Napa, Calif. — Quarterback Derek Carr angrily yelling at teammates. Jon Gruden showing a softer, gentler side for some of his younger players and ditching his trademark snarl. Vontaze Burfict politely helping an offensive linemen get off the ground.
What in the name of Al Davis is going on here?
The Raiders may have another month to go before playing games that matter but they’ll be making an early appearance on TV on Tuesday night when the HBO series “Hard Knocks” makes its season debut.
“It’s been really cool to be honest because people get to see us in our real environment,” Carr said. “People (usually) don’t get to see coach Gruden telling some of our rookies how much he loves them. They just see clips of him yelling at people. They don’t get to see me jumping people, competing and talking trash. What it does is it opens up the world to us to show who we really are.”
Ever since the cable network series began in 2001 the Raiders have been mentioned as potential stars of the show. But Davis, the team’s Hall of Fame owner who passed away in 2011, was staunchly against having the cameras invading the team’s practices.
Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock also were initially against it, worried that the cameras and crew documenting players’ every step would be a distraction.
Yet here they are.
The Raiders, at least this year’s version, would seem to be a perfect fit for the behind-the-scenes series with a cast of colorful characters that includes Gruden, wide receiver Antonio Brown and offensive lineman Richie Incognito.
Burfict knows firsthand what to expect. He spent his first seven NFL seasons in Cincinnati and the Bengals were on “Hard Knocks” in 2013.
“I just think it’s exciting for people to see what type of team we have because the team chemistry we have is just amazing,” Burfict said. “This is my second team, but it’s the first time I’ve had a team like this and everybody gets along. It doesn’t matter what type of day it is. We’re all here to see each other get better and motivate each other. We’ve got a lot of characters, in a good way.”
The first episode generally focuses on the days before camp begins, the first few practices and the interactions between younger players and the coaches.
This year figures to be different. Brown, the former Central Michigan star who was traded to the Raiders by Pittsburgh in the offseason, is already staking his claim as the star of the show.
The flamboyant wide receiver took a hot air balloon ride on the morning of check-in day, then was placed on the non-football injury list later that night. Since then, Brown has practiced only a handful of times while dealing with an unknown foot injury.
But even when he’s standing on the sidelines, Brown has had cameras tailing his every move. He’s relished every moment, too, playfully talking straight into the camera at times.
Tyrell Williams, another veteran receiver who signed with Oakland as a free agent, is looking forward to Tuesday’s premiere.
“I loved watching ‘Hard Knocks’ growing up and so just being on it is going to be crazy,” Williams said. “I was just watching the scene with Shannon Sharpe and Ray Lewis, that one from a while ago. It’s just crazy that we’re going to actually be in that situation. It’s cool. I’m excited to be able to go back and watch it.”
Carr said he and Gruden have tried to take a lighthearted approach to having “Hard Knocks” in camp and admitted the two might have a few tricks up their sleeves for the cameras.
“They’re not in (our) meeting room so we get to plan some stuff and have some fun with them,” Carr said. “They’ve been great to work with. We’ve really enjoyed it. I think there’s going to be some sound bites on there. It’ll be fun.
“If you have nothing to hide, then I think it’s a good thing. I have really enjoyed them, honestly. It’s been cool.”
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott pretends he can’t hear questions about a new contract, while receiver Amari Cooper steadfastly says he simply doesn’t think about his negotiations.
Both reported to training camp on time as they prepare for the final year of their deals, unlike running back Ezekiel Elliott. The two-time rushing champion has been holding out for more than a week, seeking a new contract with two years left on the existing one.
“Different strokes for different folks,” Cooper said. “Everybody’s situation is different.”
By that, Cooper means he’s about to make $10 million more than Elliott ($13.9 million to $3.9 million). But Cooper also talks to Melvin Gordon, the Chargers running back who also is holding out.
Cooper was the fourth overall pick of the draft in 2015, a year before Elliott went with the same choice. Elliott’s salary is supposed to jump to $9.1 million next year. Gordon was drafted 11 spots behind Cooper, putting his fifth-year salary at $5.6 million this season.
All three of those players surpass the $2 million base salary for Prescott, drafted 131 spots behind Elliott in the fourth round before winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2016 after Tony Romo got hurt.
Prescott acknowledged during the offseason that “generational money” was coming (his deal could surpass $30 million annually) and he had faith an agreement could be reached.
Don Banks, a longtime NFL writer who worked at Sports Illustrated for 16 years, has died after covering the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions in Canton, Ohio. He was 57.
Paramedics on Sunday were called to his hotel, where he was pronounced dead. No cause was given.
... Raiders cornerback and former Lion Nevin Lawson announced on Twitter he has been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
... The Jets acquired offensive lineman Alex Lewis from the Ravens for a conditional seventh-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
... Suspended Browns running back Kareem Hunt has promised to “lay low” following a recent argument outside a bar that led to police questioning and raised team concerns.
... Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton, the Broncos’ top two receivers and SMU alumni, got into a heated exchange and scuffle during practice.
... A $1.9 billion stadium being built for the Raiders when the team moves to Las Vegas next year is being named for Allegiant Travel Co., team and company officials said.