Final episode of ‘Hard Knocks’ reveals pain, frustrations of last days in L.A. camps

Rams assistant special teams coach Tory Woodbury with players before a scrimmage at SoFi Stadium.
Rams assistant special teams coach Tory Woodbury with players before a scrimmage at SoFi Stadium on Aug. 22 in Inglewood.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Brett Favre wasn’t on the Zoom call with Clay Johnston this time, offering praise and advice to the Rams’ seventh-round pick. This call was just between Johnston and his father, Kent, after the Rams cut the 24-year-old linebacker.

Favre, who is close friends with Kent, had told Johnston in training camp that he liked his energy and to only worry about controlling what he could control. Now, Johnston was doing just that.

Rams coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead hoped to re-sign the inside linebacker to the practice squad. Johnston said he intended to do so, but it didn’t happen.

Snead said the Carolina Panthers “enticed” Johnston to go to their practice squad, a move Snead said he understood but that disappointed him because the Rams wanted to keep Johnston.

In Charlotte, Johnston could work with Matt Rhule, his former coach at Baylor, and Kent, the Panthers’ director of player wellness.


“Hard Knocks” leaned on that type of personnel swapping in its fifth and final episode this season. As training camp concluded, both the Rams and Chargers whittled their rosters to 53 players. One by one, the players at the bottom of the roster walked into offices, hearing their fate of being relegated to the practice squad.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff is hoping for a rebound season in 2020, and he’s willing to follow Tom Brady’s approach to the game to make it happen.

There was Darius Bradwell, the Chargers’ rookie running back who entered camp overweight but worked it off and earned the respect of the team, coaches said. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said he wanted to watch film with him to show him how to perfect his running style. But Lynn said he can’t do that if Bradwell doesn’t take care of his body.

Then there’s Dont’e Deayon, the 5-foot-9, 159-pound cornerback for the Rams. At the team’s scrimmage in SoFi Stadium, he showed glimpses of potential, forcing a fumble while tackling a receiver. But he also showed lapses, allowing a receiver slip behind him in coverage and catch a pass for a big gain.

“This is tough for me because of the love I have for you and the respect I have for your game,” McVay told Deayon as he informed him of the decision. “You know how I feel about you.”

Veterans weren’t immune to bad news near the end of camp.

Chargers star safety Derwin James injured his right knee on a non-contact play during the team’s scrimmage. As he walked into the facility, he threw his yellow gloves down in frustration. His meniscus required surgery, ending his season.

“It’s hard to step up and replace a young man like him,” Lynn said.

Justin Herbert isn’t the Chargers’ starting quarterback, but expectations remain high for the rookie as he looks to reward the team’s faith in him.

The Chargers said they felt there was enough depth in the defensive backfield to suffice. But that didn’t mean people wouldn’t try to interest them in another player. General manager Tom Telesco said he received calls from a few agents asking if he’d be interested in their client.

An assistant coach said James texted him early in the morning, saying his surgery was successful. Camera crews also showed quarterback Tyrod Taylor working out in the morning, performing hang cleans and core exercises.

Taylor, the team’s new starting quarterback, is portrayed during “Hard Knocks” as somewhat quiet. But as he worked out alone, it presented an opportunity to hear his mind-set ahead of the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“To be a leader for this organization, for this group of young men is definitely special to me, and I look forward to leading those guys,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that are going on right now that we can’t control but if we focus on what we can control and our attitude that we bring to work every day, it’s going to help us in the long run.”