Training camp practice for Matthew Stafford and the rest of the quarterbacks is a little bit different of an experience than the other 87 players on the roster in that the quarterbacks wear red jerseys, and there are strict rules about contacting them.
Nevertheless, the 10-year veteran looks forward every year to the first padded practice of training camp the same as everyone else, because it gives him a better idea of what he's really working with.
"It's real football," he said. "The only thing is like you said, I am not getting hit. Windows to throw the ball into, seeing between linemen, how a pocket is really going to hold up or it is isn't. You know what I mean?
"If you don't have pads on, it's tough. It's tough for the guys on defense and it's tough for the guys on offense. We are not going to bull rush each other without pads on so that's part of it. And then really on the outside too. Receivers if you don't have pads on those DB's it's hard for them to jam you. You put the pads on, it's real now and real football and it's what it's all about."
The first two practices of training camp Friday and Saturday were conducted in shorts and helmets as part of the NFL's acclimation period. Sunday, the pads come on and the hitting begins. It's also the first practice open to the general public, so there will be a lot of energy at practice.
"I am excited for our first opportunity to get pads on because that is obviously a much more realistic representation of football," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "You go through OTAs there's no pads. Obviously, you're running the football, you're pass protecting, you're running with the football but 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 better when they put the pads on. They're not built for non-padded football. At the end of the day we are going to play padded football. So 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."
There are only a few periods in NFL training camps that are fully live in terms of tackling and bringing players to the ground, but when the pads come on, the pass rush drills between the offensive and defensive lineman amp up. One-on-one cover drills between the defensive backs and receivers can get physical. There's always a few loud pops when the running backs and linebackers compete in pass protection drills.
"Technique, effort and finish and all those things really show when the pads are on," offensive line coach Jeff Davidson said.
Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni said coaches really start to find out what they have in a player when the third day of training camp practice begins.
"Preseason camp is a little different," he said. "The heat, and the intensity, and the pads, and the banging, and the duration of it. I'm going to get to know them better right now."