Hard Knocks Episode 2: Lots of Brown -- and Red Meat

AB's feet, Gruden's mouth and some golden (?) singing voices highlight the hour

Scott Gulbransen
August 14, 2019 - 9:35 am

While the first edition of HBO’s Hard Knocks highlighting the Raiders training camp may have been heavy on foundation and light on action, the second episode of the new season gave the viewer more of what they wanted – including lots of Antonio Brown.

Although the seven-time Pro Bowler gave viewers an in-depth look at his injured feet, complete with the claim his feet were "being circumcised," Brown’s presence shed more light on the past two weeks of mostly media-generated drama. Brown resurfaced in Napa during the episode, but he only returned to the practice field on Tuesday, primarily for stretching, but did not see action on the field.

"Anyone seen my friend Antonio Brown?," Gruden lamented during a coaches meeting shot during the episode. "I wish he was here."

Brown gave his explanation of how he sustained the injury during a cryotherapy session and genuinely looked pained, concerned, and focused on healing so he could get back on the football field. While that won’t be enough for some observers, the viewer most certainly connected and felt empathy for the Raiders' greatest weapon on offense.

While touching lightly on Brown’s grievance filed with the NFL over his use of an outdated helmet, the tease for next week promises more on that subject and the outcome, which we heard about this week.

Gruden Grinds

This episode saw another glimpse into what makes Jon Gruden one of those coaches that everyone likes to be around.  Heavy on four-letter words and personality, Gruden underscores his team has to get better by continually raising the bar during camp. He screamed and went full Chucky several times during this episode. It’s no wonder Brown says early in the episode, "I’d run through a wall for Jon Gruden."

Many still doubt Gruden can get back to where he was during his younger days, but watching his intensity and interaction with his players, it’s hard not to buy in and think about running through a wall yourself.

Quarterback Quandary

Tuesday’s episode also highlighted the competition to back up franchise quarterback Derek Carr. Both Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman were not exactly winning the praises of Gruden.

"You’re like a house mouse, Peterman," Gruden screamed at the current number three signal caller. "You have to stop being so introverted. Be a little bit of a jerk like me."

Earlier in the show, Gruden implored his coaching staff to do a better job protecting Derek Carr, ensuring he isn’t hit in practice. Seeing what he said and thought of his backups, it’s telling as the coach knows his season hinges on a healthy Carr.

Abram Stars Again

He didn’t command the airtime he did last week, but there again was the cocky, hard-hitting, and likeable rookie safety Johnathan Abram. Particularly poignant was Abram chatting with Raiders legend Charles Woodson after their joint practices with the Rams.

"Get out there every day and get better every single day," Woodson told the boastful rookie. "Rep that number (24, which Abram and Woodson both wore)."

We also got to see Abram in action during the Raiders preseason game against the Rams. There he was, hitting hard and swarming to the ball in live action – where he’s most able to be himself.

More Action, More Aggression

Football is a violent sport and fans like to see it up close. The NFL Films team did a masterful job this time around beautifully showing drills, scrimmages, and hits from the action on the field. Back was the signature NFL Films tight spiral closeup, the music choreographed to give a ballet-like treatment of the action on the field, and great music to accompany the imagery football fans were drinking with their eyes.

Metallica’s Blackened may have replaced the orchestral masterpieces of Sam Spence, but it fit perfectly for this rebuilt group.

The episode had fights with the Rams on the practice field, rookie defender Maxx Crosby at the tattoo parlor, and gem of a coach Brenston Bruckner screaming, yelling, and rooting on his defensive line. Bruckner is all Raiders and they can’t show enough of this passionate pirate.

This episode felt like Hard Knocks. This episode felt like a Raiders team fans can get behind.

Odds and Ends:

  • Gruden on his former protégé and now Rams head coach and wunderkind Sean McVay: "We hired McVay (with Tampa) as a secretary, really. Next thing you knew, he was coaching wide receivers. When I was young like that I worked for the 49ers and they called me 'piss boy,' like the Mel Brooks movie (History of the World, Part 1)."
  • When a fight broke out between the Raiders offensive line and the Rams defensive front, controversial left tackle Richie Incognito took his teammates aside to calm them down saying, "Let me tell you what I learned in counseling: calm down and count to ten." Incognito will server a two-game suspension to start the season for off-the-field anger issues.
  • In a meeting, rookies were invited up to sing a song. Yes, the edge has come off hazing. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and defensive end Maxx Crosby had to stroll to the front of the room and give out their signing bonus and sing a song. Renfrow bombed with his rendition of "Lean on Me," while Crosby felt comfortable belting out T-Pain’s "Buy U A Drank." Needless to say, let’s hope the both play football better than sing.
  • Alameda native Kelan Doss also had a starring role and is quickly playing himself into a role with this team. Watch closely over the next few weeks.

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