In reality, it begins on Sunday.
That's when the 2013 edition of the Green Bay Packers will strap on all of their pads for the first time. Instead of pattycake, the offensive and defensive lines will be competing in football's version of trench warfare. Instead of running through the line with impunity, the backs will be getting hit by hard-charging linebackers.
"That's what training camp is for," coach Mike McCarthy said after Saturday's chilly practice at Ray Nitschke Field. "It's about padded practices. You only have so many opportunities to get your team ready, get ready for games. The fundamental work is critical. The fundamental drills are critical and the ability to connect with each and every player and start stacking the techniques and getting it done -- it needs to be done over and over and over again. And, frankly, that's how the rhythm and the timing and the confidence builds throughout training camp. The padded practices are important. Tomorrow's a very important practice."
McCarthy drove home that point when asked about rookie receiver Tyrone Walker, who had three catches in a span of four plays at one point.
"Let's get to tomorrow a little bit," McCarthy said. "This shorts stuff is fine. It's in place for a reason, it's a good transition period for your football team. But tomorrow you get a closer look. When people have their hands on each other 24/7, it'll be a better indication."
By rule, the first two practices must be done in helmets and shorts, and hitting is forbidden. McCarthy was pleased with Friday's first practice but less so after Saturday. A highlight was at the end, when Aaron Rodgers connected with Jarrett Boykin for a touchdown to cap a no-huddle drill.
"I thought it was sloppier than yesterday," McCarthy said. "Had the ball on the ground too much, pre-snap penalties, but I thought there was some real quality work. The no-huddle with the two extensions there with the two penalties -- 11-play drive, that's great work for both sides. Looking forward to tomorrow's practice. I think these two transition days have been a good start. The weather's been accommodating. I'm looking forward to getting to the fundamental work, which truly starts the climb to get your football team working on the things you really need to work on to get ready to play the games."
New injuries: WR Charles Johnson (leg), Kevin Dorsey (unknown) and Sederrik Cunningham (wrist). Johnson, a rookie seventh-round pick, potentially dodged a bullet. Early in Saturday's practice, Johnson ran a slant across the middle and appeared to be trying to stop to field a pass from Graham Harrell that was thrown low and behind him. Instead, Johnson fell backward. Several players dropped to their knees in prayer. By the end of practice, however, Johnson was at least back as a spectator. Dorsey dropped out of practice with an undisclosed injury, and Cunningham was wearing a big bag of ice on his left wrist at the end of Friday's practice. McCarthy said he hadn't received a "final evaluation" on any of the receivers.
Old injuries: RB DuJuan Harris (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Davon House (illness), S Chaz Powell (foot), LB Jamari Lattimore (illness), OL J.C. Tretter (broken ankle), OT Derek Sherrod (leg), DE Mike Neal (abdominal), DE Jerel Worthy (ACL).
Returning from injuries: None.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.