When you're in training camp, every little thing is a milestone.
The first day you get to put on pads. The first time you make a big play in practice.
And definitely, the first preseason game.
For rookies, that milestone comes Thursday, when the Chargers face the Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium.
It's a chance for coaches to evaluate where their team is at against players who don't know their tendencies, and a chance for newbies to get the nerves out.
"I'm just anxious," second-round draft pick Denzel Perryman said after practice Tuesday. "I might be a little nervous come kickoff, but as soon as I get that first hit, I’ll be relaxed and ready to play."
Although there's pressure to perform, players try to keep it loose as much as they can.
"I'm a little nervous because it’s my first NFL game," rookie defensive end Darius Philon said. "But at the same time, I just look at it that I need to go out and do what I need to do and show my performance on the field. You just have to relax and keep your confidence level high and do what the coach teaches you every day."
From Tuesday afternoon on, the team will focus mainly on Dallas, head coach Mike McCoy said, with a walk-through Tuesday afternoon and a short practice Wednesday. McCoy said he hasn't set any snap limits for the game, but will just evaluate as it goes Thursday.
"We won’t put a number on anybody," he said. "We’re just going to go out there and play. If there are some good things early, more often than not those guys come out a little sooner; if it struggles a little bit, it will be a little longer.
"For some guys, it’s going to be the largest crowd they’ve played in front of," he added.
Nerves and pressure are one thing, but ultimately, there's just excitement.
"I still can’t believe I’m about to go play my first NFL game," Perryman said. "I’m just excited. I finally get to hit somebody else and not my teammates."