As much as the players and coaches and everyone else marks the start of camp on their calendars, it’s the first day in pads that gets a bright red sharpie circle around it. That day is today.
Finally, after so much time, we can begin to accurately judge everyone. From the blockers, to the pass rushers, the receivers to the defensive backs, and the running backs to the linebackers. Sh*t gets real now.
“Honestly, I’m one of those people where I don’t understand how you can practice without pads,” said Kelechi Osemele. “It’s football. It’s really important. It’s where you actually start getting that continuity on the offensive line. You’re starting to get those double teams right and the timing right like I was talking about. That’s when the real work actually begins for us up front. Just working on pad level. Working on timing of your second step of double teams and stuff like that. The things, the nuances that go with being an offensive lineman. I mean that’s when the work is going to really start.”
Prior to today, there weren’t any pass rushing/blocking drills. How in the world a coaching staff is supposed to know which players can get to the quarterback or which can keep the defender out of the backfield is beyond me.
Pads are part of the game. In many cases you just can’t judge what kind of player you have or how the depth chart will shake out until they are suited up as they would be on game day.
“I think there are a lot of players that are great in shorts,” said offensive coordinator Greg Olson. “Then you go to that next level with the pads on, and now you really find out about what they have in terms of toughness. You have to be tough to play at this level. It’s a man’s sport. There are a lot of guys that can come out and run routes and catch the ball, running backs that can run through holes without pads, but once you get the pads on, you get a real feel for how tough that player is.”
“Many examples over my 17 years. It’s happened at all positions, whether it’s offensive line or skill positions or quarterback, in terms of courage in the pocket. You don’t get a real feel for that until you have live bullets coming at you. I’ve seen it at all positions.”
Some players you just know champ at the bit to get those pads on. Guys like Osemele, Bruce Irvin, and Khalil Mack — who is not at camp as he awaits a contract extension — to name a few.
Things can get pretty heated when pads go on as well and fights will probably break out occasionally. Some players get a little overzealous with guys who are on their team. Whether it be a veteran looking to send a message or a young guy trying to make the team. They all haven’t hit anyone for at least six months now, if not longer.
“It’s going to be really exciting. I can’t wait to get the pads on,” said Doug Martin. “It’s been a while, it’s been a long time. I believe last December was the last time I had pads on. Going to be a lot of hitting, going to be a lot of the guys arguing with each other, might be a couple fights – hopefully not – but it’s all in the game of football. Can’t wait.”
Yes, even running backs look forward to pads day. They still can’t be tackled to the ground technically, but finding the hole and shooting through it is a lot different when you know the guys can pop you coming through. He also can trust the holes he sees are real ones created by your offensive line.
It’s about time.