The next time the Jets take the field for practice in training camp, it will be in pads.
After four practices during the acclimation period, which follow the same contact rules at OTAs, training camp will unofficially commence Monday.
"It's a full body, mind and physicality," LB Quincy Williams said earlier this week. "This is more acclimating and getting used to the movements, learning what the guy next to you in doing, learning what you're doing so that you can go at a fast pace when we put pads on. Then you have to worry about collisions and people too.
"Monday is different because when someone is hitting you, your mental gets a little rattled. … When the linemen are coming up on you and all that, you just have to tell them 'Monday.' "
Temperatures can flare when the pads come on and before the first preseason game. But it's another important step in the process and the rookie class is anxious to put the pads on for the first time in about eight months.
"I haven't hit anybody since November 2021, so I'm definitely looking forward to it," Jermaine Johnson said. "One hundred percent."
Sauce Gardner, the No. 4 overall pick, said: "I actually can't wait to get pads on. I think it's easier when you have pads on. It's like when you're out here in shorts and shirts, you're chasing the receivers because they just try to run away from you and stuff like that. It's like a cat-and-mouse game, but when the pads come on it's a different ballgame. I like the physicality of the game, I like everything that comes with it, so I'm looking forward to Monday."
It's not just the defense that's looking forward to thumping. Breece Hall, the team's second-round pick, is ready to both take and deliver blows like he did at Iowa State.
"I've been looking forward to it because it's kind of different now," he said. "I feel like everybody is getting good work, but it's different from a running back's perspective when nobody has pads on and you're not really moving. … I had to kind of get used to it the first few days and the coaches were getting on me about finishing my runs and everything."
See the Green & White on the field during Back Together Saturday at Jets Training Camp.
The biggest difference will be with the linemen. HC Robert Saleh said the defense has the advantage without pads on and C Connor McGovern agreed. He said, "there's a little bit less pop behind our run blocks" and practicing with pads "makes a world of difference."
Padded practices are the football version of a litmus test. It's when players can go full throttle and coaches can truly evaluate their roster. For example, Saleh wants to see how Gardner looks in pads, particularly against the run even though he's had a good start to camp.
And for linemen like Laken Tomlinson, who crave contact, it's mouthwatering.
"I wish I could put the pads on today," he said. "I'm excited for Monday."