Tim Benz: A ‘Hard Knocks’ review, and a crazy explanation for Antonio Brown’s feet
After an offseason of buildup and anticipation, this year’s “behind the scenes” HBO training camp show “Hard Knocks” with the Oakland Raiders debuted Tuesday night.
With the likes of former Steeler Antonio “Big Chest” Brown, camera conscious head coach Jon Gruden, troubled guard Richie Incognito, frequently fined linebacker Vontaze Burfict, big-ticket quarterback Derek Carr, and mercurial owner Mark Davis, the cast is unrivaled.
There was one spectacular moment for Steelers fans to watch. Brown’s kids — present on the training camp practice fields of Napa Valley just as they were during practices in Latrobe — asked their father where Ben Roethlisberger was.
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) August 6, 2019
Trust me, by Week 6, Brown will be asking that same question. Unless his new quarterback, “Derek Carter,” has a surprisingly big year.
Speaking of Carter, uh, I mean Carr, isn’t it funny that the narration at one point referred to Carr as being “thick-skinned?” Also, the video shows him telling his kids not to cry.
That’s ironic. Because Carr is notoriously thin-skinned. He volunteered to fight national TV talk show hosts. He blocks media members (yours truly included) on social media. He also took to Twitter to deny crying in a game against Seattle. Plus, he had a little sideline spat with Gruden, too, after his coach criticized him on the field.
We got the predictable amount of Gruden preening to the cameras with his profanity-laced tough talk and cliched old-school motivation. But a lot of the first episode seemed to be a scrubbed agenda to show how far Gruden and Carr have come together in their relationship.
And there was the expected vomiting of praise from Carr about what a great guy and great player Brown is, when he went so far as to say “who wouldn’t want to play with a guy like that?”
I dunno, Derek. Check back with me the first time he throws a sideline tantrum at you, skips a practice, or demands a trade.
Well, I guess he’d have to practice more than a few times for that to happen. As Episode 1 pointed out, Brown has barely practiced with the team because he has been dealing with issues with his feet.
They just never told us what was wrong, exactly.
Cc: @AB84 IG
This man trained so hard the bottom of his foot coming off! pic.twitter.com/jlbvBNX0nD
— Kenny King Jr (@KennyKing_Jr) July 31, 2019
In fact, we didn’t see as much of Brown as I expected, probably because he wasn’t “on campus” as much as the other players.
Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms reported that he “got word from someone with knowledge of the situation that Brown burned his feet by entering a cryotherapy machine without the proper footwear, and his feet were frostbitten.”
If that’s not true, it should be. Is there anything “more A.B.” than that? Maniacal enough to get cryotherapy. Too dumb, or stubborn, to put on proper protection for his feet.
Someone I know guessed “chemical peel gone bad.” But this is so much better. Totally on-brand.
Perhaps because of Brown’s absence, another former Steeler, Brentson Buckner, got a lot of air time. He’s coaching the defensive line with the Raiders. And Buckner came off looking pretty good. He was engaging and funny and looks like he’s got an arrow pointed in the right direction when it comes to coaching.
He won’t be as entertaining as Bob “Hut Gut” Wylie from the Browns edition a year ago, but he’s not bad.
Also notably minimized on the debut of the show were Incognito and Burfict. Burfict never spoke and was in just one clip. Incognito was smooshed in at the end, and the background of his troubled past was only delicately referenced and left open-ended with no details.
Kinda like the explanation of Brown’s feet.
I give “Hard Knocks 2019” a 0-for-1 so far. Unlike the Cleveland opener a year ago, it felt much more staged. It felt a lot more sanitized. And the stars weren’t on display enough.
Hopefully, that changes.