HBO 'Hard Knocks' 2019: Best Raiders Storylines, Moments, Reaction for Episode 3

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorAugust 21, 2019

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - AUGUST 15:  Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Oakland Raiders warms up before the NFL preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on August 15, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Antonio Brown's return (and subsequent departure), an expert Jon Gruden impersonator and Darren Waller's emergence highlighted the third Hard Knocks episode covering the 2019 Oakland Raiders' training camp.

Brown has been suffering from frostbitten feet while battling the NFL to use an old helmet no longer allowed. As a result, his time at training camp has been limited.

However, the wideout made his return to Napa, California, in this episode, and he even gave former AFC North rival (and current teammate) Vontaze Burfict a hug upon his return.

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Nothing but love between Brown and Burfict #HardKnocks https://t.co/CVJINUO2IO

Burfict played for the Cincinnati Bengals before heading west, and he notoriously leveled Brown with an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit in the 2015 playoffs.

Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report noted the exchange:

Maurice Moton @MoeMoton

Did y'all see that big embrace between Antonio Brown and Vontaze Burfict? Remember when there was chirping about whether they'd coexist? Big smiles between the two when AB arrived. #HardKnocks

However, the helmet issue came to the forefront as Brown no-showed a camp session in the midst of trying to find league-approved headwear.

General manager Mike Mayock's "all-in or all-out" press conference preceded the show's ending, which featured Brown catching one-handed passes:

Oakland Raiders @Raiders

GM Mike Mayock issued a statement today regarding Antonio Brown. https://t.co/5ueLsrOmid

Oakland Raiders @Raiders

A little lefty work. @AB84 https://t.co/eEs4QO5uwB

Elsewhere, comedian and impersonator Frank Caliendo brought his patented impersonation of head coach Jon Gruden to camp and performed in front of the team (warning: video contains profanity):

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Tonight on #HardKnocks...Gruden brings in a guest close to his own heart. ⁣ @FrankCaliendo https://t.co/wI7fS4hTGt

"Jon Gruden. University of Dayton. I do this s--t for free!" Caliendo said when asked to give his name, school and signing bonus in the fashion of a typical rookie.

Hard Knocks' most profound moment featured potential breakout tight end Darren Waller, who used drugs heavily, bounced back and is in line to be the team's starter come Week 1.

Levi Damien of Silver & Black Pride captured the most jaw-dropping quote:

Levi Damien @LeviDamien

"When I was in Baltimore, I was like a vegetable. I was getting high literally every day. Whatever I could get my hands on." -- Darren Waller Damn. Real. Honest.

The Baltimore Ravens picked him in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL draft out of Georgia Tech. He was suspended for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy twice: once for four games in 2016 and the second time for a full season in 2017.

The 26-year-old landed on the Ravens' practice squad before the Raiders picked him up in November 2018. In limited action, Waller caught six passes for 75 yards.

MJ Acosta of NFL Network gave Waller strong praise for his honesty:

MJ Acosta @MJAcostaTV

Top moment so far: Darren Waller speaking his truth. Rooting for him on and off the field. #HardKnocks #Raiders

Other fans noted how many compliments teammates and coaches provided about Waller during the episode, leading to a belief that his fantasy football stock will be on the rise:

Tom Rock @TomRock_Newsday

Darren Waller just moved up a lot of fantasy football draft boards.

FantasyPros @FantasyPros

A live look at Darren Waller’s #FantasyFootball ADP following the latest episode of #HardKnocks: https://t.co/ZTLW2bQlcO

Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis provided more schematic insights:

Warren Sharp @SharpFootball

Raiders players say TE Darren Waller is the most underrated player in camp. He played all first-string snaps this preseason & stayed in for all groupings (11, 12, 21 & 22). He caught only 6 passes since 2016, but Gruden said this year he'll get the "chance of a lifetime". 📈📈

Waller is currently listed first on the team's depth chart at tight end.

The episode also featured the Raiders' 33-26 win against the Arizona Cardinals during Week 2 of the preseason. They led 26-0 in the second quarter before the Cardinals closed the gap late.

The penultimate Hard Knocks episode will air Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.