"I bet I got 10 texts or calls a day," Johnson said. "Maybe they'll quit.
"I have been telling everyone all summer he's good and not to worry. You saw him. Looked like always, pretty good. He's still Mallett. Best you'll see."
Mallett broke a bone in his left foot in winter workouts, missed spring and then had a second surgery, the last in June. He's worn a protective boot twice in the last six months.
However, you wouldn't know it by the way he practiced Thursday evening when the veterans had their first practice. They followed an afternoon workout that was mixed with newcomers and a handful of backups, including redshirt freshman quarterback Brandon Mitchell.
"I guess some people still thought he'd come limping out there," said Jake Bequette, junior defensive end. "But I've known for sometime that he was fine. We saw him all summer. He looked the same today. He is the leader of this team and we know he's healthy and ready. We are all confident of that."
Mallett said, "It's fine. I feel good."
Bobby Petrino said he felt good, too, and he was talking about more than what he saw from Mallett. He said his team, his third at Arkansas, had an impressive first day. He told the team after the practice that they did well.
Petrino said there didn't seem to be many mental errors. He thought both sides of the ball went through their reads, techniques and fundamentals in fine fashion.
"I was happy," Petrino told the media. "I thought our players did a nice job of getting ready. They took the field the way you are supposed to. I think we had a lot of carry over (from the spring). It was just helmets and we are going to have to push ourselves to get better, but it was a good first day.
"Mallett did a good job. He seemed on balance (with his foot). His timing was good. It was good to have him back. He looked very, very comfortable. It's good to have his leadership back."
Petrino said his team got a break with lower temperatures. It was in the middle 80s for both workouts and cooled as the evening progressed. It was nearly dark at the end of the evening workout for veterans.
"They got lucky," Petrino said. "But I think we are well conditioned. We tested them and our strength and conditioning coaches have done a nice job. But it was cooler. I think they (players) got a break and so did the coaches with the break in temperatures.
"But it was hot for the newcomers. The sun came out and I think they got some heat. I think you saw them burn up some energy. Some of them need more endurance. That's a good looking group. I like the length and size in that secondary group. But I'm sure they all have a long way to go."
Petrino did find something not so pretty, some new green Nike shoes worn by some of his kickers.
"Ugly," Petrino said, laughing. "I think it looked like St. Paddy's day out there with those."
Returning kicker Alex Tejada and true freshman Eddie Camara took turns kicking with the first specialty group. Petrino said there was only one miss in the session and it appeared to come from Tejada.
In the early workout, Petrino said specialty work took place in the punt return game with Marquel Wade and Eric Bennett.
"Wade was a good returner in high school," Petrino said. "Bennett was impressive today."
Petrino said there's been a little sickness going around the team in the last few weeks. He said Camara has had some fever, but better in the last couple of days. Zach Stadther, returning defensive tackle, was held out of the building Thursday because he had fever of over 100.
"We started that practice last year during the swine flu problems," Petrino said. "If they've got fever, we don't let them in the building. We get a little nervous about that getting started, so we are extra careful. We've had four that have had a little something. We checked on him tonight and he's better. He'll be back tomorrow.
"We have had some other with fever. Seth Armbrust and Jermaine Love have had it, too. But they have been fine the last couple of days. It's been fever and a sore throat. All of those four have had shots and got better quickly."
Petrino was pleased with the work of both Tyler Wilson and Brandon Mitchell. Wilson worked in the evening. Mitchell was the quarterback for the newcomers in the afternoon, although he's not a newcomer.
"We wanted him to get these four days (with the newcomers) to get a chance to lead the young players," Petrino said. "Those four workouts, we want to him lead.
"Tyler did a nice job tonight. He looks like he's settled down and not as hyper.
"It's going to be fun to see those two (Wilson and Mitchell) compete for the No. 2 job."
Mallett said he enjoyed watching his fellow quarterbacks work.
"I think we had a good day," Mallett said.
It was a typical Petrino practice in that quarterbacks had lengthy blitz pickup sessions.
"We do that every practice," Mallett said. "That's the fun part, the blitz pickup. That's why you play quarterback.
"I thought it was the best mental practice we've had since I've been here. I think you see we've upgraded, upgraded."
Safety Rudell Crim said the same thing.
"Today was good," Crim said. "For a first day, it was great. I thought we did a good job with our alignment and assignments. I think we tipped a couple of passes. Elton Ford got one and Tramain Thomas got one. Those were the two picks I can remember.
"I think what you saw from spring to now is that we understand the concepts. I thought we played pretty fast today. We can play faster and we will, but today was about as good a first day as you can have."
Dennis Johnson said, "Sure was. Best first day in my three years here. I think most everyone felt that way. It was a good start, now we have to build on it."
Chris Klenakis gives instruction to DeMarcus Love.
Fans got a break with not-so-hot weather Thursday.
Photos by Marc F. Henning