Jon Gruden was arguably the biggest star of “Hard Knocks” at Oakland Raiders camp, aided by humorous supporting characters and almost unbelievable story lines.
Knock on wood if you’re with me.
While Antonio Brown took center stage in the first two episodes and a field fiasco was the focus of episode 3, the final episode axed some of the viewers’ favorite breakout stars, namely rookie receiver Keelan Doss.
Gruden reminded viewers it was his real-life storyline to create, not theirs.
Gruden explains cutting ‘Hard Knocks’ star Doss
Doss, an undrafted rookie out of UC Davis and native of nearby Alameda, was featured on the show as a hometown hero. Though the four-episode arc made it seem like he was in a good spot to make the 53-man roster, he was cut Saturday.
The moment was featured on the “Hard Knocks” finale that aired Tuesday.
“That was your storyline. That was not my storyline. Just so we’re on the same page,” Gruden told reporters Monday, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “He did a heck of a job. We tried to keep him on practice squad. He felt he had a better opportunity to make the team in Jacksonville. So we hate to see him go. We’re happy for his future.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Doss to their practice squad Sunday. Gruden told reporters they weren’t “eager” to release two other receivers, either.
“So (Doss) is in a tough spot. He’s a big story on the TV show. But that’s not the reality that we saw on tape.”
Gruden, who coached Doss at the Senior Bowl, praised him in clips aired on the show and asked to see more of him in numerous soundbites. In an earlier episode, he told Doss, “I’m more excited to see you play than I am to see my wife, and I haven’t seen her in two weeks.”
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In the preseason finale, the final proving ground, Doss dropped a few passes before ending with six catches for 63 yards against the Seattle Seahawks. Gruden, who voiced frustration during the game, told him afterward “I just yell at you because I’m your biggest fan.”
Doss praises ‘Hard Knocks’
Doss attended the UC Davis opener after the cut and told Sean Cunningham of ABC 10 it’s part of the business and he feels confident going forward.
"I can't say enough good things about 'Hard Knocks.' They've been nothing but professional the whole time," Doss said. "Great dudes. I'm just happy to be a part of it and show people across the nation (and) across the world my ability and what I’m able to do.
“I take it as a chance to showcase myself and it was a great experience."
Doss, 23, had 17 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown while playing in all four preseason games.
More ‘Hard Knocks’ stars cut from roster
It’s the way it always goes on the final episode of the show, but it doesn’t mean watching players get cut is any easier. Though Brown, amid frostbite and helmet drama, received much of the early attention, it’s the guys battling to simply make the final roster who are the heart of “Hard Knocks.”
That focus was on Doss, tight end Luke Willson and linebacker Jason Cabinda this year. All three were part of the cuts. Willson taught his teammates a few things about his native Canada before they left to play in Winnipeg. It was the first time he was cut at the end of camp in his six-year career.
Cabinda played 10 games for the Raiders as a rookie last season. He was picked up by the Detroit Lions to join their practice squad.
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