What we learned from Jon Gruden, Derek Carr, Antonio Brown, Johnathan Abram and the Raiders in episode one of the HBO documentary series.
Hard Knocks officially made its return on Tuesday night, which hints that the 2019 NFL season is within arm's reach. The popular HBO series, which is in its 14th year, features the Oakland Raiders this time around.
They finished the 2018 campaign with a 4-12 record, which was tied with the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers for second-worst in the league. Jon Gruden's bunch is optimistic entering the season, though, as the addition of All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown has provided a breath of fresh air for the franchise.
Here's what we learned from episode 1.
Jon Gruden doesn't care about your dreams
The debut begins with Jon Gruden laying out his expectations for training camp, a clip that was leaked weeks before the season premiere. The Super Bowl-winning coach emphasized that he's not into personal goals or personal accomplishments. “Everybody in the NFL, ‘I have a dream of making it in the NFL. I got a dream of winning the Super Bowl. I got a dream of being in the Pro Bowl,”‘ Gruden says. “I’m really not into dreams anymore, OK? I’m into nightmares. You guys with me on that? You’ve got to end somebody’s dream. You gotta take their job. You gotta take their heart."
Obtaining a winning record and playing competitive football week in and week out are a few dreams that Gruden and Co. should be focused on this season.
Derek Carr has high praise for his new go-to receiver
If there's one thing every quarterback needs to reach his ultimate peak as a player, it's a superstar-level wideout. Carr is confident his team made the right choice by trading for nine-year veteran Antonio Brown, and appears to be thrilled about the magic they can create together. "He's the best receiver in the NFL," Carr said as the show kicks off, while spending time with his wife and kids. "Who wouldn't want that guy on their team?"
Well, the Pittsburgh Steelers no longer wanted him. But, Brown may be just what Carr needs to help jump-start an offense that was ranked 23rd in yards per game last season. The excitement to have a receiver of that caliber was written all over Carr's face.
"No rookie hazing"
Gruden made clear during a players' meeting that he didn't want to see his rookies go through any unnecessary hazing during training camp. You don't see coaches step up too often and shut down the hazing process, as it's usually a tradition for veteran players to pick on rookies when they first enter the league. But Gruden did just that, setting the tone right out of the gate, reiterating to his players that football is the only thing that matters.
Johnathan Abram is the energizer the Raiders needed on defense
The first-round selection instantly became a focal point in the first episode. His aggressive play at the safety position and his charismatic personality were both on full display. There was a moment where Gruden had to settle him down, as the Mississippi State product nearly hit a teammate helmet-to-helmet on several occasions. While Gruden appreciated Abram's physical nature, he had to warn the rookie to be smart while out on the field, especially when playing against his teammates in practice—a sentiment that Abram didn't necessarily seem to embrace at first sight.
Ronald Ollie one and done
Ollie is an undrafted rookie who was a popular figure on the Netflix series Last Chance U. Like with any undrafted player, the 23-year-old defensive lineman had his work cut out to earn a roster spot. Raiders defensive line coach Brentson Buckner is shown riding him throughout practice, attempting to bring the best out of Ollie. But after favoring a foot injury, not attending treatment or participating enough in practice, Gruden, without much hesitation, decided to cut the 291-pounder. Just a glimpse into how cutthroat the NFL can be.