On Monday, it gets a little more real.
Not that the New Orleans Saints piddled through their first four training camp practices and didn't make tangible progress. But Monday's practice is scheduled to be the first practice in pads, and there's an anticipation for it among the players and staff.
"We've had four days out in underwear, and now we get to play the game like the game is supposed to be played," Coach Dennis Allen said. "So I'm excited about seeing our guys get out here and play in that environment."
Allen said practice without pads, obviously, has its value.
"We're evaluating guys how they move around, we're evaluating do they know what to do, we're evaluating do they know how to do it and then we're evaluating whether they can execute it under pressure," he said. "And that's really what it's all about.
"And that won't change a whole lot in the pads, we'll just get a little bit more of a physical element to the game when that goes on. I think sometimes when you put the pads on, that ability to know what to do and how to do it kind of gets convoluted a little bit. That'll be what we'll kind of be looking for when we get back out there on Monday."
For offensive and defensive linemen, padded practice provides the best measuring stick.
"The evaluation for offensive line has to be in pads, and we know that," left tackle James Hurst said. "There's so many things that we can work on wearing jerseys, wearing shells. There's a lot of footwork, there's a lot of body position – that stuff shouldn't change. But then obviously when the pads come on, that's from contact to the end of the whistle.
"That's what we see, and that's where plays are made. That's where blocks are made, that's where the runs are sprung, that's where the quarterback has time to step up and made a throw down the field. So we know that's coming, and that's big for us. It's important and we're excited about it. It's real football for us."
ALL FOR ONE: Hurst and first-round pick Trevor Penning are vying for the starting position at left tackle. But the competition isn't nearly as selfish as outsiders might think.
"First, we're teammates," Hurst said. "But I think it's two different mind-sets. I'm always going to work as hard as I can on my craft. I'm going to focus on my deficiencies, what I need to work on.
"When I'm not in there getting the reps, I'm going to watch him and try to help him because at the end of the day, if you have two really good left tackles, we're going to find a way to get people on the field. And obviously, at times, we may have injuries so we're going to need someone to step up.
"So whoever those people are, it's going to make our team better. And that really makes it easy, when you have that kind of mindset about it – it's a team sport, we've got 11 guys but as we know, there are probably going to be 20, 25 different starters throughout the season. So then every player to be the best player they can be before we play the Falcons (in the regular-season opener on Sept. 11), that's the goal."
The New Orleans Saints took the field for practice during 2022 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Saturday, July 30