The rookies and selected vets completed their final practice on Wednesday morning before the veterans arrive later in the day. The start of the full-team practices signals a shift in the tempo and atmosphere at Lehigh University.
Third-year linebacker Keenan Clayton took part in these rookie practices. He was sidelined in the spring after undergoing sports hernia surgery in the offseason. He recalled how much the speed of the game changed once the veterans arrived in his rookie season.
"Each night we had an install on defense, so you have to stay in your playbook because you're going to get more mental reps especially when the older guys get in because they are going to get the most reps," Clayton said while smiling at the thought of what the rookies are about to endure. "A lot of it is mental, but at the same time you have to be ready to go because everything is going to be moving so fast."
The rookies and selected vets practiced for the past three days in shells and shorts. That will change as the first live hitting periods take place on Saturday.
"I'm 100 percent ready. That's my game," running back Chris Polk said. "I'm a one-cut, rather than an elusive guy. It's been a while, but I'm looking forward to that."
First-round pick Fletcher Cox is one of the rookies who will still get a number of reps even with the veterans on the field. Cox embraced the past few days of workouts to not only hone in on the defense, but also get in top shape. Cox said that all of the gassers that he ran over the past month still could not fully prepare his body for doing football drills with pads and a helmet on.
The atmosphere around the practice fields will become electric with thousands of fans arriving to watch practice to get their thirst for football quenched. Each player will be doing everything he can to impress them. Safety Wade Bonner made two interceptions in Wednesday's practice. The rookie free agent out of Mississippi State has to keep taking advantage of any reps he can get.
"I've still got a lot to learn," Bonner said. "It feels good today, but tomorrow it's all over."
The past few days have been crucial for the rookies in camp. Now, the true test begins in their quest for a roster spot with the veterans arriving at Training Camp.
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