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O'HARA: Ragnow's been waiting for first padded practice

On the list of whatever days Frank Ragnow might have circled on his calendar, Sunday is one that doesn't have to be marked by a month and a day.

Whenever it arrived on the calendar, one word would suffice: "Pads."

The Detroit Lions will practice in pads for the first time in the Rocket Mortgage training camp Sunday, ending an agonizingly long wait for Ragnow to strap on the gear and go full speed against an opponent.

As much as Ragnow loves all aspects of football, the offseason workouts and the first two days of camp without pads are just a buildup to what he likes to do most.

"It's real football now," Ragnow said after Saturday's practice. "You can say what you want, but this isn't real football until you're putting on the pads and banging around."

The wait has been especially long for Ragnow. Painfully so, in fact.

"It's been a while, especially with my injury last year," Ragnow said. "I've been waiting for this."

His 2017 season at Arkansas ended on Oct. 21 because of an ankle injury sustained in a Game 7 loss to Auburn. It was the end of his college career. He began rehabbing the injury and preparing for the 2018 draft.

The Lions took him 20th overall in the first round.

Ragnow was regarded by many as the top center in the 2018 draft, but there's been a semantic dance about his position with the Lions.

General manager Bob Quinn referred to him as an "interior" offensive lineman after the draft. Ragnow is listed as an "OL" – for offensive line – on the team's roster.

But the visual evidence from the offseason workouts open to the media and two days of training camp is that Ragnow is a left guard. He has lined up there almost exclusively.

Ragnow had a good-natured exchange with the media about his position Saturday.

Can we call him a left guard now?

"You can call me whatever you want," he replied. "I'm going to go wherever they line me up. I'm sure I'm going to line up all kinds of places. Anything I can [do to] help Coach Patricia out, I'm going to do."

Good answer, but they've been lining him up a lot at left guard. Does he like where they've been lining him up?

Ragnow laughed as he answered.

"Yeah … I like playing football," he said. "I like left guard, center, right guard. But I have lined up at left guard a lot."

All kidding, probing and semantics aside, what comes across clearly in a conversation with Ragnow is that he has a passion for football and all the trappings that go with it – from practice in pads to gameday to the camaraderie with teammates.

One of the tightest units on any team is the offensive line, and Ragnow feels like he has been welcomed to their brotherhood.

"It's pretty exciting," he said. "Every day I'm literally living out my dream. From a personal standpoint it's pretty dang exciting. Right now, I'm just trying to take it one minute at a time, trying to gain the trust of these guys, trying to find my role on this team and help them out.

"Practice among the fans ... it's cool. My whole life, I wanted to be here, and now I'm here. It's kind of crazy. Guys are starting to dial in. It's cool to see how the veterans take their preparation to the next level as it gets closer and closer to the season."

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