By now, the nettlesome itch that John Fox has scratched in the three weeks since Peyton Manning decided to attempt to resurrect his Hall of Fame career with the Denver Broncos likely has grown into a rash.
"The anticipation," Fox told The Sports Xchange, "can get to you."
Problem has been, because of a CBA extension that directed the offseason workload be significantly lessened, coaches haven't been able to get to their players. Teams with new head coaches were permitted to begin workouts last week, but the labor peace forged after the four-month lockout of last spring and summer meant that returning coaches could not get the players under their purview until April 16.
Which, as of Monday, left only one week until hands-on sessions with strength and conditioning coaches commence for the 26 holdover coaches in the league. The countdown, T-minus seven days, has begun. And no one is happier about the impending liftoff than those coaches.
Although some players might not be far behind.
"It's about time to get back to work," allowed Detroit left tackle Jeff Backus.
A year ago, of course, with the league and the players in their respective timeout corners, and the horizon marked not only by uncertainty but the potential for part of the regular season to be eliminated by the lockout impasse, there was frustration on both sides. This time around, the frustration isn't quite the same, and the hiatus is not tinged with anger.
The forced absence of all football activities is a spinoff of negotiation, not a byproduct of bile and animus and mistrust. But the down time, even though the players battled hard for an extended period during which their bodies could heal, has created a kind of pent-up, antsy feeling.
Said Atlanta emerging star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon: "I think some guys are actually champing at the bit."
Probably none more so than Manning and Fox, the former with a new franchise for the first time since 1998, the latter with a new quarterback, a new offense, a new playbook and new rules that condense the get-acquainted period.
Probably hard to tell which of the two is more eager.
Fox has never had a quarterback of Manning's skills, no offense to the guys like Jake Delhomme or Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow, who have started for him in the past. The workaholic perfectionist, Manning doubtless would prefer throwing to his new cadre of receivers at something other than a local high school field.
But the rules are the rules, even as tension producing as they might be.
"It's a little like being a kid on Christmas, waiting for your parents to tell you that it's OK to open your gifts," Fox said.
"The anticipation is something else," said Atlanta coach Mike Smith. "A lot of us have been (accustomed) to doing things a certain way. Now, we have to get used to this. There's probably going to be some adjustments."
For both sides.
While principally supportive of the reduced workload gains made by the NFLPA in the new labor accord, a few veteran players acknowledged to The Sports Xchange in the past few weeks that the restrictions feel strange.
Instead of being fully engaged in their teams' offseason programs for a month or two, players have been invested in their golf games or vacations or computer-generated football games.
Their bodies, which for years have been in rhythm with the entrenched way of doing things, have been signaling for weeks now that it's about time to return to the weight room. Instead, they've been lifting the remote control, and not much more.
It may take a year or so of the new offseason rules to determine what they mean for career shelf-lives or for the ability of some younger players to fully emerge. Or for the overall quality of play.
The guidelines intended to perhaps lengthen careers seem to have extended the angst of coaches and players alike.
That "can't wait" exhortation once espoused by mouthy New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott isn't quite yet a mantra. But after a couple months of idleness that is new to both sides, it pretty much captures the attitude around much of the league.
Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.