White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. – Call the New Orleans Saints' Sunday morning practice at The Greenbrier resort – their first padded practice of training camp – the distant rumble before the thunder closes in proximity.
As expected, there was a hint of physicality and a twinge of contentiousness between offense and defense after an offseason of work in which violent engagement largely has been absent. But it didn't rise to the level that it will as camp progresses and familiarity begins to breed contempt.
"I thought it was good," Coach Sean Payton said after practice. "It was up and down a little bit, offensively and defensively. And typically on the first day we were high. That's the impression I had, and I talked to them just a little bit afterward.
"It's pretty common on the first day, where you're finally having a chance to play a little bit more of a full- speed football game, and I thought the pad level was high."
The pad level was high. The enthusiasm for being able to engage in a more physical way was higher.
"It went well," guard Jahri Evans said. "Guys played good today. The first day in pads, it felt good to get a little pop in.
"I think it was as physical as we expected, going through OTAs without the pads and then the first two days here. It was still physical, a little thuggin' going on in there. It'll get more physical as the days go on.
"I think guys work well with each other. Both sides made plays. It's the first day, guys are just trying to make sure they do everything right. But as the days go on, I'm pretty sure it'll be a lot louder out there.
"For us (offensive linemen), it's kind of difficult without the pads on to get movement and get the proper reads. With the pads on, it allows both sides to be a little bit physical but especially for us, just to get movement on those guys up front."
Running back Khiry Robinson said the first day in pads always is a little difficult.
"But it's still football," he said. "It feels like we're getting back to football, rather than being in shorts and helmet. We've still got a lot of progress to make, but it was a pretty good first day.
"It's always got to be physical to prepare us for the game. It wasn't too physical; it's our team."
And Payton said the first day in pads is a good one for coaches, too.
"Yeah, because now we're really getting closer to football and we're getting a chance to really gather more information on players," he said.