Orlando Franklin summed it up with a grin on his face.
"It's time to separate the men from the boys. When you get out there, you'll know exactly how far you've come. This is when you lower your shoulder and give it all you've got."
If you couldn't tell, the guard was talking about Monday's first padded practice of the year. When the pads come on, so does an extra jolt of physicality, energy and competition. As a result, Head Coach Mike McCoy talked to the team last night about what he expects out on the field this morning.
"This is what we want to do and this is how we are going to practice," he told them. "We are going to go as fast as we can, but now is the time to start finishing some things. The double team blocks up front where D.J. (Fluker) and Joe (Barksdale) are working together; now I want to see that extra finish. Now it's a little more real because through the offseason program we're restricted. There are only so many things we can do. We've been out here and the first couple of days getting in the flow of things…. It's the attention to detail because if you don't do something right, you are going to get exposed in pads."
Today's practice also marks the first time the rookie class will don pads in their NFL career, so the coach addressed them specifically about how they must perform.
"Now for the younger players, it's really going to pick up. The tempo now, with the pads on, it picks up. The first preseason game gets a little faster and the next week, it continues to pick up. (When) we get to the opener in Kansas City, it's night and day than what it is today. You really find out who knows what to do. The key thing is for us (as) coaches is to harp on the fundamentals, because this is where it shows doing all the little things right."
The rookies have waited for this moment ever since they first arrived at Chargers Park.
"Real football begins now," Joshua Perry said. "You have to ramp it up and change your mindset. It will be an exciting day for sure, and I'm ready for it."
"It's exciting because like he said, it's real football," added Hunter Henry. "We've just been running around in shorts playing 7-on-7 so far, really. I'll have to adjust to different schemes and need to get used to new things, but I'm very excited to get rolling."