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Raiders’ already wacky world braces for HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’


It might be difficult to top the time Antonio Cromartie named all of his children, because four of them were 3 years old and he seemed to lose track and, well, things got really confusing from there.

I’m also not certain moments like Vince Wilfork, all 325 pounds of him, wearing overalls and a cowboy hat and boots to practice, or the fact William Hayes doesn’t believe that dinosaurs existed but thinks mermaids are real, can be beaten for entertainment value.

But if there is a roster that could challenge to be included among the all-time memorable clips of the HBO show “Hard Knocks,” it’s one with Antonio Brown and Richie Incognito and Vontaze Burfict and a coaching staff led by Jon Gruden.

Just don’t for a second believe anyone working under him is amped about the Raiders being selected this week as the NFL team to be followed during training camp.

“My favorite show,” said special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, “is watching ‘Scooby-Doo’ with my grandkids on Saturday mornings.”

He might be in luck.

Would you be surprised, given some of the characters involved, if parts of the footage don’t ultimately resemble a cartoon once things kick off in Napa next month?

The reaction of a team appearing on the show differs depending on which role you play, so as much as coaches despise the idea of television cameras shooting what are normally private and at times emotional moments like team meetings and film breakdown and players being released, a majority of those wearing helmets welcome the interruption.

It’s all about marketing their brand.

Consider: After appearing on the show last year, Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry saw his social media followers increase by 100,000, numbers that industry leaders suggest can greatly increase a player’s off-field earnings potential.

“The show absolutely presents one of the best available ways to build a player’s brand,” said Sam Weber, marketing director of opendorse, which helps over 7,000 athletes of all levels share social media content. “There is also some risk to it, knowing anything said or done on or off the field, in the weight room or locker room, can be caught on camera. But the rewards far outweigh those risks.”

Many believed the Raiders were a better selection for the show next year, as they prepared to arrive to their new home of Las Vegas. But given the platform is built around training camp, the amount of compelling Southern Nevada storylines — save perhaps families moving to the area and the opening of a new stadium — weren’t plentiful enough for the league to delay featuring Gruden’s team.

Besides, there’s no guarantee guys like Incognito and Burfict, both of whom can expect to have cameras pointed in their direction often, will be with the team in 2020.

Lots of distractions

“We are trying to worry about this team, this week,” Gruden said. “We got a lot of adversity we’re facing right now with this team. We got a lot of distractions. I think we are playing in three countries (this season), we go about two months without a home game, we are in a process of moving, and we are going to try like crazy to keep all of our best players as we head to Las Vegas.

“We are just assembling our regime. (General manager Mike) Mayock just got off the plane. We hired some really credible, proven, big time scouts and executives, and we are excited about the future. We also have a great responsibility to finish what has been a great run here in Oakland, and I’m not going to worry about things I can’t control.”

It hasn’t been a great run in a long time, but there might be a small silver and black lining of hope for the Raiders attached to being on “Hard Knocks.” Of the 13 teams to have been followed since 2001, six have improved their record from the previous year and five have made the playoffs in the season immediately following the taping.

So get ready. It’s happening. Napa will soon be about a lot more than late 1800s architecture and miles and miles of wineries.

Things might not get as crazy as James Harrison taking 300 needles in his neck or Ryan Tannehill not having a clue which teams are in what divisions or Cromartie identifying his offspring, but few are the years when “Hard Knocks” doesn’t produce some memorable clips.

Who knows, maybe we’ll see Bisaccia doing his best Shaggy impersonation.

Or not.

More Raiders: Follow at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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