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HBO 'Hard Knocks' 2019: Best Raiders Storylines, Moments, Reaction for Episode 1

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2019

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown during NFL football minicamp Tuesday, June 11, 2019, in Alameda, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Eric Risberg/Associated Press

HBO and NFL Films' hit series Hard Knocks began its latest season Tuesday night.

This season focuses on the Oakland Raiders through training camp as head coach Jon Gruden, star receiver Antonio Brown, quarterback Derek Carr and company attempt to end Oakland's losing ways.

Brown was one of the focal points of the episode, as his mysterious foot injury remains a major storyline surrounding the team. While the episode didn't shed much light on the issue, it did show Brown attempting to work through it.

Michael Gehlken @GehlkenNFL

Raiders head athletic trainer H. Rod Martin on WR Antonio Brown (foot): "He can't handle the sharp cuts."

Michael Gehlken @GehlkenNFL

“Hard Knocks” season debut did not divulge how WR Antonio Brown incurred foot condition. He’s missed eight of nine practices.

The episode also featured Brown making his now-infamous appearance at training camp in a hot air balloon.

"Float like a butterfly, sting like AB," the dynamic wide receiver said from the sky, playing off of Muhammad Ali's famous quote.

Brown's kids were also featured in the episode at one point, asking their father why he wasn't practicing. They were also curious about where Brown's former teammate, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, was.

"Where's Roethlisberger?" his son asked.

When Brown asked his kids for the name of his current quarterback, one responded with "Derek Carter?"

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Black and Yellow ➡️ Silver and Black. Big changes take some getting used to. #HardKnocks: Training Camp with the Oakland @Raiders premieres tonight at 10 ET/PT on @hbo. https://t.co/vs0VBv5fGu

Dan Graziano @DanGrazianoESPN

How many fantasy football team names are now going to be "Where's Roethlisberger?"

Mike Clay @MikeClayNFL

“Where’s Roethlisberger?” 😂😂😂

Rookie safety Johnathan Abram also received a lot of screen time, from going horseback riding with fellow rookie Clelin Ferrell to taking some unappreciated shots at his teammates during a non-padded practice.

The Ringer @ringer

You already know what song is being played. #HardKnocks https://t.co/0La2DCXTeQ

Lance Medow @LanceMedow

just 1 episode in & Johnathan Abram already making a strong case to become the latest star of #HardKnocks..it's going to be real tough topping he & Clelin Ferrell singing "Old Town Road" while riding horses through the vineyard

Brooke Pryor @bepryor

Sign me up for an entire series of nothing but Clelin Ferrell and Johnathan Abram riding horses through Napa

Then there was Ronald Ollie, who is most famous from his appearance on Netflix's Last Chance U. His time in Oakland didn't last long, as he didn't finish a practice because of an injury and then failed to show up for a training session.

Sports Illustrated @SInow

Ronald Ollie from Last Chance U appearance on Hard Knocks! https://t.co/x0gpSTt7Pa

The Raiders cut him shortly thereafter.

Michael Gehlken @GehlkenNFL

Ethan Westbrooks signed in corresponding move. Same position. Assigned same number. That NFL Films transition the league in nutshell.

Dan Graziano @DanGrazianoESPN

Is Ronald Ollie the earliest Hard Knocks cut ever?

The episode also included some celebrity sightings, from musician G-Eazy to food television star Guy Fieri:

NFL @NFL

Spotted on the first episode of #HardKnocks: @G_Eazy! https://t.co/kW4yjBdWWB

PFTCommenter @PFTCommenter

Football Guy https://t.co/pEGZwRTuye

Another big theme of the episode was how the Raiders organization likes to operate like a family.

"Once a Raider, always a Raider," Gruden reminds the team in the first meeting.

The first episode also featured the team's alumni dinner and an outdoor picnic with the players, coaches and their families.

That gave Gruden an opportunity to roast rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow:

Maurice Moton @MoeMoton

“You married way over your head” - Jon Gruden with the zing of the night. Gruden basically told Hunter Renfrow what we say to our homeboys in a classy way. “Yo, you ugly!”

Between the ongoing issues with Brown's feet, the larger-than-life personality of Gruden and the Raiders' desire to end their recent ineptitude—they've had only one winning season since 2003—this season of Hard Knocks promises to be intriguing, even if the first episode was a bit slow at times:

Michele Steele @ESPNMichele

Great open to Hard Knocks. But other than the Antonio Brown updates, episode 1 feels tedious. Not even an undrafted guy to root for. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Russillo @ryenarussillo

The acting on this years Hard Knocks is rough.

Melissa Jacobs @thefootballgirl

Among storylines I wished we had: More about pressure on Carr and Gruden Last year in Oakland, check in w/ fans AB on divorce from Steelers Any fringe player to root for Mayock's transition

The show also typically thrives when it introduces players on the fringe of the roster and the cameras have a chance to follow their quest to make the team. Those storylines weren't introduced in the first episode outside of Ollie, whose cameo turned out to be brief.