Posted: 12:05 a.m.
The Bengals Hard Knocks journey ended Wednesday night with the team picture and head coach Marvin Lewis' goals of going unbeaten at home, winning the AFC North and "eventually the Super Bowl."
The final half hour of the fifth and last episode focused on the anxiety of the final cuts as seen primarily through the two rookie fullbacks, Chris Pressley and Fui Vakapuna, veteran running backs Brian Leonard and DeDe Dorsey, and rookie safety Tom Nelson and veteran Corey Lynch.
The most poignant moment of all the shows may have come in this one. Pressley's mother, Jacqueline, sat in the stands at Paul Brown Stadium with Pressley's five-year-old son and girlfriend and wept with joy before the preseason finale against the Colts.
"I can't believe I watched you play a game in the NFL," she later told her son as they walked out of the stadium.
The show gave a rare-behind-the-scenes look at how the club settles on its final roster. It featured first a coaches' meeting chaired by Lewis in which he asked his position coaches which players should make the roster and which should make the practice squad.
Lewis asked the definitive question of running backs coach Jim Anderson when it came to Pressley and Vakapuna. Pressley, Anderson told him, was the most aggressive while Vakapuna had good potential but needed work.
"Is he worth the wait?" Lewis asked.
"Is he worth the wait?" Anderson repeated.
The Bengals ended up deciding no because they kept Pressley on the practice squad and let Vakapuna go. Asked about Lynch and Nelson, secondary coach Kevin Coyle and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer agreed that Lynch needed to be more aggressive and Nelson had simply played better. So Nelson made it and Lynch went to the practice squad.
When the personnel meeting followed the coaches meeting, the cameras didn't show Brown discussing the roster cuts with the coaches, which left one to assume the decisions came out of the coaches' meeting.
It was left to director of football operations Jim Lippincott to phone the players who got cut and Lewis to inform the players who made the roster or the practice squad. Lewis wanted to hold off telling Pressley and Vakapuna their fates after everyone else so other teams had less time to pick them up on waivers. A nice moment came with both waiting for a call and Vakapuna called Pressley to see if he heard anything. "Much love," Vakapuna told him as they vowed to stay in touch no matter what happened.
Steve Sabol of NFL Films admitted that it was difficult to film the concept of the practice squad and that it was difficult to come up with some kind of closure to the subject "because it's really some kind of purgatory," he said.
In the meantime, it was business as usual for the veterans. The episode showed Lewis briefing his players on the NFL's Twitter Game Day policy and he went one step beyond and banned it from the locker room. Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said he didn't have to call a team meeting for that.
"He should have just called me into his office and told me; it was directed at me," The Ocho said. "I understand where the league is coming from. I understand where he's coming from."
But The Ocho has decided to stop Twittering anyway after that, although he's hinting he's got something up his sleeve for Sunday's opener.
The funniest moment of the last episode may have been the Ocho claiming he dropped just two balls all of training camp and Zimmer shaking his head with doubt. The cameras went back and documented five drops before stopping.
Line of the show? Tank Johnson observing that The Ocho is "the fourth largest media market."
Also, there was a nice little vignette about the Who-Dey cheer and its importance in Bengals lore.
"Its kind of corny," said rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga, but he then saluted the tradition.