Defensive lineman Alim McNeill recognizes the sights and sounds that signal the return of football.
One of them is practicing in pads for the first time in training camp, as the Detroit Lions did Monday.
"It ramps it up a bunch," McNeill said. "It's good to go in pads. Finally, we get to get off the ball instead of reading and looking at mirror stuff. The first time in pads is always fun. It's a little bit tiring, but you get used to it.
"I loved it."
Fans at training camp add another sign for McNeill and his teammates that the intensity of camp has been cranked up to a higher level.
"When fans aren't here, you don't hear anybody," McNeill said. "Just pads and everybody breathing hard. With the fans here, you've got a little something to shout out for – to play a little harder.
"It (a big hit) gives you chills. It lets you know football is back. You make a big hit or a play, everybody's screaming. It makes a difference."
McNeill is slated for a bigger role this season after playing all 17 games with six starts as a rookie. The Lions have gone to a 4-3 base defense after playing a 3-4 last year.
View photos from Day 5 of Detroit Lions training camp on Monday August 1, 2022.
McNeill will practice against one of the NFL's top trios of offensive linemen this year, with Frank Ragnow at center and Jonah Jackson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai at the guard spots.
As he said, "iron sharpens iron."
"I have to go against them every play," McNeill said. "I expect myself to be pretty good this year. There's going to be some good work this year."