EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J – Currently working through his ninth NFL training camp, Mark Glowinski has an analogy for the adjustment players must make when they wear their pads for the first time in practice.
"You're walking around in your house and you're in your comfy clothes, then you have to put your suit on," Glowinski said. "It's kinda the same feeling."
The Giants were hooked on that feeling yesterday when they had their first full-pads camp practice. It's an adjustment for everyone, but particularly the linemen. After months of quasi-contact in shorts and shirts, they get to compete with real physicality. But first they must get accustomed to the shoulder and leg pads.
"When you first get back in pads, you feel a little bit stiff," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "You gotta break it in a bit, put some WD40 on these pads and just keep up with conditioning. I feel like overall we run to the ball a little better when we have the pads off. Today, we dropped off a little bit."
View photos from Monday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
They'll adjust quickly. While they must carry extra weight on a hot day, football players like to hit, an activity for which pads are required.
"It felt great, man," Williams said. "Even though it's still time to focus on your technique and fundamentals, it's my first time having a full uniform on since we broke after last season. That's always a great feeling. I can feel a high energy in the locker room and on the field amongst everybody. There's always a little competition when the pads come on."
"It's real football," tackle Andrew Thomas said. "Other days we are just working, trying to work technique and hands and footwork the best that we can. But the realistic part of the game is we are going to have shoulder pads and helmets on. I love it. That's the part of the game we love, especially as an offensive lineman. Offensive and defensive linemen play the run, block the run when we have pads on, but when we have the shells on it's not the same intensity. You don't really come off the ball the same. When you feel the pop, it's like, 'Okay, we're playing football now.'"
Defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, a nine-year veteran and first-season Giant, had pre-practice emotions like those he has on gameday.
"I know for a lot of guys they're like me, when you get out there, sometimes you get jitters, butterflies, nervousness," he said. "It's not that you're scared, it's more anticipating what's about to happen. When you get that first contact and hit, it's like, 'I'm back at home.' It feels great. There's so much you demand out of yourself because you want to be great for yourself and your team. Just when you get out there it's like, 'Man, I'm ready to go.' When you get that first piece of contact, you're like, 'Oh, yeah we back, baby.'"
Glowinski, entering his second season as the Giants' right guard, said the linemen adjusted well to the added equipment.
"There's always some give and take on the first day," he said. "There's always some excitement. There's always a day of getting acclimated to the fits and how things are and stuff like that because things are a little bit different in the way we grip and do stuff. There's always good plays and some plays that we are just trying to get back to the feeling of it. Just some timing and things. But we had fun out there. It's a fun day out there, we were able to have a little bit more impact and get the feeling back."
The change isn't as pronounced for wide receivers and defensive backs, who physically compete while running routes and coverages without pads. For the linemen, it's a whole new ball game – or, more accurately, an old, familiar one.
While they go at each other intensely in team periods, the fiercest competition is in the one-on-one pass blocking/rushing drills, which leaves one group of linemen cheering their brethren after almost every skirmish.
"If you're a competitor, being at the top of this sport in the NFL, you got to be the alpha," Nunez-Roches said. "That's one time it's mano y mano. There's nobody helping anybody, it's just I'm going to beat you or you're gonna stop me. That's one of the most competitive and intense moments, cause it's a buildup. Like, 'Man, you probably got me the other day but I'm going to get you today.' It's one of those individual battles that collectively helps us win."
After an off day, the Giants will work in shells tomorrow and full pads Friday and Saturday. Coach Brian Daboll has kept the players fresh by giving them a day off after every three practices.
"I think that's a great regimen, honestly," Williams said. "It keeps me at a high level of focus and intensity throughout camp, instead of when you're in a long period of workdays. Those last few days before you get an off day you start to feel a little drained. But because he's keeping us fresh every three days, it's easier to come to work every day."
"I feel the difference," Glowinski said. "In previous camps, you get in that wall after that third or fourth day and you can kinda start feeling it. You have to really, really prepare and warm yourself up to get to that next practice and move on from there.
"I think it's a great job of how they take care of us on the off day with the available recovery options and massages and acupuncture and all the guys in here that make sure we are getting right and even gives us a little more time to do things together like watching film together, instead of just going over the plays in the time we are bracketed in. We are forced to have certain times where we have breaks. We can do a little stuff on our own, communicate with one another outside on that off day as well."