In a major shift, Dimitroff open to HBO’s Hard Knocks

Falcons head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff could be headed for some Hard Knocks. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC).

Falcons head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff could be headed for some Hard Knocks. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC).

LOCKOUT LAND – Falcon general manager Thomas Dimitroff was interviewed on SiriusXMNFL radio Friday morning and for the first time he did not summarily rule out the team being featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks.

Should the Falcons accept an invite to appear on HBO's Hard Knocks?

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In the past, when we’d ask about Hard Knocks, the answer was basically a “no   #$^&^*! way.” The Falcons turned down an offer from HBO two years ago. Recently, Tampa Bay declined an offer.

The sports documentary chronicles the team’s training camp. Last season, the New York Jets were featured and Rex Ryan expanded most folks vocabulary and taught viewers “How to play like a Jet.” In 2009, the Cincinnati Bengals were featured and they went on to win the AFC North. Click here to watch some episodes from last season.

The Falcons are pleased with the development and  maturation of the team. If asked again, they’ll be in a better position to say “yes.”

Near the end of the interview that was mostly about how the Falcons have embraced technology, my buddy Alex Marvez (you can follow him at @AlexMarvez on asked Dimitroff about Hard Knocks.

The Bengals were on in 2009.

The Bengals were on in 2009.

“I truly believe that an organization has to be in the right spot to jump into something like Hard Knocks,” Dimitroff said. “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.”

This is a major shift in the organization’s thinking.

“Two years ago we were approached and decided that it wasn’t right for us at that point,” Dimitroff said. “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

Kim Zolciak of "Real Housewives of Atlanta" attended a practice last season.  ELISSA EUBANKS/AJC)

Kim Zolciak of "Real Housewives of Atlanta" attended a practice last season. ELISSA EUBANKS/AJC)

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.”

Because of the lockout and uncertainty of how training camp will evolve this season, accepting an invite will be a dicey proposition for the 2011 season.

“I believe that would add to the trickiness of it,” Dimitroff said. “But if you have things in order and you have an organization that is very prepared, I think it can be managed.”

Head coach Mike Smith is on the verge of guiding the Falcons back to the playoffs.   (Curtis Compton/

Head coach Mike Smith was on Hard Knocks when he was an assistant with Baltimore. (Curtis Compton/

In the interview, Dimitroff talked about the team’s heart monitor program, the biomechanical scouting of Julio Jones, game preparation and mixed martial arts training. He insisted that the Falcons will continue to find ways to integrate new technology into their athletic performance department.

“I know there are teams in the NBA, and we may want to do this, who are using GPS as far as monitoring the movement on the field or the basketball court,” Dimitroff said. “That’s another frontier that I think can be very valuable going forward.”

So, do y’all think the Falcons should accept an invitation from HBO to appear on Hard Knocks? (My vote is yes) Who would be the star of the show? (Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder gets my vote.) Will you all be embarrassed when ATL Real Housewife Kim Zolciak shows up with the baby to cheer on Kroy Biermann? (No, so long as she doesn’t sing) What if the cameras follow the players on a secret team-building trip to Magic City or the Cheetah? (Um, no comment here!)

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

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76 comments Add your comment

Full Time Fan

May 20th, 2011
1:05 pm


May 20th, 2011
1:07 pm

the biomechanical scouting of Julio Jones… can you explain exactly what this is?

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 20th, 2011
1:13 pm

Brent — Yes, they take all of the game film and workout file and do a biomechanical study of a players’ body movement with an emphasis on speed and flexibility. Hope, that’s helpful.

Furman Bitcher

May 20th, 2011
1:15 pm

Mitch (the one in Rome)

May 20th, 2011
1:17 pm

My vote is no. I don’t want any distraction from the goal. I don’t think there have been any super bowl winners that have been on hard knocks. It seems hard knocks just creates drama. Don’t need any drama. We need to continue to grow team not stars of tv shows.

Heck no!


May 20th, 2011
1:20 pm

We should be focused on unsigned free agents, FA’s at DE,LB,CB that we can aquire, and how to make this team better. No need for Hardknocks in Flowery Branch….We havent “ARRIVED” yet- See the Greenbay game -yeah im still talking about it. In fact maybe they should offer it to the packers -i mean they are world champions right.

Dont want our players puttn on for the cameras-i want them focused on the task at hand -getting better and getting ready for the season,dont see how the cameras will help with that……

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 20th, 2011
1:21 pm

Mitch (the one in Rome) — Sound like Mr. Blank wants to grow the “brand.” I think he wins over his football traditionalists. Look for the Birds on Hard Knocks soon. My humble interpretation.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 20th, 2011
1:22 pm

I MUS WRITE — This isn’t about football. It’s about growing the “brand.” Entertainment. Selling jerseys. Big Kim coming to practice.


