For as many times as the words "Football is back" have been said, written, and tweeted going back to April, you'd think we might be in Week 7 by now. Of course, in reality players have only been in helmets, jerseys, and shorts since the start of Phase III in the offseason program.
That's why upon saying Tuesday will mark the Rams' first practice in pads, head coach Sean McVay declared, "Now it's real football."
"I think a lot of the things that occur, especially at the line of scrimmage, are definitely different based on just being able to get your hands inside and some of the fits and things that occur," McVay said. "That's how we play the game and that's where really us as coaches get the best evaluation for what type of players that we do have and how they play when we put the pads on. And there's a little bit more physicality, while also being smart protecting each other. So, we're looking forward to it and I think the players are as well."
McVay alluded to it there, but part of the reason padded practices are closer to "real football" is because of how it affects both both the offensive and defensive lines. Without pads, players can improve their technique with their hands and feet. But there's no substitute for those padded reps — both for player improvement as well as evaluation.
But McVay mentioned on Saturday that skill-position players also have to make adjustments when the pads come on.
"Being able to do some different things and carrying those pads especially when you're throwing the football or catching it — it creates a different reaction and guys have to get comfortable doing that because that's how we play on Sundays," McVay said.
And so that's what they will begin to do on Tuesday. But McVay said he and the rest of the coaching staff will be aware of players being amped up to put on pads for the first time in about eight months.
"Part of being a pro is knowing how to practice smart and be able to practice fast, but also still protecting your teammates and being mindful that we're all on the same team," McVay said. "Certain periods we'll pick and choose where we turn it up a little bit, but our guys have done a nice job of competing without the pads and we expect the same tomorrow when we put them on."
McVay said L.A. will not do anything that's fully "live" with tackling during Tuesday's practice. But even when they do, getting in good work while making sure players stay as safe as possible.
"I think it's that 'thud' and being able to fit guys up and things like that and protecting your teammates, but you want to try to keep guys off the ground where, some of those piles and things like that can occur where guys get rolled up on," McVay said. "So, we want to try to avoid that, but still get it as much as a game like atmosphere as we can."