GREEN BAY – Cole Madison won't lie. It was a little weird putting the shoulder pads back on for the first time in 18 months last weekend.
At least, that was until the Packers' first-year offensive lineman stepped back on the field.
"I felt back at home," Madison said. "It took a couple minutes to get situated back in the shoulder pads but after that I felt great."
After spending last season focusing on his mental health, Madison returned to Green Bay in April and was a full participant throughout the Packers' entire offseason program.
The first padded work of training camp is a slight adjustment for any young player, but the 6-foot-5, 308-pound offensive lineman's case is unique considering last Saturday marked his first full-contact practice since the 2018 Senior Bowl.
Madison has held his own in both team periods and one-on-one drills thus far, displaying the strength and technique that made him one of the Packers' two fifth-round picks a little more than a year ago.
More than what he's done on the practice field, however, Madison has won over the offensive line room with a respectful, yet witty, personality that many didn't know he possessed from the short nine weeks they had with him back in 2018.
A week into this year's camp, he's undefeated when it comes to jokes and one-liners.
"I got to know him pretty well last year, but I felt like between this OTAs and this camp, we're starting to really see the real Cole," third-year offensive lineman Justin McCray said.
"No matter what kind of day anybody is having, Cole is always a guy you can lean on. Having him back has been a good thing for our room, for one because he's a good football player. Competition breeds success and he's going to push everybody to be better. But two, he's always genuinely a good guy who brings a room up."
McCray made it a point to welcome Madison back to the team during Phase 1 of the offseason program and let the young offensive lineman know Green Bay's locker room supports him, a unanimous gesture that's eased his transition back to football.
On the field, Madison feels comfortable with what the Packers have asked of him in their outside-zone scheme. Position coach Adam Stenavich hasn't shied away from challenging him to broaden his horizons as an offensive lineman, either.
A four-year starting right tackle at Washington State, Madison was thrown into the fire this spring when Stenavich told him he was going to line up at center one day during OTAs.
"He's like, 'You good?' I was like, "Yeah, let's do it. Let's ride,'" Madison said. "I went on the fly and it shows they trust me to play that. I take that to heart."
When Madison isn't cracking jokes, there's a good chance he's probably asking a question. He admits he feels "kind of bad" because asking starting center Corey Linsley about something related to the position "every five minutes," it seems.
While it was news to Linsley that Madison hadn't played center prior to his coming to Green Bay, the sixth-year veteran doesn't mind getting peppered with questions from the 24-year-old.
Quite honestly, Linsley would be more annoyed if Madison didn't show that type of assertiveness. He appreciates not only the commitment Madison has shown to his craft, but also the dedication to the group as a whole.
"He has been a great addition to the room," Linsley said. "Cole has displayed nothing but a positive attitude since he's been back. (He says) he's asking me so many questions he feels like I'm getting sick of it. That's because he wants to get better and he wants to know, and he wants to not make the same mistake twice."
Madison was a groomsman at his sister's wedding in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, on June 27, but otherwise was focused entirely on preparing for his first NFL training camp during his summer break. He ran, weight-lifted and did everything he could to know the new playbook.
Back in pads, Madison is still knocking some rust off – he sailed one shotgun snap over the quarterback's head on Tuesday – but every day he feels like he's getting back in the swing of things.
"For me, personally, it's night and day from the offseason," Madison said. "Just getting those reps at center and getting in the playbook and the offseason has helped me. I can't even begin to start with how much it helped."
He'll make his Lambeau Field debut Friday during the Packers' annual Family Night practice. With the team's preseason opener against Houston less than a week away, Madison is thankful for the support the organization showed him during his time away.
Listening to Madison talk about the game, it's evident in his voice how much football still means to him. Whether he's playing center, guard or tackle, Madison just wants to compete.
"I'm here. I'm a Green Bay Packer," Madison said. "Whatever the team wants me to do, I'll do for them."