Ask Percy Harvin, who was taken down hard. Ask Jarmarca Sanford, who had to be attended to for a few seconds before walking to sidelines after a dangerous fall to the ground during the Vikings' first training camp practice with shoulder pads.
"We ain't been in pads. Our last time in pads was way back in January so you're always ready. That's the most exciting day when you get back in pads," Sanford said. "You really get physical with your teammates. It's feels great to be back in pads. That's when football comes alive. We're in the back running around doing seven-on-seven. But when the pads come on, that's football. You're always going to see a lot more excitement when you got pads on."
The fans picked the right time to out en masse, too. After two relatively sparse crowds Monday and Tuesday that allowed plenty of bleacher space to stretch out, Wednesday's morning session nearly filled the stands erected by the practice fields. The fact that receivers and quarterbacks were signing autographs afterwards no doubt contributed to the increased attendance – which likely more than doubled – and the entertainment factor ratcheted up as well.
"I like it. That's how they're going to have to play on Sundays," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said with a smile as he walked to the locker room after the morning practice.
Frazier wasn't concerned about a couple of near injuries. The hitting did cause a few moments of concern, but not no one seemed to walk away much worse for the wear.
Sanford got his feet taken out from under him when he went up high to try to snare an overthrown pass by Joe Webb to Visanthe Shiancoe and the tight end brushed the safety's feet when he was at the top of his jump. Sanford came down hard on his tailbone and stayed on the ground for about 15 seconds before walking to the sideline.
"I think I hurt my tailbone, probably bruised it. Other than that, it wasn't a major injury. Once I landed on my rear end, I knew it was something up in there, a bruise or something," he said. "If I would have came down on my cleat or something, I probably would have tore a knee, so I'm glad I landed on my tailbone."
Not surprisingly, the contact-loving safety could have been on the giving end of a hit, too, not long after returning to action. After receiver Percy Harvin caught a pass in the middle of the field, Sanford was right there and pulled up to avoid putting the full brunt of a hit on Harvin.
"A couple times, you know you really want to blow them up. You really want to finish, but you know it's our teammates, so we've got to protect each other," Sanford said. "You can't go out and just be an idiot running into your teammates and hurting each other."
Harvin received a couple of shots, most notably from linebacker Heath Farwell. Just as a pass bounced off Harvin in the middle of the field, Farwell arrived and hit Harvin in the upper body, causing the receiver to flip backwards and land hard on his back. The hit didn't even seem to faze him, as he bounced up and didn't miss any time.
Things could get even more interesting Thursday afternoon. Players will be in full pads for the first time. It's also supposed to be the first day that players with new contracts, like quarterback Donovan McNabb and receiver Michael Jenkins, are supposed to be in action, although the new collective bargaining agreement has to be completed before they are allowed on the field – match up their first day on the field with the Vikings' first full-pads practice.
"I'm sure it'll ramp up a little bit, but we're out here trying to take care of our guys. We don't want nobody to get hurt," cornerback Chris Cook said. "I'm sure nobody will go as hard as they would in a game, but I expect it to be a little bit faster than today and a little bit more intense than today because we haven't had full pads on in six or seven months, so it's going to be crazy."
Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf attended Wednesday afternoon's walk-through session and are scheduled to watch the first full-pads practice on Thursday.
Zygi Wilf said the Vikings are "very confident" about their stadium situation and is holding out hope that a special session can be called in the fall.
"We're working on that. We still have some work ahead of us to put all the pieces in place, but we're very confident that we will have something worked out in the near future and hopefully that it could be addressed in a special session," Zygi said. "But we're very confident in our location and for the future of the franchise in a new stadium up in Arden Hills. We're very excited about moving that process forward for our fans and for everybody in the state who utilized the Metrodome in such a good fashion for the last 30 years. This will be a great venue for the next generation."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.