"Knock on wood if you're with me."
Head coach Jon Gruden's mantra has permeated Oakland Raiders training camp as his team prepares for the 2019 season in front of HBO's cameras. The question that dominated Tuesday's episode of Hard Knocks was which members of the Raiders will be with him once the regular season starts.
If it wasn't clear cuts were looming going into the third preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, it was from the opening moments of Tuesday's episode.
Things started with defensive line coach Brentson Buckner stressing the importance of putting good football on film during the preseason, and Gruden drove home the point when he said, "some guys are getting ready to play the biggest game of their career."
Linebacker Jason Cabinda was one of those players who put good football on film as a vocal leader in practice. He also tallied five tackles during the 22-21 win over the Packers and made his mother proud in the process:
Cabinda and Keelan Doss (four catches for 52 yards) played well, but the field conditions at IG Field in Winnipeg, Canada, served as the primary storyline.
The two teams played on an 80-yard field without kickoffs because of the poor conditions of the end zone, and the Packers announced 33 players were held out, including all their starters. There was no Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr or Antonio Brown, but that didn't stop the Raiders from earning a comeback win.
Oakland was down eight heading into the fourth quarter, but Nathan Peterman found De'Mornay Pierson-El for a touchdown before Daniel Carlson drilled the game-winning field goal in the final seconds.
Peterman went 23-of-37 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, making a statement by far outplaying Mike Glennon (4-of-9 for 38 yards) in the race for the backup quarterback spot.
Neither quarterback had the luxury of throwing to Brown, but Hard Knocks wasn't about to miss a chance to mention his helmet drama. The seven-time Pro Bowler complained the helmet he wore at practice hurt his head but still found the time to go through fan mail and attend a high school football game to keep everything in perspective.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported Brown lost his second grievance in an effort to wear his old helmet but then noted the receiver "is close to picking a new helmet, and his decision will include a custom-made model and an endorsement deal."
Even with the tension that comes with helmet appeals, an important preseason game, impending cuts and position battles, it wouldn't be Hard Knocks without a number of light-hearted moments.
Gruden was a central figure, as always, and played the role of father to a boxing son (Jayson Gruden) and energy source for the team. He also showed off his counting skills in a display that was almost more impressive than his five playoff appearances and one Super Bowl ring.
The moments of levity weren't limited to coaches, though, as tight end Luke Willson earned plenty of camera time as the team went to his home country of Canada.
He turned heads by suggesting Drake is neck-and-neck with Wayne Gretzky for national icon status north of the border, belted out his country's national anthem and answered some interesting questions from his teammates:
Now that everyone has learned about Canada, the only question remaining for the Raiders is who will make the 53-man roster as the preseason and Hard Knocks winds down with the season finale next Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.