The cruel reality of the NFL made an appearance on the fourth episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” on Tuesday.
Defensive tackle Tanzel Smart and wide receiver Jerome Kapp — two players released by the Jets as they trimmed their roster to 53 — were the subjects of two lengthy scenes about their unlikely paths to training camp, but their appearances ended with Smart’s shoulder injury in the preseason game against the Giants and Kapp’s release following the game.
Smart, a 28-year-old who has been with the Jets since the 2020 season, shuffling between the practice squad and the active roster, was released Tuesday, too.
The delicacy of Smart’s roster campaign became evident when he injured his shoulder attempting to make a tackle against the Giants.
Two other Jets converged on the ball, and Smart’s shoulder ended up getting crunched.
His wife, Jada, who sat in the stands balancing their child on her lap, didn’t like the sight.
“He makes me nervous,” she said.
Smart wanted to stay in the game, even with the shoulder pain, but he ended up getting an X-ray by the locker room before eventually returning.
He tried to convince defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton before the X-ray that he was fine, though, and that he wanted to test the injury, but Whitecotton then asked why Smart appeared emotional.
“I can’t get hurt,” Smith said, in part, as he recognized the ramifications and the looming cuts.
Kapp, though, just didn’t get the repetitions — and therefore the production — that an undrafted wideout needed to crack a 53-man roster.
His appearance in the show highlighted an unusual path through Kutztown University, and how much playing in the preseason games, and this NFL journey, has meant to him and the family who helped him latch on with the Jets, according to the episode.
“I want to be here, because a lot of people would kill for those opportunities,” Kapp said during the episode. “I’m not gonna take it for granted, so I want to get here as early as I can, stay as late as I can.”
He went viral for rapping like Eminem during the rookie show, which prompted a reaction from the celebrity himself.
Wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni also complimented Kapp for being at the facility by 5:25 or 5:30 a.m., even remembering to shut Azzanni’s trunk when he forgets.
“He’s got a legit chance to fight and get on this roster somehow, someway,” Azzanni continued in his “Hard Knocks” interview.
But the episode captured concern from Kapp’s family as the preseason game unfolded.
A spot didn’t appear guaranteed at all.
And that became a reality soon after the game, when Kapp, and his unlikely path, had been cut.
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