May 20th, 2011
1:24 pm


Falcons young O-Line will need to focus and get tight. Matt Ryan has just come off the worst performance of his career…does he need that stage? No.

We have to throw a rookie WR in the starting line-up. Needs to focus.

What Hard Knocks Team went on to win the Lombardi in the same year???

Please TD…stand down. You have not accomplished anything yet.


D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 20th, 2011
1:29 pm

FBD — Good points. Maybe they can re-sign my man Grady Jackson and he can be a camp distraction while the other players are getting ready.


May 20th, 2011
1:34 pm

NO!! NO!! NO!!!!!

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 20th, 2011
1:35 pm

Should the Falcons accept an invite to appear on HBO’s Hard Knocks?

Yes, the show is awesome. (50%, 14 Votes)
No, because the the cameras are too invasive. (25%, 7 Votes)
Yes, but not after the lockout. 2012 would be better. (21%, 6 Votes)
No, because Kim Zolciak might show up at practice. (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 28

fanatic Falc

May 20th, 2011
1:36 pm

Excellent point about product branding, and it would give Fans that may be somewhat disillusioned from the lockout a chance to get re-connected with the spirit of the competition, and the passion of the players to win, as well as the techniques the Falcons coaches use to create synergies. All good.

Of course, the above comments are predicated on NOT signing Ocho.

fanatic Falc

May 20th, 2011
1:39 pm

DOL – The “SiriusXMNFL radio Friday ” link is bad.



May 20th, 2011
1:46 pm

May 20th, 2011
1:07 pm

the biomechanical scouting of Julio Jones… can you explain exactly what this is?

He is a Cyborg Not 100% human so NASA created a new scouting technique just for Julio.LOL

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 20th, 2011
1:47 pm

fanatic Falc — Ok. Let me fix that.


May 20th, 2011
1:55 pm

in terms of performance yeah im a little iffy about the idea so on that front i think it depends how the staff is prepared to keep the players focused. On the other hand personally I would love to see more of the falcons brand out there. Like most fans it ticks me off so much seeing teams getting so much attention that isnt deserving while other teams getting snubbed when they shouldnt. After last season I am just sick of the falcons not getting the credit they have earned.

The trade for Julio has helped alot and hard knocks would be a nice combo I would think. I have faith in Smitty and TD making the right choice and if they feel the team could handle it then they have my support.

[...] Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Friday that he did not rule out the team being featured this summer during training [...]


May 20th, 2011
1:59 pm

Oh and one more note… last season when the team finally had the attention they earned it was the playoffs and after such a great start to that game they collapsed and yeah it was aweful. I felt they got ahead of themselves in their own mind. A championship team has to be able to handle those pressures including all that additional attention so why not give them that at the start of the season so they are better prepared to handle it at the end.


May 20th, 2011
2:18 pm

Well, per your earlier post re Chad Johnson: They sign Ochocinco to be the distraction, and invite HBO for Hard Knocks. Arthur Blank builds billion dollar stadium, and turns out to be the father of Kim Zolciak’s kid and the Falcons morph into the Dallas Cowboys and get their own prime time reality show. You heard it all here first!

Cornerback Smurf

May 20th, 2011
2:21 pm

I say YES! Hardknocks might be just what the Falcons need to gain more national exposure. They seem to lack the respect of national sports media members. I think it also gives that next generation of potential Falcon fans and opportunity to get to know their team.

One other benefit is it might provide other teams more of an introspective view of potential trade candidates (from a personality standpoint….how a player may or may not fit with a team). Then maybe we can unload the Cornerback Smurf and get a player like Nmandi from Oakland (wishful thinking, I know!).

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 20th, 2011
2:22 pm

MightyQuinn — Some interesting story lines for HBO, no doubt. Maybe Ocho can go ballistic when the Turk comes to his room. That way, Julio can learn the play book in peace.


May 20th, 2011
2:33 pm

Publicity is good for selling tickets.

Delbert D.

May 20th, 2011
2:57 pm

No sir. Do not do it.


May 20th, 2011
2:59 pm


May 20th, 2011
3:07 pm

I think Falcons would do well on Hard Knocks. You get someone like Smitty, TD, Matty, and Blank in front of the camera and you can’t help but root for them. It’s not like watching Jerry Jones, Ochocino, or Rex Ryan. Show our hard work, some personality, and maybe some of these “Atlantans” would open their eyes and jump on the bandwagon. TBS helped grow the Braves franchise, why can’t Falcons get a little help from HBO.


May 20th, 2011
3:09 pm

Yes, Yes, and Yes!!!


There are so many people living in Georgia that are not from Georgia. They still cling to their hometown teams. The show will let the local transplants develop a must needed connection with the players on the home team. I believe a superbowl will help as well but until that happens let start the show.

