Antonio Brown, Derek Carr and Jon Gruden. If you didn’t know that the new Oakland Raiders trio would be the focus of the latest season of ‘Hard Knocks,’ you learned very quickly through the first 20 minutes of Episode 1.
This season of ‘Hard Knocks’ is sure to live up to the hype with the cast of characters filling out the Raiders roster for the 2019 season, with a nice mix of veterans and young stars with potential to provide variety throughout training camp.
If you missed the episode and are a fan of the NFL, you’ll want to hop onto HBO and watch to get in the fray before Episode 2. But, if you’re looking for a quick recap to be able to get started on August 13, here’s a synopsis and review of the premiere episode for the Raiders season of ‘Hard Knocks’.
The major storyline heading into the 2019 season for the Raiders was the addition of Antonio Brown, so it’s only fitting that the season would open up with the former Steelers wideout after its initial opening speech from Jon Gruden.
Brown’s on the mend due to his current troubles with his feet, and the season begins with the new addition to the Bay Area training to get back on the field for his debut with his new squad.
The focus is immediately on the team’s motto of “Commitment to Excellence,” and Brown is looking to improve on his former self as he looks for a fresh start in his West Coast home.
As Brown works to get back out with the offense, the HBO crew shines a light on another aspect of Brown’s life: his kids. As he prepares for a new journey, Brown spends time with some familiar faces in his pool before the start of the team’s training camp.
Speaking of children, the crew transitions to the other face of the franchise, Derek Carr, who’s spending time with his family by his own pool. The Raiders quarterback talks about his connection with his new star wide receiver, discussing how the two initially brought up the idea of playing together during a Pro Bowl a few years back.
Now, the Raiders’ dynamic duo will look to replicate their Pro Bowl success in Oakland before the franchise’s big move to Las Vegas, hoping to put more bodies in the seats for the team’s transition.
As the scene shifts to Napa Valley in California, the spotlight stays on Brown, who is taking the phrase, “The sky’s the limit” to a new level by reporting to camp in a hot air balloon. It’s good to know that the flashiness never fades for the former Steelers star, despite the change in scenery.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like AB,” Brown said as he flies through the air in his new form of transportation.
Speaking of flashy, football fans are then introduced to Johnathan Abram, the third face to be featured so far this season. Packed with loads of snacks from a massive Target run, the 2019 first-round pick is looking to make an impact, all while trying to avoid the stigma around being a first-year player.
“I hate being called, ‘Rook,'” said the rook.
The Raiders finally come together for their Opening Team Meeting, with Gruden making his first real appearance away from the intro to the season, where he had been talking about winning Super Bowls, not Peach Bowls.
Gruden talks about having respect for the rookies in the room, highlighting his hope for professionalism from all his players. He also talks about the desire to not only win games, but win them immediately, which seems to be a major mindset for the team heading into a new era.
The comedy finally begins as the episode starts to highlight Carr on the field for the start of his sixth NFL training camp, and his second with Gruden as his coach. The narrator mentions Carr’s tough skin, which is relevant after the team’s poor performance in 2018, and the scene transitions to Carr being made fun of for oiling/applying sunscreen to his arms before practice.
Meanwhile, Brown finds himself on the sidelines as camp gets going, still rehabbing from his foot injuries and working to get back to 100 percent. While he does that, he must also deal with the shadow lingering over him from his success in Pittsburgh. Now, fans are hoping he can replicate that resume as they are shown a highlight package from his time with the Steelers, with an instrumental for the song “Black and Yellow” playing in the background.
The comedy returns as Brown’s kids make another appearance in the episode, and even they can’t seem to shake the feelings about their former home as they ask their father where Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is.
While the light continues to shine on Brown and Carr, there are other names to keep an eye on during the first few days of camp, including former “Last Chance U” member Ronald Ollie, who is showcased for a few short moments to introduce some fresh blood this season. Unfortunately, that introduction is short-lived, as Ollie is later cut for not putting in the effort that Gruden was looking for, and not making the most of his opportunities.
The lighter moments continue in the season premiere, with Abram and defensive end Clelin Ferrell taking a trip down to the “Old Town Road” to “riiiiiiiide” some horses until they can’t anymore. These two are providing one of the first real “bromances” in Hard Knocks history, complete with the duo saying they love each other while they hold hands on top of their respective horses, and it’ll be fun to watch them continue on throughout the rest of camp over the next few weeks.
Towards the second half of the episode, fans are introduced to Richie Incognito, with HBO highlighting his troubled past and the two-game suspension he’ll be serving to start the 2019 season. He interacts with Antonio Brown and talks about his love for Guy Fieri, but it’ll be interesting to see how his personality meshes with the rest of the Raiders offense.
Local legend G-Eazy also makes an appearance at camp, much to the pleasure of Abram, and the stars continue to align as the team heads to their alumni dinner at Al Davis’s home.
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The episode ends with respects being paid at practice to Cliff Branch, a Raiders legend who passed away on August 3, followed by the team’s family members showing up on the field to interact with players and coaches to top the premiere off.
The major theme through the first episode of the season was family. Whether it was Antonio Brown interacting with his kids, Derek Carr with his family or the team interacting with its alumni, the Raider family is one that sticks together.
While the team is looking to return to its winning ways, the priorities are where they should be as the players remember where they came from and why they play. Between clips of
The cut of Ronald Ollie shows that the Raiders are still looking to replicate the success of their past, with zero tolerance for a lack of effort and lack of desire to improve. That feeling is evident by the sprinkled-in throwback moments with names like John Madden and Al Davis making appearances throughout the episode.
The HBO crew is showing a lot of clips of Johnathan Abram, whose flashiness and lack of filter provides for some entertaining moments throughout the season premiere. While he does go back and forth with Gruden at some points, specifically about his hope for more hitting during non-padded practices, it seems to go with the Raiders’ motto of “Just win, baby.”
Sure, he’s flashy, but it’s evident he’ll be a good addition to the team, and provide some toughness to help the Raiders’ defense to get back to its roots.
Overall, that’s really the theme of the entire episode: a player or team’s roots. Whether it’s your family providing inspiration for you to play, or your team’s alumni sticking around to motivate you to do more, roots are an important part of the NFL landscape. And, it seems like it’ll be a key factor as Gruden looks to return to the glory days to bring the Raiders back to relevancy in the AFC.