Raiders will be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks”

Jon Gruden, Antonio Brown and other storylines abound for inside look at Napa training camp

Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden answers questions from the news media during organized team activities at the team’s facility in Alameda, Calif., on Tuesday, May 21, 2019. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
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ALAMEDA — Get ready for the Raiders on the HBO series “Hard Knocks.”

One of five teams eligible for the inside-training camp look by the network, the Raiders will be this year’s feature attraction, a source told the Bay Area News Group Tuesday. The NFL announced the union between the cable network and the Raiders on Twitter, and the network as well as the Raiders later sent out announcements.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden hasn’t been keen on the idea of cameras invading the space of his team’s Napa training camp, but appeared to soften on the idea Tuesday at the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp, realizing the deal was already done.

It happened when Gruden made an unsolicited reference to the show when being asked about the progress of rookies such as Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abrams.

“Who knows? Maybe `Hard Knocks’ would come and cover it,” Gruden said. “That’d be awesome, wouldn’t it?”

With Gruden and Rams coach Sean McVay having discussed the possibility of joint practice sessions leading in to their preseason game on Aug. 10, it’s conceivable “Hard Knocks” could include those practices.

The Raiders were eligible along with Washington, the 49ers, the New York Giants and Detroit Lions as teams that weren’t coming off playoff seasons and didn’t have new head coaches. Gruden and his brother Jay, who coaches Washington, have each nominated the other’s team to be featured.

“I’m not talking to my brother again,” Gruden said.

The series will begin Aug. 6, and cameras will be present in practices and meeting rooms, with the Raiders heavily involved in terms of the content.

Raiders owner Mark Davis didn’t want “Hard Knocks”, and even joked to ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez he’d fire Gruden and then rehire him to avoid being on the show. Ideally, Davis would have liked to see the publicity that comes with “Hard Knocks” come preceding the Raiders’ first year in their new stadium in Las Vegas.

Whatever resistance the Raiders offered, it’s clear there will be an abundance of storylines. The difficult part for the network will be determining which ones to feature.

Gruden has long been one of the NFL’s most telegenic coaches, a favorite of the late Steve Sabol, who once said of Gruden during his first go-round with the Raiders “He’s like a lion tamer. He cracks his whip and the cats are on the stools.” Gruden remains one of the NFL’s most entertaining coaches when miked for practice or a game.

Besides Gruden, who spent nine years in television with ESPN’s Monday Night Football, the Raiders also hired Mike Mayock as general manager. Mayock, a longtime NFL Network draft analyst, also has considerable television experience.

During the offseason, the Raiders traded for Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown, the flashy wide receiver who left Pittsburgh under acrimonious circumstances. Brown is known for flashy cars, flashy clothes and once arrived at a Steelers practice in a helicopter. Also signed was Trent Brown, the largest player in the NFL, to play right tackle.

Other acquisitions included Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict, a free agent and a blunt talker with a reputation of being one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. Most recently, guard Richie Incognito was signed to a one-year contract. Incognito was the central figure in a bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins including Jonathan Martin and has a long history of erratic behavior.

The Raiders rookie class, including first-rounders Ferrell, Josh Jacobs and Abrams, all have compelling backstories and are very good in interview situations in telling those stories.

In the middle of it all is quarterback Derek Carr, whose status as the Raiders starting quarterback was considered dubious by outsiders even as Gruden backed him publicly and Carr maintained he wasn’t going anywhere.

“Hard Knocks” debuted on HBO with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 and then Dallas in 2002. The show was not produced from 2003 through 2006, but has featured a team every season except 2011 because of the league’s labor dispute.

Last season’s featured team was the Cleveland Browns and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield.

The Cincinnati Bengals have been featured twice in 2009 and 2013, so both Burfict and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther have experienced the intrusion of cameras into their world and talked about it a week ago following organized team activities.

According to HBO, a 30-member NFL Films crew will shoot more than 1,750 hours of footage. The series will span five one-hour episodes and conclude on Sept. 6

“You just come in every day to work,” Burfict said. “Obviously, there are cameras around the building but every day is a work day and just come and get better.”

Guenther said of the network “They do a really good job of staying out of your way . . . I know the positive thing is you find out a lot about your team and the coaches on staff that, `Hey, when the camera is on are  going to be a different guy or a different player?’ . . . after the third day, you don’t notice, you’re so used to having them around you go about your business.”

Raiders cornerback Daryl Worley embraced the idea Tuesday before the official announcement was made.

“We have a lot of new personalities, new guys on the team,” Worley said. “I don’t feel like I would be a star of it just because I’m not that big of a talker or anything, but it’ll definitely be fun.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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