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"Hard Knocks": Jon Gruden wants in your nightmares

The first voice you hear in the first season of "Hard Knocks" is Jon Gruden's. How could he be someone else?

From the moment the Oakland Raiders were announced as subjects of the 14th season of "Hard Knocks", it was obvious that Gruden would be the star and poster of the season. In one way, this is not very different from that of the Raiders as an organization in 2019. It is the issue of Chucky – and it is to him to do television again in Oakland. It's been a minute.

The Jon Gruden of 2019 walks a delicate balance. He is a Super Bowl winning coach, but most of the current Raiders were barely out of elementary school the last time he coached a playoff team (that would be the 2007 Bucs). Gruden has the resume, but the newspaper cracked and yellowed after a decade spent in the broadcast booth.

"Hard Knocks" still had a meaning for Gruden, despite all the public pronouncements that he had conducted until the announcement. For many people who follow the sport, the return of the coach on the sideline was greeted with a large dose of skepticism. The first year of Gruden – a 4-12 finish and exchanges of two superstars – did not convince skeptics that it was no better to name Grinders and peddle Corona beer.

So, consider "Hard Knocks" as the ideal vehicle to claim that the time has not been exceeded by the 55-year-old coach. To show that it's not Don Draper in 1970, neither Shaq on the Celtics nor Rick Dalton pulling on spaghetti westerns in Italy. The real proof that Gruden will still matter will come if he can give the Raiders all his relevance. But for the moment? "Hard Knocks" is a golden opportunity to embark on a positive personal branding strategy.

"Everyone has dreams right now, is not it guys?" Gruden tells his players the opening scene of Tuesday's premiere. "Everyone in the NFL dreams of succeeding in the NFL." I have to dream of winning a Super Bowl. "I have to dream of being in the Pro Bowl." I'm really no longer in dreams, okay? I'm in nightmares. You have to end someone's dream. You have to take his job.You have to take his heart.Are you clear on this NFL s- – now? "

Gruden 's soliloquy is revealed prefiguring Tuesday night. A few minutes later, we meet defensive striker Ronald Ollie, a non-recruited free agent who participated in Netflix's "Last Chance U" series during his stint at East Mississippi Community College. On the surface, Ollie seemed to be the ideal candidate to get the five-episode arc treatment under the name Requisite Underdog Long Shot. But when Ollie retires from an injured practice and then cancels an appointment for treatment, Gruden grabs the opportunity to send a message.

"Do you know what?" "Let's bring some of these —— guys who do not want to play," grumbled Gruden on the training ground. "You know, if we do not listen to the coach, who will we listen to?"

Just like that, Ollie is sent packing. In the NFL, a dream can turn into a nightmare so quickly.

Quick shots

– Welcome to the 14th season of "Hard Knocks" and the eighth year of NFL.com's weekly recap. As always, I will present my previews of each episode from now until the final of September 3rd. New episodes will air on HBO every Tuesday at 10pm. ET and PT. I will also talk about each episode of Wednesday's edition of the Around The NFL podcast.

– If you were hoping that "Hard Knocks" would shed light on the mysterious injury of Antonio Brown, no dice. The narrator Liev Schrieber explains that Brown "is hindered by foot injuries" and that the internal conversations of the Raiders we see do not reveal the original story. The hope here was that "Hard Knocks" would confirm the incredible NBC Sports report released Tuesday that Brown is struggling with frozen feet after "getting into a cryotherapy machine without the proper shoes". Hopefully Brown will be back soon at 100%. Let's also hope that this report is 100% factual.

– More Brown: At the beginning of the episode, we see Brown train with a personal trainer and move as a 48-year-old father at a football match with flag for alumni on the morning of Thanksgiving. Later we see AB look like, well, A B during a practice Raiders. If the situation of the foot is still a sub-plot next Tuesday, Raiders fans can start to get nervous.

– What about the "Hard Knocks" theme that benefits from the remix of Season 14? John Facenda's soft tones rest on David Robidoux's theme song as a warm blanket. Somehow, Steve Sabol smiles.

– Derek Carr is a good guy with muscular arms. It was what I remembered from the beginning of the quarterback's "Hard Knocks". If I'm a fan of Raiders, my only concern is maybe that Carr is a bit as well good to be the QB1 of Gruden. Remember, Gruden is looking for a team of monsters running on nightmarish fuel. Carr seems to be a guy who would insist that he help you get out of your walk on the fifth floor, then pick up the note on beers afterwards.

– We have a candidate for the post of MVP, "Hard Knocks", in the choice of first rookie, Jonathan Abrams. Loquacious security outside the state of Mississippi was ubiquitous in the first installment. He developed his equestrian knowledge during a horseback expedition with fellow rookie Clelin Ferrell. for his physique during a practice of shorts and helmet.

Gruden said: "There is a new league that is forming if you want to knock yourself out for $ 800 a week."

– "Old Town Road" serving as the soundtrack to Abrams and Ferrell's Napa Trail adventure was the most imaginable in 2019. Abrams even knew that this would happen in real time. "You will play" Old Town Road "as the previous song!"

– Richie Incognito is a big fan of Guy Fieri. Who is surprised?

– The 2000 clip of John Madden preaching the virtues of the seven-man blocking sled was absolutely perfect. The way he connected the Raiders coaches to the current Silver & Black scheme and the way it reminded me (and I'm sure you are many) how far retired Madden is from the modern day landscape of NFL. BOOM!

– Another year, another playlist "Hard Knocks". Every song you hear this season will be selected in the Spotify playlist below. (Check out my seasons collections featuring Texans, Rams, Bucs and Browns.) As always, we'll start with the iconic David Robidoux theme.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus. To learn more about Hanzus, listen to the Around The NFL podcast three times a week.

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