Hard Knocks recap: No Eno Benjamin, Hamilton opens up on comeback

Nov 23, 2022, 10:43 PM

Antonio Hamilton #33 of the Arizona Cardinals tackles Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers d...

Antonio Hamilton #33 of the Arizona Cardinals tackles Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at Estadio Azteca on November 21, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)

(Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)

Episode 3 of HBO’s Hard Knocks In Season: Arizona Cardinals went live Wednesday night and had quite the task with the past week in team news.

Since the events of Episode 2, which concluded with Arizona’s win over the Los Angeles Rams, the Cardinals released running back Eno Benjamin, lost 38-10 in Mexico City on Monday Night Football against the San Francisco 49ers and fired offensive line coach Sean Kugler for allegedly groping a woman.

Benjamin was not mentioned in this episode, although he was not silent on Wednesday:

Kugler was included in the episode, albeit briefly and without any information that had not already been reported. He was in the background of a scene that included assistant offensive line coach Brian Natkin instructing the group.

The show’s narrator said before the 49ers game that Kugler had been sent home and more repercussions were to follow.

The episode ended with a 12News segment reporting the groping incident, followed by head coach Kliff Kingsbury addressing off-the-field incidents with the team.

“I want to apologize from the coaching staff, unacceptable,” Kingsbury said. “From this whole group, I’m going to ask two things moving forward. Make sure moving forward, nobody has to stand in front of the media and answer any questions about dumb (let’s say stuff) off the field and effort on the field.

“No more, moving forward.”

With the elephants in the room out of the way, here’s a quick breakdown of the biggest moments from the rest of the episode.

Antonio Hamilton details accident

Antonio Hamilton got to tell his story from a preseason cooking accident that landed him in the hospital and on injured reserve. He spoke openly from his kitchen.

The cornerback was cooking shrimp in oil on his stove when he said to have turned away for a moment.

“Boom, fire, kind of panicked,” Hamilton said. “We were looking for the fire extinguisher … could not find it, come back and the whole thing is engulfed in flames.”

Hamilton said he grabbed mitts so he could take the pan outside.

“I pick it up … I pause for a second … a little bit of oil swooshed and when that happened it caught my face,” the cornerback added. “… When it did, I jumped, I dropped it and let it go. Everything that fell on me was flaming hot grease.”

He went to Valleywise Health, where he was told he sustained deep burns.

“Watching the skin come off my feet was when the dark phase started,” Hamilton said.

He thought it could have ended his career.

His wife, Tiara, said she could not give in to his fear, telling him he would have to suck it up and try to get past the adversity.

Hamilton was back on the field in Week 5. Hard Knocks documented his first NFL interception in Week 6, after which he gave the ball and a kiss to Tiara in the stands.

Will Hernandez’s homecoming

Right guard Will Hernandez lived in Mexico when he was young and was set to play in front of family at Estadio Azteca.

“Being in front of all my people, that was special to me and something I never thought would happen in my life,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez suffered a strained pec in Week 9, though, landing him on injured reserve and ending his opportunity to play in a country that means so much to him.

He was not left without a role Monday night, however. He led the Cardinals out of the tunnel with the Mexican flag and waved it around midfield.

“The Cardinals informed me they want me to run out of the tunnel with the Mexican flag,” Hernandez said. “It means a lot to me. It’s part of who I am. … It’s a huge honor for me to be able to do something like that.”

He crushed it, and the cameras caught him after the game with family, getting encouragement.

Colt McCoy’s next opportunity

Cardinals backup quarterback Colt McCoy got a heavy spotlight in Episode 2, as he was set to play in place of injured starter Kyler Murray.

The newest rendition had the chance to keep exploring McCoy’s career, as he started once again while Murray remained out with a hamstring issue.

McCoy discussed his football journey from getting injured at Texas, to the draft, getting traded from the Cleveland Browns to the San Francisco 49ers and eventually finding a more stable home with Washington.

In 2018, he broke his leg, which he thought was the end of his career. He had three surgeries but kept going and found his way to Arizona in 2021. He credited then-offensive coordinator Jason Garrett for convincing him to sign with the New York Giants in 2020 and keep his career alive.

As the week progressed, the show dove deeper into McCoy’s preparation, including extra film he watches before each game to try and find any more advantages to help the Cardinals. McCoy said he does this regardless of his role in a given week.

You’re gonna get high?

The show made note of Mexico City’s altitude during a stretch in which players were talking about the upcoming game.

Defensive end Zach Allen told J.J. Watt, “It will be cool to be that high.”

Watt responded, after a dramatic pause executed with the precision of a professional comedian, “You’re gonna get high?”

Watt wasn’t in the episode much, but he had some golden moments. Here’s another:

Worst nightmares

The meeting rooms clips Hard Knocks showed included defensive coaches warning the Cardinals about San Francisco’s run game and weapons like running back Christian McCaffrey and tight end George Kittle.

Outside linebackers coach Charlie Bullen called the 49ers the best running game in the league. Linebackers coach Bill Davis called McCaffrey their top priority and Kittle one of the best tight ends in the league.

Despite the focal points in preparation, San Francisco burned the Cardinals on the ground with 159 yards, and Kittle racked up 84 yards and two scores.

“This ain’t the one, too many mistakes,” Hamilton said on the sideline.

Speaking to that…

Hamilton’s error

Kittle’s second touchdown, which was in the fourth quarter and after the game got out of hand, involved the tight end running down the sideline. Hamilton appeared to be in position to stop Kittle short but did not try to.

Hamilton took responsibility for that on the sideline, saying he thought Kittle stepped out of bounds.

What next?

With the clock winding down, Kingsbury told Maxx Williams to keep the other players up.

“All we can do is go back to work,” Williams responded.

Kingsbury said in the locker room the team needs to flush the loss, not pout and find a way to win in Week 12 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

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