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Hard Knocks team likely will be a volunteer

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The ultimate reality show has its own reality show. And the process of selecting a subject for it could be a reality show unto itself.

The NFL has not yet announced this year’s Hard Knocks team, but a rule passed in 2013 gives the league a pool of prospects that can be pressed into service. With 24 teams falling within the criteria this year for an exemption (new coach, playoff appearance in one of the last two years, or Hard Knocks duty with the last decade), eight teams can, in theory, be drafted.

They are the Bills, Bears, Cardinals, Giants, Jaguars, Raiders, Rams, and Steelers.

But the NFL has “potential volunteers,” we’re told, which means that a team most likely won’t be led kicking and screaming to the assignment. It’s unclear whether any/many/all of the volunteers are technically exempt; every year, at least one team wants to do it. The question is whether the NFL wants that team to be the team that does it.

Ultimately, it would be a surprise if the NFL picks a team that is dead set against the assignment. The new formula likely arose from the long-term commitment to continue with the HBO series. The league needs to have a way to satisfy the obligation if/when a year arrives when no one wants to do it.

So basically someone wants to do it this year. We just don’t know yet who that is.