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Volume 26 No. 65
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Raiders' Gruden, Rookie Safety Highlight "Hard Knocks" Debut

Rookie S Johnathan Abram's outspoken personality could make him a focal point on the HBO show
Photo: ben margot

The new season of HBO's "Hard Knocks" debuted last night, following the Raiders as they begin training camp, and the first episode was "largely a table-setter" for the rest of the season, according to Chuck Barney of the San Jose MERCURY NEWS. There was "nary a mention of the team’s impending move to Las Vegas," and it is clear that coach Jon Gruden "makes for great TV." Still, "Hard Knocks" is "forever in search of fresh screen gems," and they "may have found one" in rookie S Johnathan Abram. He is "brash and cocky and has a hard time pronouncing 'salmon.'" So, "of course, the camera loves him." All of the show's "humanizing makes it feel like we’re watching the Travel Channel and/or the Food Network." Napa "looks as gorgeous as ever," but viewers "just don’t know yet if these Raiders will shine as brightly" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 8/7). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes it "might take a few episodes to get things rolling." It was a "tepid beginning overall, not compelling by most any standard, with some punchy one-liners and the much publicized hot air balloon ride" on which WR Antonio Brown arrived to camp (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/7).

FINDING THE GRUDEN GRINDER: ESPN’s Ryan Clark said, “Jon Gruden was in this business. He understands production meetings, he understands how things can be changed for TV, so he knows what’s going to be played. He knows how to make sure that he gets the right sound bites in and says, ‘I want to use that, I want to use that.’ The one thing we saw that was displayed last night is that, ‘Me and Derek Carr, we love each other. I think he’s a great quarterback.'" Gruden is "doing a good job of making this thing look like one big happy family.” ESPN’s Emmanuel Acho: “Your head coach was on TV, your general manager was a TV guy. You signed Antonio Brown, the biggest distraction in the whole offseason, so you can’t sit here and say the Raiders are worried about distractions. That entire organization is one big show, for better or for worse” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 8/7).

A STAR IS BORN: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Charean Williams wrote Abram "looks like he will become the star" of the show. Abram "brought $500 worth of snacks to camp" and "rode horses with fellow first-round choice [DE] Clelin Ferrell." He was also "chastised" by Gruden for "being too aggressive in a non-padded practice" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/6). In N.Y., Jaclyn Hendricks notes Abram "became the talk of Twitter" last night, as he "kicked off the debut episode by enjoying a horseback ride in Napa Valley" (N.Y. POST, 8/7). USA TODAY's Jim Reineking writes Abram's introduction was "less than flattering." He "dumps over his belongings as he arrives for training camp." Later, he "explains how being called 'rook' is one of his biggest pet peeves so far" (USA TODAY, 8/7).

READY FOR MORE: YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab wrote the first episode "didn’t disappoint." Gruden was "front and center," and QB Derek Carr and Brown "got plenty of air time." Rookie DT Ronald Ollie, from the Netflix show "Last Chance U," was a "big part" of the episode, too. This season's debut "might not have been rollocking and explosive, but it was interesting." This season of "Hard Knocks" looks like it "should be a winner again" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/6). In Las Vegas, Adam Hill wrote it is "no surprise" that Brown was a "featured star of the episode despite missing all but one practice in training camp" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/7). In S.F., Matt Kawahara notes there were "multiple renditions of 'The Autumn Wind,'" the storied NFL Films composition that always accompanied Raiders highlight films (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/7).