Jarrad Davis has meant it every time he said he couldn't wait to put the pads on this year to start his second season with the Detroit Lions because it was a sign that the start of football season was getting closer.
Davis meant it at the annual Taste of the Lions event at Ford Field in the spring.
He meant it just as sincerely at the start of training camp when the first practice in full pads was a couple days away and he was looking forward to the contact.
"I'm itching," he said then.
And Davis means it even more about going all out in the Lions' regular season opener against the New York Jets Monday night at Ford Field.
Football is back – real football – and Davis is ready to rock as he begins his second season as the Lions' starting middle linebacker.
"Awesome, man – awesome," Davis said after Monday's practice. "It's powerful. It's awesome to open up at home, too.
"It's perfect. Monday night – it's a blessing. I love this game. I wouldn't want to do it anywhere else."
Davis buys into the credo that every game counts the same. But ... opening day means a little more because of what it represents. It's one game in the standings, but it means more in Davis' heart.
"Football is finally here," he said. "We've been itching. All winter. All summer. All spring. And it came back around, so we're ready."
Davis can use his experience as a rookie to prepare for the grind of the regular season.
The first step in that is changing gears from the preseason to the regular season. The Lions will still be bringing players in and making roster changes, but the entire focus is on preparing to face the next opponent. This week, that's the Jets.
"The whole mode changes, really," said head coach Matt Patricia. "Really, at this point we start to transition into the next phase, which is specifically trying to game plan for an opponent – the Jets here, on a long week."
Davis knows how the mood and tempo are entirely different. He won't have a limited snap count, as he did in the preseason, when one of the goals was to evaluate players and build depth.
"It's exciting, just to be able to go out and really put in some work to compete against another team for a real game," Davis said. "Preseason is preseason. Going out there, you know you're going to get a limited number of reps.
"It's awesome now to know you're going to go out and play and practice for a new team – somebody you want to beat, and it's actually going to count."