‘Hard Knocks – Oakland Raiders’ Episode 1: Gruden’s Nightmare

Another training camp, another season of Hard Knocks to tide us over until the start of the regular season. Well, that and the fact that preseason football kicks off in full force this week.

The choice for Hard Knocks this year was an easy one.

When you have a crazy coach that traded an All-Pro defensive player in his prime, a diva receiver who is traded from his old team and a new general manager that a few months ago was on NFL Network, the Oakland Raiders are the obvious choice. Even with the quarterback controversy with the New York Giants.

In the premiere of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Oakland Raiders, we were introduced to what a summer looks like for the Raiders. And apparently that’s playing football in wine country.

As far as premieres go, it wasn’t my favorite. Perhaps that was because I’d built it up to be more dramatic given the cast of characters. But here’s hoping the second episode has a kick — and more of these three stars.

Three Stars

1. Johnathan Abram

It was evident pretty early on that the star of Hard Knocks, that’s not named Jon Gruden, wasn’t going to be Derek Carr. But thankfully, God gifted us with first-round draft pick Johnathan Abram, who was our entertainment for the duration of the evening. Whether it was Abram buying hundreds of dollars of snacks from Target — the superior shopping establishment — or creating his own Old Town Road montage in wine country or wanting to hit people way too damn much or calling Derek Carr out for being rich as hell, Abram was the star.

2. Jon Gruden

Let’s be honest, the main reason that HBO selected the Oakland Raiders to appear on Hard Knocks was because of Jon Gruden. Gruden, a man of many words. Gruden, a man that commands attention. Gruden, a man that is just begging for drama to unfold on a show like this. Plus, who wants a coach that is into dreams when you can have a coach that’s into f***ing nightmares?

3. Antonio Brown’s young kids

Children are amazing because they have no filter. They say what they think, without a thought. It makes for great content like Antonio Brown’s young kids, who were wondering where Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was (in Pittsburgh likely still reeling from the two’s falling out). Also, why isn’t daddy practicing? Good question. Care to elaborate on the frostbite on your foot, AB?

Quick Hits

  • The Hard Knocks remixed theme threw me for a loop. Cool, but different.
  • Jon Gruden isn’t into dreams, he’s into f***ing nightmares.
  • The Raiders really picked best place to have camp — in wine country. Perfect for their fans to drink their feelings when they remember that the one-year anniversary of trading Khalil Mack to the Bears is getting closer.
  • Derek Carr is the nice guy with ripped arms. Not exactly enough to be the star of Hard Knocks. He’s too pure for this mess.
  • Derek Carr does parenting right. He questioned his son about whether he likes the Chargers (no), Chiefs (no) or Broncos (no) and rewarded him with a “good boy.” I’d like to think my parenting style would be similar, just replace with Lions (no), Vikings (no) and Packers (fuck no).
  • He also does uncle-ing right, as he introduced his nephew to Gruden and was promised the possibility of running routes out there. Cue fanboy screams.
  • Antonio Brown loves attention — which is evident when he arrives in a hot air balloon.
  • First-round draft pick Johnathan Abram has good taste — in sports cars and shopping establishments (nice Target bags!)
  • You’ve gotta give it up for Gruden being a professional — no rookie hazing boys, aside from singing the fight song.
  • “You can lead the league in effort.” *slow claps*
  • “Knock on wood if you’re with me.” Seriously, Gruden is killing it. I’m going to use this with my students.
  • I guess you could say Antonio Brown hasn’t gotten off on the right foot *wink*
  • Kids really say the darndest things, as evidenced by Brown’s young kids innocently asking where Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is *laughing forever*
  • It’s got to be a record how quickly undrafted rookie defensive tackle/Last Chance U star Ronald Ollie looked poised to be a feel-good story on Hard Knocks only to be cut before episode’s end.
  • That Old Town Road horse-riding montage with Abram and Clelin Ferrell — set to the music of Old Town Road — was perfect in every way. Right down to Abram asking the cameras to set their adventure to the tune of Old Town Road.
  • Clelin Ferrell is not a fan of horses — but he does give it a go. Good for him.
  • Abram just wants to hit people — probably too much. Dude why do you want to hit your own guys?
  • “You can’t cut me.” Is that cockiness I smell, Abram?
  • I can’t believe how quickly Abram became my favorite on this show.
  • Abram telling it like it is — Derek Carr is rich as hell, and his kids are set for life.
  • G-Eazy wants the Raiders to go 10-6 this year. Really, dude? That’s it? Won’t be enough for to win the AFC West or possibly a wild card berth.
  • Jon Gruden is wise — unless he’s trading Khalil Mack, which I’m still eternally grateful for.
  • Really, Hard Knocks, the most you’re going to mention about Richie Incognito is that he’s “a talent with a history, some of it ugly?” Throwing racial slurs at a teammate and threatening the staff of a funeral home because he wanted to cut off his dead father’s head.
  • Aside from Gruden, Abram, the Old Town Road montage and Brown’s young kids, this premiere was kind of a letdown.

Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Oakland Raiders airs Tuesdays on HBO.

Teacher by day, writer by every other free moment | Obsessed with sports, TV, books, movies, and superheroes | Proud shipper and supporter of strong female characters | Co-executive Editor for Fangirlish | Contributor for Bears Wire at USA Today SMG | Producer/Co-Host of Buffone 55 for Bears Barroom Radio Network | Contact: alyssa@fangirlish.com.