ALLEN PARK >> Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis has been counting the days to get into pads at training camp.
“It’s almost here, that’s what I’ve been saying this whole break. Everybody’s been asking me, ‘How are you feeling? What’s going through your head?’ I’ve been saying, ‘I’m itching, I’m itching.’ Every single day it’s getting closer,’’ Davis said on Thursday, the day players report to the practice facility.
Camp gets into full gear on Friday morning. The players will have a few days to work out in shorts before they practice in pads.
Every snap, every day is important but practicing in pads is so much closer to the real thing.
“I think it’s real football. The only thing is I’m not getting hit, but just windows to throw the ball into, seeing between linemen, how a pocket is really going to hold up or it isn’t,’’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said on Thursday. “If you don’t have pads on it’s tough — tough for the guys on defense, tough for the guys on offense. They’re not going to bull-rush each other and all that kind of stuff without pads on. That’s part of it and really on the outside too. Receivers if you don’t have pads on it’s hard for the DBs to jam you, you put the pads on it’s real now it’s real football, it’s what it’s all about.’’
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter looks forward to the first day of padded practice too.
“I’m excited about a lot of things. I’m excited for our first opportunity to get pads on that’s a much more realistic representation of football,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said on Thursday. “You go through OTAs, there’s no pads, obviously you’re running the football, you’re pass protecting, you’re running with the football that’s a different thing. It’s different having pads from not having pads.
“Some of the techniques can change, some of the players are a lot better when they put the pads on, maybe not built for non-padded football but at the end of the day we’re going to play padded football,” Cooter said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to get better at some of those things that are best made to get better with pads on.”
While Cooter is back for his fifth season in Detroit, he’ll have a few new players on offense including draft picks Frank Ragnow and Kerryon Johnson along with free agents LeGarrette Blount, Luke Wilson and Matt Cassel.
He’s also expecting a few unknowns to step up.
“There will be young players we don’t know a lot about in pads. That’s really exciting this time of year. Somebody always stands out when you put the pads on that you maybe didn’t expect when you don’t have the pads on,’’ Cooter said.
For the Lions, improvement of the running game is atop the offensive to-do list. Pads will make it easier to see where the offense stands in that area which includes the offensive line.
(Photo from Lions training camp a year ago.)