NFC South can wait for 'Hard Knocks'

Now that it’s been officially announced that the Miami Dolphins will appear on HBO’s “Hard Knocks’’ this summer, the NFC South can let out a collective sigh of relief.

The reality show that chronicles training camp can be entertaining and a wonderful marketing tool. But signing up to appear on the show is something NFC South teams haven’t been willing to do in recent years and you can’t argue with their logic.

The Atlanta Falcons were courted heavily to be this year’s featured team. There was some legitimate interest from some corners of the team’s facility. Meetings, with all departments present, were held. But it was the voice of the football people that eventually won out. They wanted the focus to be on football and didn’t want any distractions. They politely declined a request to be reality-television stars.

That made plenty of sense because the Falcons will be under enough pressure next season. They’ve had four straight winning years, but haven’t won a playoff game in that stretch. I don’t think adding more pressure would have been a constructive way to get the Falcons over the postseason hump.

Back in 2011, HBO and NFL Films were talking to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers about appearing on the show. At the time, the Bucs were coming off a 10-6 season, yet struggling to sell tickets for home games. Letting the world get to know them on TV was a tempting marketing tool. There even were some prominent people on the football side of things that were very interested in appearing on the show. But the Bucs ultimately decided they hadn’t arrived and didn’t want to open themselves up to distractions when they had such a young team.

In hindsight, that was a brilliant conclusion. The Bucs went 4-12 last season and coach Raheem Morris was fired. From what I’ve seen of coach Greg Schiano, I don’t see the Bucs going on “Hard Knocks’’ anytime soon.

This wasn’t the year for the New Orleans Saints or Carolina Panthers, either. The Saints have enough turmoil already. The Panthers are kind of like the Bucs last year. They look like a team on the rise, but nobody knows for sure.

In a year or two, the time might be right for “Hard Knocks’’ in the NFC South. The Bucs and Panthers could arrive, the Falcons could get over their playoff hurdle and things can only get closer to normal for the Saints. But the timing wasn’t right for any of those four teams this year.