Hard Knocks Episode 03 recap: A successful trip to the desert, Antonio Brown gets back to work

We open as we seemingly always do, with Head Coach Jon Gruden addressing his team at the podium, but following an announcement from Derek Carr, another Jon Gruden heads to the front of the room to address the Silver and Black – comedian Frank Caliendo.

In his best depiction of Coach Gruden, including the raised eyebrow, a Raiders visor, and a faux Super Bowl ring, Caliendo stalks to the front of the room and addresses the troops, including Mike Glenn-on, and Hunter Renfrow in particular, and then the theme music kicks in.

(I have to say, I really enjoyed Jon Caliendo leading into the show open, well done, HBO)

Following the opening credits, we find once again find ourselves in Napa, where we see Antonio Brown going to work.

If you remember back to last week, we were teased about Mr. Big Chest’s return at the conclusion of Episode 02, and in the early moments of Episode 03, we indeed see Brown’s return to the Raiders Napa Valley Training Complex, complete with the customary daps to the coaching staff and his teammates.

After the pleasantries conclude, Coach Gruden – the real one, not Caliendo – welcomes AB back into the fold, and we get to listen in on a conversation between Gruden and Brown’s agent about where they are in terms of the helmet situation.

From there, we segue into a brief segment on the Madden ratings adjustors, who I have to imagine have one of the toughest jobs in sports.

During their day in Napa, the good folks from EA get an earful from a handful of Raiders players, including wide receiver Keon Hatcher who tells them that tight end Darren Waller is the one member of the Silver and Black who deserves a bump in the video game.

And wouldn’t you know it, our pals at Hard Knocks then use that moment to vault us in to a deep dive on the Raiders athletic tight end!

Production, baby.

All kidding aside, Waller’s journey has been an inspiring one, and he’s a guy that you find yourself rooting for the more you get to know him.

And on the eve of his second year of being clean Waller talks about his struggles in Baltimore, what turned his life around, and how he’s making the most out of his chance as a Raider.

Next up, we check in on the two men battling it out for the right to be the backup quarter – Mike Glennon and Nathan Peterman.

We pop into a conversation between Gruden and offensive coordinator Greg Olson, where Gruden elects to keep Glennon as the second quarterback on the depth chart, a decision that very quickly proves to be a good one.

Following a quick AB workout montage, some friendly shaming of rookie wideout Hunter Renfrow, and a trip to Sausalito with tight end Luke Willson, the Silver and Black arrive in the desert for their preseason clash with the Arizona Cardinals.

Derek Carr and the starting offense play sparingly – just one series to be exact – but, boy, what a series it was as DC marches the boys down the field for an early score, much to the delight of Gruden.

And following Carr’s departure we get another look at Glennon’s masterful night at State Farm Stadium.

Once the Raiders put the finishing touches on their 33-26 win over Kyler Murray and Co., we’re transported into the winning locker room where Gruden congratulates the team and preps them for the week ahead.

Following a happy flight to California we return to Napa where we see AB doing what he does best, catching footballs, and then having a conversation with Coach Gruden where he thanks him for his support throughout the entire training camp experience.

However, the episode ends with General Manager Mike Mayock’s statement about Brown’s absence from work Sunday, followed in short order by No. 84’s return to camp.

We officially conclude the third episode with Mr. Big Chest getting some work on the JUGS machine, and like I said, everything looks cooler in slow-mo.

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Questions:

I have no shortage of questions this week, so here they are, in no particular order:

Does Johnathan Abram really swallow all his gum?

What’s in the “drip drop” and why is AB so keen on it?

Does Gruden do the fist pump after every touchdown?

Did Darren Waller ever look up that Ozzy Osbourne song Luke Willson was blasting pregame?

How many versions of The Autumn Wind does HBO have on deck?

Also, has there been a better soundtrack during a season of Hard Knocks? HBO has gone above and beyond to perfectly fit songs where they need to be to evoke a certain emotion. If you'd like to check out the Hard Knocks playlist you can click, here.

MVP:

I came oh so close to giving the nod this week to Luke Willson, but after a little bit of inner debate, I decided that Coach Gruden gets the nod.

Once again, the Raiders head coach was the most entertaining part of the episode, and every time he’s on screen, you can’t look away.

From his “gentle” ribbing of the refs during the Cardinals game, to his excitement post-touchdown, Gruden was the dude this week.

Can he build on his performance next week? Yup, I think he can.

Quote of the Episode:

Aside from Gruden being a true “football guy” and me not falling into that category, Coach and I have numerous similarities, including our thoughts on the preseason:

“I’ve got a plane to catch, man.”

My thoughts exactly, Coach. My thoughts exactly.

Next week on Hard Knocks…

We’re headed up north to Canada!

For the first time this year, the Silver and Black are headed abroad, and I’m sure the aforementioned Luke Willson will have a ton of air time next week.

Oh, and I think we’ll likely get a little more clarity on the Antonio Brown helmet situation too.

Regardless, we have two shows left, and I think both episodes will be must-see TV.

With training camp wrapped up, check out the top photos from the second half of 2019 Training Camp in Napa, Calif.

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