Hard Knocks -Episode 1 Review
The season premiere of HBO’s Jon Groudon show or better known as Hard Knocks is in the books. We got a fascinating look inside the Raiders camp and also inside the drama that is bubbling up in Oakland for the 2019 season. The Raiders are in the midst of trying to turn around a franchise that’s been in the dumps of late coming off a losing 4-12 season with the acquisition of a few high profile faces and big money moves.
As you might imagine, the episode featured a lot of Oakland’s biggest personalities- Jon Gruden, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, Derek Carr and Antonio Brown. Gruden led off the episode with an impassioned speech about turning the dreams of others into nightmares. It was very clear from the start that Gruden is not putting up with any nonsense this year and Raider football is serious business. The overly dramatic coach hit the high notes and nailed the punchlines through-out the episode but the real question is does this seen like its all for show, or, can he really turn this franchise around. He hammered that point home with the sudden release of DT Ronald Ollie, whom the HBO crew surely wanted to feature. Ollie hurt his Achilles early on and missed appointments with the training staff, and so he was gone and replaced in short order. The former Last Chance U star was gone and forgotten in a short 15min of screen time with no mercy shown at the highest level of football. I guess poor Ronald never really grew up and built upon his success from his time in East Mississippi. A character we all wanted to see throughout the show never materialized.
The star of the episode, however, was rookie safety Johnathan Abram. The first time we see Abram, he’s getting bags of sweets out of a very expensive Mercedes. On the practice field, Abram made his presence felt with his highly aggressive style. The problem was this was a shirts-and-no pads practice, with collisions highly discouraged. Abram took out Luke Willson trying to get to a ball-carrier, earning the scorn of both Willson who had some words for Abram, and Gruden himself who had something of a standoff with Abram as he convinced him not to hit his own teammates. Abram’s attitude will be of great use on game day, but bringing the pain here shows a touch of immaturity on his part. Abram showed up a few more times in the episode, joining Clelin Ferrell on a horseback trail ride through the Napa wine country. Abram is an accomplished horseman and horse trainer, but Ferrell was a total newbie. There was some good-natured ribbing as Ferrell did his best to stay on the horse, and the two sang together as they rode along. Some lovely scripted banter, Gruden will be impressed.
Much of the episode showed the arrival and introduction of new Raider star receiver Antonio Brown, who arrived to camp in a hot-air balloon, but with feet which were sore for a reason unspecified in the episode. Later finding out after the show that Antonio suffered from a frostbitten foot in an accident getting into a cryotherapy machine without the proper footwear. We saw him training several times on his own and with a personal trainer, and also with the team for the one day that he’s done a full practice, It doesn’t appear that Brown’s feet aren’t healing, but rather that Brown steadfastly refuses to practice at less than full speed or half-ass his workouts, and the coaches felt it was better to hold him out until he’s fully healed. I could not tell you the timing for recovery of a frostbitten foot but by the looks of it he could miss a couple of weeks depending on how severe it is.
The episode concluded with an alumni party featuring many former Raiders, and the team honored the memory of the recently departed Cliff Branch. The show will be featuring the Raiders and Rams joint practices next week.
Watching this episode was just a taste of what is to come next. There was little here that I hadn’t already seen from the raiders and mostly consisted of what was expected. It was predictable but otherwise entertaining none the less. With the preseason games coming up and the drama of Antiono browns last week, the best is yet to come. I have a feeling the show will get even more compelling in the coming month and I for one am excited for next week’s Gruden Show feat Oakland Raiders.