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DB Antwuan Reed

Aug. 12, 2011

Pitt takes the field in full gear for the first time in training camp

By Pat Bostick

The first several days of training camp are essential. Players get out on the field in just helmets for the first two practices, and then they strap on the shoulder pads for a few more. Play installation, alignments, assignments and techniques are the focus of these limited contact practices. These days are instrumental in giving players a chance to get used to the nature of training camp.

There always feels like there is something missing during these four days, though. This is especially true the first two practices in just helmets. Sure, it's great seeing Sunseri hit Shanahan over the middle and it sure is fun to watch Ray Graham wiggle his way through a crowd of defenders. But I want to see Zach Brown take an off-tackle run downhill and run someone over. That is real football.

Defensive players can't wait to put the pads on. They are the ones who are most limited by the lack of contact. You know those plays where a linebacker swears he tackled someone, but he can't prove it because he pulled up and the guy is still running down the field? There's no debate when the pads come on. The guy is either down or he isn't.

Putting the pads on also heightens everyone's sense of urgency. As a quarterback, you feel and hear the pads popping around you. This gives you a much better sense of how quickly the ball has to get out of your hand, especially in this up-tempo offense. Running backs get a better sense of when to make a move and when to lower their shoulder and take what they can get. Putting the pads on can separate some wide receivers from others. Who can catch the ball and take the big hit over the middle and who hears footsteps? We shall see.

The Panthers have been practicing at high speeds up to this point in camp, but I expect that speed to go up a notch or two once the full pads go on. Football is a physical sport, it's a man's game and putting the pads on can surely "separate the men from the boys."

Time to Put the Pads On