Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) stretches as Coach Mike Smith, left, looks on during last year’s training camp at their practice facility in Flowery Branch, Ga. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

Thank goodness for the HBO series “Hard Knocks.” It gets tremendous access to the goings-on of a given NFL team’s training camp, giving viewers an unusually in-depth glimpse of players, both famous and likely to be cut, as well as coaches and other staffers. But most of all, it gives viewers FOOTBALL, at a time when meaningful games are still several weeks away.

Also, many thanks to the NFL for partnering with HBO and basically telling teams, almost all of which don’t want cameras anywhere near them, “One of you is doing this.” The Falcons didn’t actually have to volunteer their services, as they made the playoffs the year before. So it’s very cool that they did, or maybe, after having gone 4-12 last season, they are simply aware that the past four teams to appear on the show improved their records from the previous season.

Okay, I’m pumped. Is it too much to hope that, say, Coach Mike Smith tops Rex Ryan’s virtuoso performance from 2010’s edition? Well, probably. Ah, (censored) memories …