*Just like you guys, we're tuning in every Tuesday night to watch Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The Oakland Raiders. Following each of the five episodes, the Raiders.com staff will recap what happened over the course of the program and look at some of the biggest questions they have following the viewing.
It was the news that shocked the NFL world – and threw dozens of fantasy football teams into disarray in the process – the sudden retirement of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck on August 24, and it was the news that the kicked off the final episode of "Hard Knocks."
We open with defensive line coach Brentson Buckner talking to assistant defensive line coach Travis Smith about the news, eventually telling him that in football there's a 100 percent retirement rate, and that at some point, everyone's career comes to a close –a fitting beginning for an episode that focuses so much on the Raiders' roster reductions to 53 players.
After we see the Hard Knocks opening montage for the last time – man, I'm going to miss it – we find ourselves driving to work with Head Coach Jon Gruden and Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther, and, yes, it's really early.
(Honestly, I'm shocked that it took until the finale for the crew to play up the "Coach Gruden gets up obscenely early" storyline, but, hey, we got there eventually)
Gruden and Guenther joke in the pre-dawn darkness about their carpooling situation, Gruden's ability to count backwards by three, and the price of gas, before ultimately blasting a little Metallica on their way into 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway.
Once the pair arrives in Alameda, its back to work for the Silver and Black; not only do they have their final preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks on the horizon, but roster cuts loom heavy over the entire facility.
We see another Antonio Brown practice montage – our pals at HBO have been quite keen on those throughout the duration of the series – and No. 84 also shows off the new helmet that he's been working with.
Coach Gruden then talks about the importance of Derek Carr – and the rest of the team's quarterbacks – being able to use their legs to make a play, and to really hammer that point home, the 56-year-old head coach gets after the trio of signal-callers himself, running at each of them in moments that I'm sure at this point has been GIF'd countless times already.
From there, the fun ends, and there's a noticeable shift in the tone of the episode, as business is afoot and cuts are looming.
During a team meeting back in Alameda, Coach Gruden announces the players that won't be headed to Seattle – likely a good thing – and those who are going to make the trip to the Pacific Northwest for one, final tryout.
Just a few days out from one of the hardest days on the NFL calendar, there's no confusion headed into the game against the Seahawks – if you want a job come the weekend, you better ball out.
Cut to Coach Gruden in the locker room, telling all the assembled players that they're good enough to make the team, and then to Luke Willson – a bubble player himself – breaking down the huddle, reminding guys that this really is the last chance they have to make an imprint on the coaching staff.
We then get an inside glimpse at what occurred on the field Thursday night – both good and bad – at CenturyLink Field where the Raiders ultimately fell 17-15.
Following the game, we're transported into a locker room that isn't as energized, and full of daps and music as we've seen the last several weeks, as the grim reality that most of these guy's careers as Raiders is over becomes a sobering reality.
We then flash ahead to the banquet room at an Alameda Mexican restaurant – you're a real one if you recognize it – where coaches Smith, Buckner and Johnson lament over what the next 48 hours look like for the Silver and Black.
With training camp wrapped up, check out behind-the-scenes photos of the Hard Knocks film crews and their time documenting the Raiders.
Then, the cuts begin.
You know it's coming, but it doesn't get any easier, as we see a handful of Raiders – including Keelan Doss – head upstairs to General Manager Mike Mayock's to get the news that none of them want to hear.
The cut scene is a harsh reminder just how hard it is to make it in the NFL, and even if you come in as a highly touted offseason signing – like Luke Willson – there's no guarantee you'll make it to Week 1.
Following a brief tour of Al Davis' office from Owner Mark Davis, we watch Coach Gruden address the team during their first team meeting of the year.
Then, we wrap up the show – and the series as a whole – with a montage of Mr. Big Chest working out at home, an appropriate ending for a five-week mini-series where he played such a central role.
Roll credits, and we've reached the end of "Hard Knocks."
Who chooses the morning playlist for Coach Gruden and Coach Guenther?
Has anyone ever made Trent Brown feel small?
Did Coach Smith and the boys order any food when they were at that restaurant, or was it just chips and salsa?
I really enjoyed that scene with Guenther and linebacker Jason Cabinda after he got cut. I'm curious though, does the coordinator for every cut player do that, or was Cabinda a special case?
This week's MVP is the bevy of football ops folks who had to work with the players on cut day.
Whether it was walking them to Mike Mayock's office, cleaning out their lockers after they left, or collecting their key fob to the building, that whole scene was just brutal to watch.
Big shout-out to the guys and girls who had to be around the building those few days and help with the logistics of the roster reductions.
It's a thankless job, but I'm here to let you know I see you, and I appreciate you.
Quote of the Episode:
This early morning quote from Gruden to Guenther on their way to the facility made me chuckle.
"Gas was like $12 a gallon out here, so we decided that we would commute, save our wallets. Then we realized the commute was quite a commute, eh, Paul?"
Going green and you get to save on gas, much respect, JG, much respect.
Next week on Hard Knocks…
There is no next week!
We hope you enjoyed the series as much as we did, but as the NFL Films gear leaves the facility, it means that the regular season is upon us.