For both fans and the show's production crew, this season of Hard Knocks will author one of the most unique storytelling experiences in series history. Between documenting two teams, following league protocols in response to COVID-19 public health guidelines and the ongoing social justice discussions, HBO Sports and NFL Films will have plenty to cover and work with.
HBO Sports Executive Vice President Peter Nelson, NFL Films Vice President and Senior Coordinator Producer of Hard Knocks Ken Rodgers, Rams head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead, and Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco held a joint virtual media session Thursday morning to discuss these topics and more.
Here are some of the top takeaways:
1) SoFi Stadium played a big role in the decision
According to McVay, the new shared home of the Rams and the Chargers was a driving force behind volunteering to be featured on this year's Hard Knocks.
"There was a lot of really good things that we felt like could come from it with the exposure that the show provides," McVay said.
SoFi Stadium is scheduled to be completed next month.
2) Hard Knocks plans to document COVID-19 testing process
NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer said the current plan will be to test players for COVID-19 three times per week, according to a report from NFL Network's Tom Peliserro.
"I think it's a fair assumption we're going to shoot the process," said Rodgers, though he also indicated they would not be showing 90 test results every episode as he's more interested in the process itself.
However, the ability to do so is "one of many protocols that are yet to be determined by the league, NFLPA, medical experts (as part of) discussions and negotiations still ongoing," according to Rodgers.
3) Covering two teams will change the pacing of episodes
For Rodgers, the biggest problem that comes with documenting two teams will be fitting all of the storylines into each hour-long episode.
"It's going to be probably a little bit quicker-paced show than normal," Rodgers said. "We're really going to have to stretch out editorial muscles to fit in all the great personalities and storylines."
The creative challenge, however, is one that Rodgers is looking forward to.
"In terms of characters, we have 180 right now going into the show, plus all the coaches," he said. "I'm looking at four of them right now, four great characters. We consider everyone a possible character."
4) McVay has Hard Knocks experience
The Rams' 2016 appearance and 2019 joint practices with the Raiders make them no stranger to Hard Knocks.
McVay is also familiar with the series, too. Beyond those training camp sessions with the Raiders last year, he was the Washington Redskins' offensive coordinator the year they held three joint practices with the Texans – the third and final of which ended early due to a brawl.
"We had some good fights bust out during training camp, and then last year when we practiced against the Raiders," McVay said.
Ultimately, though, it is not those skirmishes, but rather the opportunity to share the platform with the Chargers that makes this year's experience unique, according to McVay.
5) Potential on-camera stars?
During the video conference, NFL Network's Kyle Brandt asked which players coaches would pick in a Hard Knocks personality fantasy draft.
McVay's choices? Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and tight end Tyler Higbee.
"Jalen, as I've continued to build a relationship with him, I agree. He's a dynamic, charismatic guy," McVay said. "And Tyler Higbee is an under-the-radar glue for our football team, I think especially just with what he was able to do as the season finished up and having some of the success. But he's always been a guy that has a great way about himself. Everybody loves him."