On Tuesday night, Hard Knocks either will provide transparency and clarity to the Antonio Brown helmet fight, or it won’t.
Based on last week’s episode, bet the under.
Peter King made this observation about the situation in his latest Football Morning in America column: “‘Hard Knocks’ is either going to show a slice of this Brown story this week, with some real video and team reaction, or it’s Pravda. And I know Ken Rodgers of NFL Films, the curator of this show. He will want to show the real story, very much.”
The 2019 debut episode of Hard Knocks tiptoed around Brown’s foot issues, referring on multiple occasions to his inability to practice but not once hinting at what was keeping him from running at full speed. Given that, earlier in the day, Chris Simms had explained on PFT Live that Brown’s problems trace to a cryotherapy chamber that was entered without proper footwear, it became obvious that Raiders coach Jon Gruden had exercised his prerogative to make the supposed reality show into a this-is-fine infomercial.
Indeed, the helmet issue was quietly raging before last Tuesday, with subsequent reports suggesting that Brown’s absence from practice has more to do with the dispute over his desire to wear a so-old-it-can’t-be-recertified helmet than the frostbitten feet. But not a mention of the helmet fiasco made its way into Hard Knocks.
It’s no surprise. The Raiders didn’t want to do the show. Something caused them to tolerate the intrusion, and that something very well may have been a sweeping license to control the content, perhaps broader and more binding than any Hard Knocks team has ever had.
The debut episode felt like an exercise in running out the clock, frankly. With precious minutes devoted to a wine-country horseback ride, an extended 19-year-old clip of John Madden (who hasn’t coached the Raiders in more than 40 years) talking about the seven-man blocking sled, a Last Chance U. alumnus who didn’t get much of a chance to stick around in camp, and anything/everything but practice-field and meeting-room interactions, the Raiders managed to keep to a bare minimum the sights and sounds of actual training camp.
Most importantly, the biggest story surrounding the team — Brown’s absence — successfully got short shrift.
Gruden, who has no choice but to stubbornly support a player who undoubtedly is closely monitoring everything the team says and does about him, will want none of the frozen feet or helmet fight material to be included. Ken Rodgers, if he hopes for a show produced by NFL Films (i.e., the NFL) to have any credibility whatsoever, will be pushing Gruden to let the show address the situation. Gruden’s reaction could nevertheless be to invoke whatever behind-the-curtain deal was done to get the Raiders to do the show, stubbornly insisting that it not be addressed.
At most, any treatment of Brown’s situation will be crafted to present the situation, somehow, in a light favorable to Brown and the Raiders. Ultimately, that may be impossible to do. Regardless, no one should be expecting Hard Knocks to present the hard truth about one of the nuttiest preseason stories in NFL history.