But it goes deeper than that. A lot deeper.
Episode 3 of “Hard Knocks” showed just how much Gruden likes and backs his mercurial receiver, who has battled issues from his head (his well-documented non-certified helmet issues) to his toes (frostbitten feet thanks to a cryotherapy mishap last month in France), with Gruden going deeper in personal conversations with Brown than anything he has said publicly.
“I give the guy credit for standing up for what he believes in,” Gruden said early in the show. “Everybody else does in this country.”
Later, after Brown returned to the team following a two-week sojourn and participated in a walkthrough, Gruden told Brown: “Kinda like having you here. I think it’s going to be all right for us.”
A later conversation caught the two on the practice field, with Gruden asking Brown how his feet felt.
“Once they get real hot, then they get a little burning, but for the most part, I feel good,” Brown said. “Just when it’s really hot, the s— starts to burn. I gotta take my shoes off.”
With a laugh, Gruden said, “Why don’t you go to a cryochamber and get …”
“F— that, coach,” Brown shot back. “Not again. Never again.”
Later, Brown told Gruden, “Thanks for supporting me, coach. My f—ing head, the feet, people after me. You’ve been a constant supporter. Thank you.”
“I’ve been there,” Gruden said. “But if you’ve got any problems, anything bothering you …”
“We’re all in this together,” Brown said.
“I know you’ve got a lot of people in your ear because you’re like a corporation that’s kind of gone global,” Gruden said. “But at the end of the day, let’s keep this s— simple, you know what I mean? Football comes first. Everything else is f—ing way behind, you know what I’m saying?”
“Absolutely,” Brown said.
“Because you,” Gruden continued, “you handled all that seamlessly, beautifully.”
Brown was impressed by his coach’s vocabulary, saying, “Seamlessly. I like that word.”
“I was trying to go with a multi-syllable word,” Gruden said.
“That’s a great word — seamlessly,” Brown said with a laugh.
“Yeah,” Gruden said, “three syllables.”
“I gotta look that up,” Brown said.
“They don’t have those at Dayton or Central Michigan,” Gruden said, referring to the colleges the two attended.
Other show highlights …
Master impressionist Frank Caliendo, at the invitation of quarterback Derek Carr, doing his version of Gruden to a nonplussed coach. “Why don’t you do something funny here tonight, Frank?” a smiling Gruden shot at him. Caliendo also broke out his Charles Barkley and John Madden.
Rookie safety Johnathan Abram was none too pleased with his “Madden” rating and let the video game adjustors on site know about it.
“Derek Carr is like an 82. [He should be] like a 90!”
— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) August 16, 2019
“Man, why y’all got my rating so low?” he said. “Why y’all playing like that?”
Told that it’s because he is young and doesn’t have anything on NFL tape yet, Abram wondered what that meant.
Abram went on to say that his strength and tackling ratings are too low, and he would be better in man-to-man coverage.
Tight end Darren Waller, meanwhile, had no issues with his low rating of 68, saying he had not played enough in the NFL to warrant a higher number.
He talked of being “clean” for one day shy of two years.
“When I was in Baltimore, I was just, like, a vegetable,” he said. “I was, like, getting high, literally every day. Whatever I could get my hands on. It was, like, opiates first, Oxy, pills, stuff like that, Xanax, cocaine, not caring about anything, like any kind of consequences or anything like that … I was super burnt out … I was just, like, plotting to sabotage myself, my way out of the league so I didn’t look like a quitter, like the league would put me out of my misery, and I could go about my business.”
Failed drug tests have limited Waller to a combined 16 games since the start of the 2016 season. He credited Borden Cottage rehab center with transforming him.
Still picture of the show: A shirtless Hunter Renfrow from the combine, which elicited howls from the team after Gruden said the goal is for the Raiders to be “bigger, faster, better conditioned” athletes.
“You’re at least 37,” Carr told the elder-looking Renfrow, who is 23.
“He plays just like Julian Edelman,” Abram said.
Tight end Luke Willson, who grew up in Windsor, Canada, went sailing off Sausalito with his dad, Mike, who once thought an NHL career might be in his son’s future.
“With this hair, man, I think it still is,” the long-coiffed Luke said.
“He always wanted to be one of the Hanson Brothers,” replied Mike, referring to the 1977 movie “Slap Shot.”
Although he was not a fan of his self-described skinny calves, Luke was impressed by the Golden Gate Bridge. “Pretty cool f—ing bridge, man,” he said.
“I’m not saying that we handled it the right way, but he’ll kick ass for you. He’s going to help you win a lot of football games.”
Agent Drew Rosenhaus to Jon Gruden about his client, Antonio Brown
Quote of the show: “I’m not saying that we handled it the right way, but he’ll kick ass for you. He’s going to help you win a lot of football games.” — Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, to Gruden.
Gruden’s response: “Yes, he will.”
Quote of the show No. 2: “This lid is ugly as f—, bro.” — Brown, to receiver Keon Hatcher, referring to the helmet he wore in warm-ups in Arizona.
Quote of the show No. 3: Brown gets philosophical: “I’m just a young, black, skinny kid working really hard. And it’s starting to pay off.”
Quote of the show No. 4: “Men lie, and women lie, but the analytics don’t.” — Brown, when shown numbers on how far (958 yards) and fast (12 mph) he ran in a game last season, which he topped in the past two weeks.