RAIDERS WILL BE ON HBO’S ‘HARD KNOCKS’

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Jerry McDonald

ALAMEDA — One of five teams el­i­gi­ble for the in­side-train­ing camp look by the net­work, the Raiders will be this year’s fea­ture at­trac­tion, a source told the Bay Area News Group Tues­day. The NFL an­nounced the union be­tween the ca­ble net­work and the Raiders on Twit­ter, and the net­work as well as the Raiders later sent out an­nounce­ments.

Raiders coach Jon Gru­den hasn’t been keen on the idea of cam­eras in­vad­ing the space of his team’s Napa train­ing camp, but ap­peared to soften on the idea Tues­day at the team’s three-day manda­tory mini­camp, re­al­iz­ing the deal was al­ready done.

It hap­pened when Gru­den made an un­so­licited ref­er­ence to the show when be­ing asked about the progress of rook­ies such as Clelin Fer­rell and Johnathan Abrams.

“Who knows? Maybe ‘Hard Knocks’ would come and cover it,” Gru­den said. “That’d be awe­some, wouldn’t it?”

With Gru­den and Rams coach Sean McVay hav­ing dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of joint prac­tice ses­sions lead­ing in to their pre­sea­son game on Aug. 10, it’s con­ceiv­able “Hard Knocks” could in­clude those prac­tices.

The Raiders were el­i­gi­ble along with Washington, the 49ers, the New York Gi­ants and Detroit Lions as teams that weren’t com­ing off play­off sea­sons and didn’t have new head coaches. Gru­den and his brother Jay, who coaches Washington, have each nom­i­nated the other’s team to be fea­tured.

“I’m not talk­ing to my brother again,” Gru­den said.

The series will be­gin Aug. 6, and cam­eras will be present in prac­tices and meet­ing rooms, with the Raiders heav­ily in­volved in terms of the con­tent.

Raiders owner Mark Davis didn’t want “Hard Knocks”, and even joked to ESPN’s Paul Gu­tier­rez he’d fire Gru­den and then re­hire him to avoid be­ing on the show. Ide­ally, Davis would have liked to see the pub­lic­ity that comes with “Hard Knocks” come pre­ced­ing the Raiders’ first year in their new sta­dium in Las Ve­gas.

What­ever re­sis­tance the Raiders of­fered, it’s clear there will be an abundance of sto­ry­lines. The dif­fi­cult part for the net­work will be de­ter­min­ing which ones to fea­ture.

Gru­den has long been one of the NFL’s most tele­genic coaches, a fa­vorite of the late Steve Sabol, who once said of Gru­den dur­ing his first go-round with the Raiders “He’s like a lion tamer. He cracks his whip and the cats are on the stools.” Gru­den re­mains one of the NFL’s most en­ter­tain­ing coaches when miked for prac­tice or a game.

Be­sides Gru­den, who spent nine years in tele­vi­sion with ESPN’s Mon­day Night Foot­ball, the Raiders also hired Mike May­ock as gen­eral man­ager. May­ock, a long­time NFL Net­work draft an­a­lyst, also has con­sid­er­able tele­vi­sion ex­pe­ri­ence.

Dur­ing the off­sea­son, the Raiders traded for Pitts­burgh wide re­ceiver An­to­nio Brown, the flashy wide re­ceiver who left Pitts­burgh un­der ac­ri­mo­nious cir­cum­stances. Brown is known for flashy cars, flashy clothes and once ar­rived at a Steel­ers prac­tice in a he­li­copter. Also signed was Trent Brown, the largest player in the NFL, to play right tackle.

Other ac­qui­si­tions in­cluded Cincin­nati line­backer Von­taze Bur­fict, a free agent and a blunt talker with a rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing one of the dirt­i­est play­ers in the NFL. Most re­cently, guard Richie Incog­nito was signed to a oneyear con­tract. Incog­nito was the cen­tral fig­ure in a bul­ly­ing scan­dal with the Mi­ami Dol­phins in­clud­ing Jonathan Martin and has a long his­tory of er­ratic be­hav­ior.

The Raiders rookie class, in­clud­ing first-rounders Fer­rell, Josh Ja­cobs and Abrams, all have com­pelling back­sto­ries and are very good in in­ter­view sit­u­a­tions in telling those sto­ries.

In the mid­dle of it all is quar­ter­back Derek Carr, whose sta­tus as the Raiders start­ing quar­ter­back was con­sid­ered du­bi­ous by out­siders even as Gru­den backed him pub­licly and Carr main­tained he wasn’t go­ing any­where.

“Hard Knocks” de­buted on HBO with the Bal­ti­more Ravens in 2001 and then Dal­las in 2002. The show was not pro­duced from 2003 through 2006, but has fea­tured a team ev­ery sea­son ex­cept 2011 be­cause of the league’s la­bor dis­pute.

Last sea­son’s fea­tured team was the Cleve­land Browns and rookie quar­ter­back Baker May­field.

The Cincin­nati Ben­gals have been fea­tured twice in 2009 and 2013, so both Bur­fict and de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Paul Guen­ther have ex­pe­ri­enced the in­tru­sion of cam­eras into their world and talked about it a week ago fol­low­ing or­ga­nized team ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to HBO, a 30-mem­ber NFL Films crew will shoot more than 1,750 hours of footage. The series will span five one-hour episodes and con­clude on Sept. 6

“You just come in ev­ery day to work,” Bur­fict said. “Ob­vi­ously, there are cam­eras around the build­ing but ev­ery day is a work day and just come and get bet­ter.”

Guen­ther said of the net­work “They do a re­ally good job of stay­ing out of your way . . . I know the pos­i­tive thing is you find out a lot about your team and the coaches on staff that, ‘Hey, when the cam­era is on are go­ing to be a dif­fer­ent guy or a dif­fer­ent player?’ . . . af­ter the third day, you don’t no­tice, you’re so used to hav­ing them around you go about your busi­ness.”

Raiders cor­ner­back Daryl Wor­ley em­braced the idea Tues­day be­fore the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment was made.

“We have a lot of new per­son­al­i­ties, new guys on the team,” Wor­ley said. “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.”

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