Not many can lose their job and still have a smile on their face. Not many can remain content after being told that their best wasn't good enough despite the fact that they had given it their all. But the 2022 Detroit Lions are different. They are a group filled with "grit" -- the buzzword that has reappeared countless times in this season of Hard Knocks.
"Put his picture on that sign of 'grit' down there, that's what we should do," head coach Dan Campbell says as he describes running back Craig Reynolds.
The decision on who earns the last running back roster spot is made painfully tough for Campbell, but ultimately Reynolds makes the cut. The team will be well represented by Reynolds, as he has shown perpetual effort throughout this preseason.
Rookie cornerback Chase Lucas has been an underrated story throughout training camp. Going from dropping a potential game-sealing interception in the preseason opener to then recovering an onside kick in the Lions' final preseason game, Lucas has shown major improvement -- enough that the seventh-round pick has now secured a referee-presented game ball and a roster spot.
"But coach, could I ask you again? One thing? Could I play, I could start in this league?" Lucas asks defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant.
"Yeah, you wouldn't be here if you couldn't," Pleasant answers.
Lucas knows that if he wants to be a starting cornerback in the NFL, he's going to have to work his way up. But for now, Lucas can celebrate.
Not all stories have a happy ending, though.
A Hard Knocks favorite, wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton, sits down with Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes and is told of his release. Pimpleton takes in the news without a tear in sight -- except from us viewers -- and shares his thanks for the opportunity.
"I grew. That's the biggest part about it. I grew through it all," Pimpleton says as he packs his bags.
The next adventure isn't too far away, though, as the camera crew follows Pimpleton all the way to New Jersey, where the Giants end up signing him to their practice squad. The NFL dream continues for the man who's always smiling.
Detroit's roster is set and it's on to the regular season. The Lions have one of the youngest teams in the NFL, but they are ready to compete.
From the players drafted and acquired through free agency to the coaches and staff, the Lions do not appear to be shy about the competition that lies ahead.
"We're a gritty team," defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn says. "We're built that way."
At long last, the end is here. Sitting in the interview chair ready to give his final Hard Knocks adieu, Campbell is asked what his team will be heading into this season. After a full minute of contemplation, Campbell answers:
"The 2022 Detroit Lions will be the team that can -- and will."
Extra points ...
- Offensive tackle Obinna Eze gets told he hasn't made the cut, but Holmes shares with him that the intent is to bring him back on the practice squad if he clears waivers -- something that doesn't occur with other players in the show (at least from what made the final cut). A former scout and director of scouting himself, Holmes is passionate about the development of his players. Eze will get that chance to develop, as he goes unclaimed and is indeed signed to the Lions' practice squad.
- Lucas is someone that I'd been hoping would get more spotlight, mostly because we went to the same university. As a late-round draft pick, Lucas definitely wasn't guaranteed to make the final roster, but he does. Also, seeing him sport a full Arizona State outfit while talking to Coach Pleasant was fun. Couldn't be more proud of a fellow Sun Devil. Forks up!
- Amon-Ra St. Brown and his family head to the Immersive Van Gogh Experience in Detroit, which looks like something everyone needs to see. While they are perusing, we learn that Miriam Brown, Amon-Ra's mother of German descent, has taught Amon-Ra her native language. A big thanks to Hard Knocks for the translated closed captioning of their conversations.
- Who would've thought that a premium cable television series would influence a team's fan base in purchasing new jerseys for the upcoming season? Lions president and CEO Rod Wood shares with Campbell that their No. 2 best-selling jersey right now is none other than linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez. Who's No. 1? Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson. Neither has played a regular-season snap. That's how much of an impact these rookies already have made on their team and their city.
- Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? Rapper Eminem, who grew up in Detroit, visits the Lions and provides a meal for the team. But it's not just any meal. It's a meal through his own pasta company called "Mom's Spaghetti." Go figure.
- The rapper also gets the "Quote of the Week" nod: "You know what's crazy? When you know you're just playing catch with someone, right in the street or whatever, you get on a real field and you f-----' throw that b---- far as you can, and it's like 10 yards." Sounds like a case of noodle arm.
- Campbell continues with his nickname streak as we hear the following tags applied in a small montage during the credits: The Hammerhead, Jaws, Shark Hunter, Buttercup, Cinnamon Sticks. He has to have a sea creature obsession or something.
- The finale had just about every genre of music. Some rap, some classical and some rhythm and blues are the last additions to the Hard Knocks Spotify playlist !
- Don't forget! Hard Knocks In Season will begin airing Nov. 9, featuring the Arizona Cardinals. Not sure if quarterback Kyler Murray will keep his afro until then, but I'm here for it.
This concludes my first season of episode recaps. It was a wild ride, but thankfully my kneecaps are still intact. I would like to thank Ali Bhanpuri for extending me the opportunity, and Dan Hanzus for being a wonderful mentor through this entire process. It was an absolute blast.
Now let's go enjoy the season, man.
NFL+ gives you the freedom to watch LIVE out-of-market preseason games, LIVE local and prime-time regular-season and postseason games on your phone or tablet, the best NFL programming on-demand and more! Wherever you are, this is how you football! Learn more about NFL+.