This week’s “Hard Knocks” episode was heavy on Antonio Brown.
This year’s Raiders training camp has been dominated by his frostbitten feet and his steadfast desire to wear the helmet he wants despite it not being certified and failing a safety test.
Non-AB segments of this show were also featured, focusing on Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and Luke Wilson.
Head coach Jon Gruden continues to carry the show more than anyone, showcasing a magnetic personality that is TV gold.
Let’s take a look a few non-AB things we learned on this week’s “Hard Knocks” episode:
Darren Waller’s easy to root for
Gruden often jokes that he’s trying to keep Darren Waller a secret. His talent won’t be kept quiet this fall, during what should be a breakout year for someone with unrealized potential.
Waller has no problem discussing how he set himself back. He recently celebrated two years clean and sober, and detailed how far he was willing to go for drugs of any kind, even if it meant hurting his NFL career.
“I was super burned out,” Waller said. “I wondered, ‘am I going to stick with it or not.’ I was plotting to sabotage myself on the way out of the league, so I didn’t look like a quitter. I was thinking the league would put me out of misery, and I’d just go about my business.”
Suffice it to say that didn’t happen. He served two suspensions for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy before going to rehab, getting clean and playing like he’s capable after the Raiders signed him off Baltimore’s practice squad.
Waller’s a great talent with an important role in this offense, and he’s expected to have a big year. Fans getting to know Waller on “Hard Knocks” will make the tight end easy to root for.
Hunter Renfrow keeps taking shots
Fifth-round rookie receiver and Clemson product Hunter Renfrow didn’t sing well last week and got flak for it, even from stand-up comic/Gruden impersonator Frank Caliendo. His hairline looks like it’s receding, and even Derek Carr has given him guff for it.
This best set-up and put down came this week, when Gruden said he wanted players who were bigger, faster and well-conditioned. Then he put up a picture of Renfrow shirtless at the NFL combine, sporting an uninspired physique.
It was a funny exchange Renfrow took in stride, and it was followed up by the fact he had an excellent training camp with a real shot to make a major contribution this season.
The best Renfrow dig came from defensive line coach and proud Clemson alum Brenston Buckner, who dropped this line: "When he first got to Clemson, some of the guys thought he was [an equipment] manager.”
Luke Willson can’t skip leg day
The “Hard Knocks” crew hung with veteran tight end Luke Willson during this episode, showing him on a boat with his dad, saying the Canadian looks like a hockey player and showing him knocking some helmets against Arizona.
Oh, and Willson’s dad said Luke always wanted to be a Hanson brother. The best part of Willson’s screen time was him relaying a request from Jon Gruden, that he get bigger calves.
I can understand why Willson’s podium session this week didn’t make the cut, considered he (jokingly) accused “Hard Knocks” editors of making it look like Johnathan Abram lit him up when he didn’t. He also downplayed his Canada connection just before heading up to Winnipeg.
AB makes stat nerds blush
Man. We couldn’t make it through this post without bringing up Antonio Brown. Sorry. His quote was too good to ignore, though we promise it has nothing to do with his feet or his head.
He was working with a private analytics expert, who was breaking down his speed and yards run compared to other top NFL receivers. Brown’s work rate is off-the-charts, and he clearly liked seeing that backed by numbers.
It prompted this gem, that stat nerds undoubtedly loved: “Women lie. Men lie. Analytics don’t.”