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Offseason | 2021

HBO Tabs Cowboys As Stars Of 2021 "Hard Knocks"

Screen Shot 2021-07-02 at 10.11.24 AM

FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys' return to California will coincide with their return to HBO, as it turns out.

With less than three weeks until they report to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp, the cable television giant announced the Cowboys as the stars of their annual "Hard Knocks" series on Friday. The show, a longtime staple of the NFL preseason, sees HBO pair with NFL Films to document a behind-the-scenes look at an NFL training camp and the process of finalizing the roster for the regular season.

This will be the third time the show has featured the Cowboys, along with the 2002 and 2008 preseasons. That's the most appearances in "Hard Knocks" history, as the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams are the only other teams to appear more than once.

This year's five-episode run will debut Tuesday, Aug. 10, following the Cowboys' trip to Canton, Ohio, to play Pittsburgh in the Hall of Fame Game, and will air each subsequent Tuesday. The finale is slated to air on Sept. 7 – just two days before the regular season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

One look at the storylines surrounding this year's Cowboys, and it's easy to see why they'd be a popular choice. The organization is coming off one of its most disappointing seasons in recent memory, as injuries marred the roster en route to a 6-10 finish and a Top 10 draft pick.

Painful as they were to watch, all those setbacks combine to turn them into one of the most interesting teams in the league in 2021. Dak Prescott is returning to lead the offense after missing 10 games with a grisly ankle injury, and his newly-signed $160 million contract extension raises the expectations higher than they already were. Combine that with a star-studded roster, an 11-man draft class and a new defensive direction under Dan Quinn, and it's easy to see the appeal.

It also helps that the Cowboys fit nicely into the league's parameters for selecting a star of its annual training camp series. Since 2014, the NFL has allowed teams to opt out of starring on "Hard Knocks" if they have a first-year head coach, have made the playoffs in the past two years or have appeared on the show within the last decade.

Given that the Cowboys don't fit any criteria, they have long been considered a logical choice to appear this summer.

First airing in 2001, this will be the 16th iteration of "Hard Knocks," with the show taking a hiatus from 2003-06. Traditionally spaced across the duration of training camp, the show takes an inside look at several storylines on the team, from big-name players to roster longshots.

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