Douglas’ contribution to the offense

Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox

Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo

Falcons assistant head coach Terry Robiskie on Devin Hester

Falcons coach Mike Smith on OTAs

 DRAFT CLASS STORIES

Jake Matthews brings strength of family to the Falcons

Ra’Shede Hageman could turn into defensive force for Falcons

Dezmen Southward ready to compete for playing time

Warrick Dunn likes the pick of FSU’s Devonta Freeman

Falcons signed 20 undrafted rookie free agents, 5 from SEC 

Falcons invite 24 players in for tryouts

NFL Draft 2014: ESPN’s Todd McShay on the Falcons’ draft class

VIDEO: Reaction to the Atlanta Falcons’ 2014 draft class

THE ATLANTA FALCONS 2014 DRAFT CLASS

Round 1 / 6 — Jake Matthews, RT, 6-5, 308, Texas A&M

Round 2/37 – Ra’Shede Hageman, DE, 6-6, Minnesota

Round 3/68 – Dezmen Southward, FS, 6-0, 211, Wisconsin

Round 4/103 – Devonta Freeman, RB, 5-8, 206, Florida State

Round 4/139 – Prince Shembo, LB, 6-1, 253 Notre Dame

Round 5/147 – Ricardo Allen, CB, 5-9, 187, Purdue

Round 5/168 – Marquis Spruill, LB, 6-1, 231, Syracuse

Round 7/253 – Yawin Smallwood, LB, 6-2, 246, Connecticut

Round 7/255 – Tyler Starr, LB, 6-4, 250, South Dakota

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