Mocking your Mock

May 20th, 2011
3:19 pm

I love hard knocks.

You know what is better than that? The Hockey version of Hard Knocks. Except for the Caps Coach, that show was Awesome! And I don’t care for Hockey.

Steve Padre

May 20th, 2011
3:49 pm

I don’t have HBO so this means nothing to me. That cornerback Smurf was one of the top 5 CBs in the league last year. Now let’s see him do it consistantly.


May 20th, 2011
3:54 pm

Two words…. Marshawn Lynch.

Joe Tess Fish House

May 20th, 2011
4:04 pm

I can here the narattor now:

After only 7 pratices Perrier Jerry is strugling 2 keep up. A fist round pick in 2009, it is becomin moore likey that he is a bust.


May 20th, 2011
4:11 pm


May 20th, 2011
5:00 pm

Brent Grimes is among the best in the league. Pay the “little” guy!
I’ve got a feeling this season’s going to have a big *asterix* beside it anyway, so take the chance and grow the brand…..


May 20th, 2011
5:02 pm

The cameras could be a major distraction for the immature players and the Falcons are a pretty vanilla, working man’s crew that would probably bore the nation to death. The again, maybe the rest of the country needs to see what good guys we have in Flowery Branch.

[...] Here’s what Dimitroff told Alex Marvez of during an interview courtesy of Ledbetter’s article: [...]


May 20th, 2011
5:18 pm

@ pmc- two numbers…0-2


May 20th, 2011
5:48 pm

Brent Grimes wife would be the show stopper. I personally am in favor of having the show in camp. We have some great vets, a couple of stars and, a big time rookie. Then there are the interesting personalities like Spoon, Owens and, Peterson. I think this could work.

whitney houston

May 20th, 2011
6:22 pm

hell to the no


May 20th, 2011
7:14 pm

NO team featured on this program has gone to the superbowl (or even made the playoffs for that matter)
Nuff said

[...] in NFL The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t interested, though Falcons ubiquitous manager Thomas Dimitroff pronounced Friday that he hasn’t ruled out vouchsafing his group be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. [...]


May 20th, 2011
7:32 pm

This is just another instance of TD misdirecting the local media for political/business purposes.

The staff does not want to expose the team to HK. They run a tight ship and this could never have a happy ending.

On the other hand, Blank & Co. don’t want to diss the folks at HK. So they come on as sympathetic and possibly interested, but in practice, it will always be “maybe next year”.

I say we wait until the year following our Super Bowl triumph before exposing the guys to Hard Knocks.


May 20th, 2011
9:24 pm

To quote the flick Despardo ” Not Yet….NOT YET!”…Let’s win a playoff game first, then we can stomach the Hard Knock life…

D man

May 20th, 2011
9:25 pm

I like the idea. I have been wanting a monday evening Falcons show with the coach like we had back in the 70’s and 80’s. This would be a cool look at what goes on behind the scenes. Now, every time we see the falcons, it is at an interview. HBO would show the guys joking around and cutting up as well as the hard work on the practice field.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

May 20th, 2011
9:39 pm

EARLY POLL RESULTS: Should the Falcons accept an invite to appear on HBO’s Hard Knocks?

Yes, the show is awesome. (47%, 165 Votes)
No, because the the cameras are too invasive. (23%, 82 Votes)
Yes, but not after the lockout. 2012 would be better. (21%, 75 Votes)
No, because Kim Zolciak might show up at practice. (9%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 353

[...] Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the Atlanta Falcons and general manager Thomas Dimitroff are open to the idea of being featured on [...]


May 21st, 2011
2:11 am

As Rocky Balboa told Clubber Lang in the rematch fight of “Rocky III: “Go for it”


May 21st, 2011
7:10 am

Sports is just entertainment, despite the fact that some people’s lives revolve around their team winning or losing. This just ups the ante on the entertainment and makes the Falcons higher profile. Nobody knows for sure if this would have a positive or negative impact-or more likely, no impact on the teams on field performance. I think it’s a great idea.


May 21st, 2011
10:43 am

NO WAY! This team has a chance to go to the Superbowl if they don’t get distracted by something as stupid as this. With that said, Arthur, publicity hound, Blank would eat it up.

Dr. Warren

May 21st, 2011
11:03 am

The show is already old. The Falcons would not get that much attention. Trend-finishers never win anything.

Freddie G

May 21st, 2011
11:24 am

I really hope that D.Led is wrong and that the Falcons are not considering this nonsense. The loud mouth abnoxious characters that are featured on that show does not fit the falcons profile. Let them take it back to NY or to Dallas. I hope Arthur is not going to sign off on this or I would lode all respect for him.