As soon as the 2018 season was over, we knew who the five teams were that could not turn down HBO’s Hard Knocks should they hope to make the Raiders the team for the show this season. Those teams were the Raiders, 49ers, Giants, Lions, and Washington.
That was also when we learned that Mike Mayock was the team’s new General Manager. Immediately, the Raiders looked like a lock to be the team chosen for the show. I said just that on December 31.
Through the years, teams selected for Hard Knocks have made their announcement between March and June. And with the playoffs going on and the non-playoff teams starting their offseasons, all was quiet for a while.
It was at the Lions’ season ticket holders forum on February 12 that Matt Patricia broke the ice on the subject. He, of course, pitched the Raiders to HBO to be the selection.
Patricia: “I think Jon Gruden is an excellent choice for that show. I think the Oakland Raiders and everything they’ve got going on right now would be fantastic viewing for everybody to watch.”
It was a couple weeks later at the scouting combine that Jon Gruden was given a chance to respond.
Gruden: ”Appreciate Matt Patricia, my friend, offering that up to me. That beard that Patricia has, he’s going to be a star. I mean he’s going to be one of the future television stars. I’d be surprised if Monday Night Football doesn’t put him upstairs in the future.”
Two weeks later, Antonio Brown was officially a Raider. A few days later, they signed infamously dirty player Vontaze Burfict all of which only amped up the discussions about the Raiders being the perfect spectacle for Hard Knocks.
On March 27 at the owners meetings, owner Mark Davis was asked about whether he would like the Raiders to be on the show. He was adamantly against it, joking that he would “fire Jon and then hire him back” should the Raiders be chosen.
Davis: ”It would be disruptive. We’ve got a lot of business to take care of, get ready for the season. I appreciate that they might think we’d be great TV, but we got something to accomplish.”
OTA’s kicked off a the end of May along with the addition of controversial offensive guard Richie Incognito.
After the second open OTA session on May 28, I asked the very camera and social media friendly Antonio Brown how he would feel about having the Hard Knocks crew out here for practices.
Brown: “I’m excited about the opportunity to display my will and show guys what I’m about, no matter who’s here. Obviously, I’m here to represent the Raiders’ organization and whatever comes with that I’m embracing.”
Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has a lot of experience doing the show, having had the Hard Knocks crew there while with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was the ideal person to ask about what it is like. He discussed it after the team’s third OTA practice on June 4, saying it wasn’t as much of a distraction as perhaps fans fear.
Coach Guenther: “I really don’t think [so]. They do a really good job of staying out of your way. You can see, kind of, what’s going to be on the show. I think the positive thing is you find out a lot about your team and the coaches on the staff that, ‘Hey, when the camera is on you are you going to be a different guy or a different player or if you’re not.’ Because really after the third day, you don’t notice, you’re so used to having them around that you just go about your business. I don’t really pay attention to where the cameras are in the building. You just go about and coach the guys how you know how to coach them and that’s all you know how to do.”
Obviously, Vontaze Burfict, who played seven seasons in Cincinnati also knows the drill. He also said it wasn’t a big distraction.
Burfict: “No, you just come in every day to work. Obviously, there are cameras around the building but every day is a work day and just come and get better.”
And finally, the day of reckoning today. Prior to their first minicamp practice, Jon Gruden hinted that the Raiders would be selected, by mentioning the show unprompted
Gruden: “Who knows, maybe Hard Knocks will come and cover that. That’d be awesome, wouldn’t it?”
His brother Jay in Washington pulled a Matt Patricia in nominating the Raiders for the show, to which Jon joked (I think).
Gruden: “I’m not talking to my brother again.”
Daryl Worley was asked if he knew whether the team was selected for the show, and he said he did not.
Worley: “I think it would be fun. We have a lot of new personalities, new guys on the team. 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.”
Then after practice came the official announcement which included a quote from Mark Davis.
Davis: “Everybody wants to be a Raider. Now they’ll find out what it takes to become one.”
The HBO Hard Knocks crew will be in training camp in Napa, so that will be an interesting experience for myself as well as all the other media who attend camp every year. Last year with Gruden back, it got a bit crowded at times. But it will certainly be great for the fans who want to watch the inner workings.
Oh, and Antonio Brown tweeted this out just now:
It’s a hard knock life for us— AB (@AB84) June 12, 2019