NFL
August 12, 2020
BY Manouk Akopyan

'Hard Knocks: Los Angeles' Premiere: Rams Recap

The Rams were first featured in HBO’s hit series Hard Knocks when they relocated back to Los Angeles in 2016.

Although there are still some familiar faces four years later, there are many more intriguing storylines to monitor this year, including if the team can regain its Super Bowl-caliber DNA, how they’ll battle the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 and how they’ll look in their new uniforms, the palace of a stadium and without Todd Gurley. 

The first time we see the Rams featured in Hard Knocks: Los Angeles this year, it’s over five minutes into the show after the Chargers get first glamour, and instead of drawing up plays, wunderkind coach Sean McVay is diagramming how his team will practice social distancing while holding court in a 70-yard Cirque du Soleil-like tent. 

The image was a fitting look considering the circus-esque season the Rams are about to encounter.

Reggie Scott, the Rams’ vice president of sports medicine and performance, makes a cameo to remind the 30 other teams in the NFL that they wish they were preparing to play in a pandemic in the comfort of Los Angeles weather.

“We’re fortunate to live in California where we can use the indoor and outdoor space. We can spread out more,” said Scott. 

The Rams’ outdoor compound is replete with two weight rooms, which should allow for the sun to perfectly shine on the sweat of Aaron Donald to make him look even more like an Adonis-like figure.

The Rams are leaving no stone left unturned as they get ready to battle coronavirus. Instead of regular handles, they’ve installed foot handles on the sliding doors of their coolers to eliminate touching unnecessary things. The genius who patented that idea should get lifetime season tickets and dinner with owner Stan Kroenke. 

After Chargers coach Anthony Lynn’s grill session sizzling meats and complaining how Cleveland is the worst place on Earth to meet women — just as his wife Stacey, who he met there, is standing next to him — McVay introduces fiancée Veronika Khomyn, a Ukrainian model who officially is gunning for Gisele Bundchen’s No. 1 spot in the NFL’s partner power rankings.

While Lynn’s vice is indulging in cigars, McVay gets bougie and vibes with rosé as he takes in scenic views of Los Angeles, sitting comfortably outside by his fire pit. McVay promptly complains about the uncertainty of the upcoming season as he tries to plan for a wedding, which makes you feel for the guy because, like Tom Brady, he could surely use a break.

With a googly-eyed look, Khomyn appears to secretly be rooting for the season to further stall just so she can run her hands more often through McVay’s mane, which is still holding form at peak Ryan Seacrest-levels despite the mass closure of barber shops. 

From the encouragement of no one, McVay then promptly takes off his shirt, as he looks runway ready. The Mark Wahlberg body double catwalks his way into the pool to play basketball with his dog in the water, tossing balls toward the good boy like a human jugs machine. 

The scene is a refreshing reminder that after Brady and Giselle retire from the NFL, fans can move on to McVay and Veronika as the league’s best photogenic power couple. 

Later, quarterback Jared Goff pulls up to the facility in his 7-Series BMW, but the camera immediately moves to an unidentified player who’s seemingly auditioning for a Skinemax role during his COVID test. The Rams player says that the test administrator should have taken him out to dinner first before invasively penetrating the swab down his nose.

The coronavirus testing service is half-safety, half-science class for the studious bunch, who eagerly ask questions as if it's the first day of school. 

Donald lets out a slight scream as the needle pokes through his massive arms, giving offensive lineman around the league hope that he might not be invincible after all.

We then learn that like most people around the world, McVay doesn’t like wearing masks, but he will not be Walmart Guy and defy science, either. 

“This is so weird talking through a mask,” says McVay, who’s more a plastic face shield guy as he gives an impassioned speech about the importance of communication with barriers. 

When we hear the high-energy McVay speak, his voice inflections and cadence make him sound eerily like Jon Gruden.

After a walkthrough and weightlifting session, little-known cornerback Donte Deayon makes a shirtless appearance after a full-body workout.

Deayon admires his biceps and kisses his muscles as the behemoth Donald bowls his way into the picture. The diminutive Deayon walks up to Donald and flexes in his face proclaiming he’s been getting swole, too.

HBO producers and the soon-to-be-exiting Suitman realize the three-year pro Deayon’s personality and immediately pounce on a potential storyline. 

He is the first Rams player who is profiled. 

Deayon is unhappy with his makeshift locker location, calling it the “projects.” The gregarious player pulls aside an equipment manager and asks if he can race or even fight someone for a better spot in the plush “suburbs,” a spot saved for players who are not considered camp casualties. 

Deayon even picks at star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, dreaming of having his station set-up. Surprisingly, the outspoken Ramsey just nods his head like, “YES, I'M THAT DUDE.” while he walks by. 

The scene then shifts to Ramsey, who the Rams sold the farm for to acquire last year in a mid-season trade with the Jaguars. Ramsey is still playing on his rookie contract and looking to secure life-changing money. 

Local reporters pester Ramsey about his contract during a Zoom call, and the annoyed cornerback appears that he would rather pull a Tony Reali from Around the Horn and put them on a mass mute rather than talk about how many millions he’s looking for. 

Somewhat disgusted that intrepid reporters are inquiring, Ramsey simply walks away from the e-meeting. 

“When I give you an answer, stick with the answer I give you,” says Ramsey as he exits stage right. 

Realizing his curt behavior was a no-no, at the pleading of the PR pros, Ramsey re-enters the room and fields more questions from reporters, some of whom are lobbing questions from their unkempt bedrooms. 

A remorseful Ramsey has a mea culpa and offers an authentic heart-to-heart with the writers, setting the rules for the rest of the season on a zero-tolerance policy regarding contract talks. 

Surely this will not be the last time Ramsey short-circuits his way into a kerfuffle this season.

It’s then revealed that Rams rookie linebacker and 2020 third-round pick Terrell Lewis has tested positive for the ‘rona and he’s placed on COVID-IR.

The development is a sign of what’s to come in droves this season as the NFL tries to sneak in a season during the pandemic.

McVay has a terse talk with the team again, and instead of explaining the importance of protecting Goff, he’s emphasizing players on protecting themselves and each other and advises them to wear a mask. 

The first episode ends with Zoom zingers and follies from both the Rams and Chargers’ virtual meetings. 

McVay says, “I’m sweating. I’m excited. I’m throwing a lot of stuff at you guys, and I got a lot more shit, too. Before I move on, does anybody need to go check their pants? Nobody shit themselves yet? .... I fucking love football, and I love you guys.” 

We feel the same way, Sean.

As the credits begin to roll on the screen, McVay reveals advice that’s surprisingly missing from the Ten Commandments, saying “don’t be the guy that takes a shit in Porta-Potties. I went in there and almost threw up. Have a little bit more social awareness. That’s to take a piss. Don’t take a shit in the Porta-Potties.”

Photo: Getty Images