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For HBO’s Ross Greenburg,New ‘Knocks’ is Personal

One can forgive Ross Greenburg for having
more than a professional interest in HBO Sports’ latest
entry in the Hard Knocks: Training Camp franchise.

“I was lucky enough to see Super Bowl III with Joe Willie
[Namath]. My dad had season tickets to the [New York]
Jets because he
couldn’t get them
for the [New York]
Giants,” Greenburg
said in an Aug. 3 interview
over breakfast
at HBO’s New
York City headquarters.

The president of
HBO Sports spent
two days last week
in Cortland, N.Y.,
the summer home
of the Jets. With
11 cameras in action,
HBO, in conjunction
with NFL
Films, is capturing
the sights and
sounds as Gang
Green prepares for
the upcoming NFL
season. The first installment
of Hard
Knocks: Training With the New York Jets
will premiere on
the premium channel on Aug. 11 at 10 p.m.

Shooting up to 250 hours per week, Greenburg calls
Hard Knocks one of the “quickest turnarounds on TV.”
While much of the footage is edited on Tuesday night,
sometimes work, featuring narration by Liev Schreiber,
can continue until just an hour before airtime.

Although some additional content winds up on HBO.
com and, most of what is shot is seen on-air in
some capacity. “An hour is a long time without commercial
breaks,” Greenburg said, noting that the game plan
for Hard Knocks’ opener will focus, for “two or three minutes,”
on All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis, who at press
time was holding out in a contract dispute.

HBO Sports wanted to put the Jets under the Hard Knocks
spotlight last summer. But general manager Mike Tannenbaum,
with whom Greenburg has been friends for years,
didn’t think the timing was right with a rookie coach in
Rex Ryan and a first-year signal caller in Mark Sanchez.
Greenburg said they kept in touch throughout the season,
and when the team made went on its playoff run to the AFC
championship game, “we really went after it.”

Greenburg believes the Jets organization is undergoing
a sea change with Ryan, the outspoken leader, who will be
front and center during Hard Knocks. “Rex has set the tone
for the franchise. He wants the Jets to be the toughest team
in the league, the best defense in the league, with or without
Revis,” he said. “Hard Knocks is a perfect fit with the Jets.”

Given the size of the New York market, the look at the
Jets could send the series skyward with the Nielsens. HBO
officials said interest has built in each Hard Knocks season.
Last year, the series averaged 3.4 million watchers
during its weekly airing on HBO and its multiplexes.

HBO Sports also will look to give the show a jolt with
a rally in Times Square on Aug. 10, featuring former Jets
players, owner Woody Johnson and Ryan answering questions
via satellite from Cortland, as the team begins its
quest to capture Super Bowl XLV.