Hard Knocks soft pedals Sean Payton’s criticism of Nathaniel Hackett

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Officially, it’s Hard Knocks. Unofficially, the first episode felt a lot like the second season of Quarterback.

This year’s edition of the NFL Films/HBO focused heavily on Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The producers even brought “voice of God” Liev Schreiber to camp for the first time, given Rodgers’s stated affinity for the show’s narrator.

There was other content (but not much) amid the relentless praise of and focus on Aaron Rodgers. Briefly, the show focused on the controversy that sprang from Broncos coach Sean Payton’s controversial comments about former Broncos coach (and current Jets offensive coordinator) Nathaniel Hackett.

Hard Knocks engages in a perfunctory box-checking acknowledgement of the situation, including public comments from Rodgers, Hackett, and head coach Robert Saleh. Hard Knocks provided no insight regarding the true, actual, behind-the-scenes reaction to Payton’s remarks. We’ve heard enough to know it was spirited and emotional. We’ve heard enough to know that it nearly got very interesting, both in press conferences and on social media.

None of that made it to Hard Knocks. Because of course it didn’t. The Jets didn’t want to do the show. They obviously and undoubtedly exercised fully and completely their ability to shape what did and didn’t make it into the show.

And that’s fine. But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not a documentary. It’s an infomercial. It always has been, it always will be.

The unvarnished truth will remain hidden, concealed. That’s the way it goes. Still, as to the reaction to Payton’s assault on Hackett, there was much more to the story than the highly sanitized version that made its way to last night’s episode of Hard Knocks.

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