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Bill O’Brien, J.J. Watt Bring Intensity to Hard Knocks Premiere

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There are few more exciting signs that football season is finally upon us than the premiere episode of the new season of Hard Knocks, HBO’s raw, uncompromising and highly acclaimed look inside an NFL training camp.

This season opened up as all others have: with a tranquil shot of a single water sprinkler lightly spraying the practice field. But this peacefulness was soon interrupted by the irate, expletive-ridden mouth of Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien.

“This place has no respect in the league, just so you guys know!” he bellowed to his crew of coaching assistants in a round table meeting. It’s exactly this intensity and commitment that makes people tune in to Hard Knocks; a wonderful outlet for learning about who a coach is and how he treats his players.

In just the first twenty minutes, O’Brien made it very clear that he’s not trying to build a team, but a family. His fatherly sternness came through especially clear when dealing with rookies who couldn’t remember the names of their own teammates.

The coach wasn’t lacking in the show’s trademark sound bytes, either. Music guru O’Brien shared his affinity for “country music and some Rick Ross,” the latter of which he proclaimed to “f*#@ing love.”

Under O’Brien’s rule, no man is exempt from a scolding. Except maybe J.J. Watt, whose penalty for jumping offside still feels more like a victory lap than a punishment as hundreds of Texans fans lined the sidelines to cheer him on. As expected, Watt was a huge part of the first episode. And in case you hadn’t already realised, he’s everything he’s cracked up to be.

The NFL’s equivalent of Brock Lesnar was missing only some pyrotechnics and a smug Paul Heyman by his side as he spent an hour flipping tyres and blasting by rookie O-linemen. Even Houston’s resident Macho Man, strength coach Sean Hayes, knew better than to provoke the beast.

If it was any other player, the solitary night-time training session might seem even too ham-fisted for TV, but Watt doesn’t seem like the man to pretend to work hard while he has the opportunity to actually work hard. And with the Texans yet to take the field on game day, his best is surely yet to come.

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