This summer, “Hard Knocks” might more closely resemble a daytime drama than a gritty reality series.
Even by the Raiders’ “Just win, baby” standards, that’s a lot to unpack over four hour-long episodes of the show’s 14th season.
A few story lines to follow:
Jon Gruden returns after his four-win debut, and so does his quarterback
Gruden endured a 4-12 campaign in 2018, and the coach known as Chucky doesn’t seem too crazy about quarterback Derek Carr. So much so that he brought in Nathan Peterman, who failed spectacularly in Buffalo, ostensibly to challenge Carr. Asked whether Mike Glennon or Peterman would back up Carr, Gruden recently said, “I like these guys. This Nate Peterman is growing on me. He’s athletic. I know he’s had some nightmare performances in the NFL, but when you watch the film you can see why. It’s not all his fault, but he’s got some talent, he’s got some athleticism, he’s got some experience.
“Here’s an opening day starter for the Buffalo Bills last year. I take that very serious. And he’s smart. He’s done a good job, he’s been consistent and I think he’s starting to get his confidence back. And we all need that.”
Carr will almost certainly be the starter, but these mind games already going on are vintage Gruden. And Carr has a few tricks up his sleeve, too. Like buying a lot in Vegas that is right next door to Gruden’s.
“That’ll be fun. Hopefully a lot of knocks on the door,” Carr said. “Maybe we can carpool. That would be good for us . . . We might knock down the fence and just make it one. We’ll see.”
Gruden’s response to the news? “Really? Great reaction. I love Derek. We can have meetings at night now, we can have barbecues together. It’s great. Great family and proud to be with him.”
Then there’s Richie Incognito
The Raiders, never a team to pass up any chance to stir up the ol’ locker room, signed guard Richie Incognito to a one-year deal. Regarded as a talented but mercurial offensive lineman, Incognito will be suspended the first two games of the season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy thanks to an April incident at an Arizona funeral home following his father’s death. He was arrested and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.
Incognito, 36, last played for the Bills in 2017 and earned his third consecutive Pro Bowl bid. He retired after that season, but later came out of retirement and was cut by the Bills. He previously missed the 2014 season after being suspended for eight games for his role in the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal.
“We’ve done a lot of homework on him, okay? I’ve known some of the line coaches he’s played for, I’ve called several people around the league,” General Manager Mike Mayock said in May. “I feel comfortable that he’s going to compete on the field and I feel comfortable that, A) he wants to compete off the field, and we’re going to provide the infrastructure for him. So at the end of the day I think it’s a two-way street. We got to help him help himself.”
’The Antonio Brown Show'
The Raiders made a huge splash when they traded for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ stellar if disaffected wide receiver, but so far in training camp — and it remains early — Brown has done precious little work after staging an outrageous camp arrival this summer. He floated in via hot-air balloon, wearing a hoodie emblazoned with “SUPREME” on the front and the Raiders logo on the back.
Float like a butterfly, sting like AB.#RaiderNation X @AB84 pic.twitter.com/68X0EWlDRp— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) July 26, 2019
He has been a non-factor at practices and briefly shared an image of his beaten-up, battered feet before consulting a foot specialist over the weekend. Whatever ails him reportedly isn’t terribly serious, and yet …
“I think we’re all disappointed,” Gruden said. “We think he’s disappointed. We’d like to get the party started. We’d like to get him out here. He’s a big part of the team. I want the guy out here as soon as possible. I’d like him to never leave and stay in the huddle every play. But life goes on, and you’ve got to continue to work. And the other guys got to take advantage of these opportunities, and so far they have.”
Don't miss this year's #HardKnocks as we get an insider look at training camp with the Silver and Black. @Raiders pic.twitter.com/6PLbkDqNv3— HBO (@HBO) July 31, 2019
Will the Raiders learn anything from past “Hard Knocks?”
Don Banks, the widely respected, veteran NFL writer who died over the weekend, had been hired by the Las Vegas Review-Journal to cover the Raiders. In his final piece, he took at look at the Cleveland Browns, who were the featured team in 2018.
“‘Hard Knocks’ is only going to affect you if you let it affect you,’’ Freddie Kitchens, the Browns’ first-year coach, told Banks. “The people at NFL Films, those folks are great to work with. But people have a hard time making sure those cameras don’t affect them. Because they see the cameras everywhere. So sometimes you don’t always get the truth. You get coaches and players playing up to the camera instead of just the truth.
“If you’re truly asking the players to be all about the team, I would say ‘Hard Knocks’ makes it very difficult to do. Because those cameras are always looking for someone to make a star out of.’’
The Raiders have plenty of candidates. Tuesday night, the star-making will begin.
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