Before last week, the Green Bay Packers coaches and players kept saying they couldn't wait to get the pads on in training camp after several weeks of workouts in shirts and shorts.
Now they can't wait to tackle, break tackles, and well, ... play real football.
The annual Packers Family Night scrimmage on Saturday will be the first game-like conditions of 2006. And much like putting pads on separates football players from athletes, live action separates true pros from potential ones.
"There are so many things you aren't able to do in practice and now you do them in live speed," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's obviously the most important phase of evaluations we'll have up to this point."
For McCarthy and his entire staff, there's plenty to watch on both sides of the ball. Special teams will not go live, however.
"Particularly on defense, you want to see how your tackling is," McCarthy said. "That's the first time they get to cut it loose.
"From an offensive standpoint, you want to see how your runners run and see what people do with the football. With the offensive linemen, it will be the first time they get to cut."
After the usual warm-ups and position drills, the scrimmage will include approximately 45 to 50 live plays. There may also be some work with special teams and the two-minute drill.
As with any preseason workout, the ultimate goal is to come out of it healthy. The Packers have had several players missing practice with various minor injuries and aren't going to take any chances on someone who's not absolutely 100 percent ready to go.
"We've had very physical practices so far," General Manager Ted Thompson said. "Like with all training camps and preseasons, the bane of our existence sometimes is injuries, so you worry about that. But I think our players are starting to understand how to practice well and not to put each other in peril.
"The scrimmage will be aggressive and competitive, but at the same time nobody is going to try to be out for blood or anything like that."
McCarthy plans to call the plays for the offense on Saturday, at least for the first series. He said he would like to give offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski a chance to call a series as well.
"You don't think you need to practice it, but I'm like everybody else, I need to practice it," McCarthy said.
"As coaches we have to get our game management structure in place as far as the people in the box, the communication, and make sure we've got the cobwebs knocked out before we go to San Diego."
Cornerback Al Harris (elbow) and tight end Zac Alcorn (side) returned to practice Friday. Leo Bookman (ankle) who had returned to practice the last couple of days was out again.
Cornerback Charles Woodson had an ice pack wrapped on his hip toward the end of practice for what McCarthy called a hip flexor. He said Woodson would be evaluated Saturday morning as to whether he would participate in the scrimmage. Same for running back Najeh Davenport (ankle, cramps), who missed practice again.
Among first-team players, tight end Bubba Franks (knee) and offensive tackle Chad Clifton (knee) will not participate.
Among the Packers' traveling party flying from Green Bay on Saturday morning to Canton, Ohio, for Reggie White's Pro Football Hall of Fame induction Saturday will be current players and former teammates Brett Favre, William Henderson and Rob Davis.
Director of player development George Koonce and pro personnel department intern Dorsey Levens, both former teammates of White, also will make the trip.
From the administrative staff will be General Manager Ted Thompson, equipment managers Red Batty and Tom Bakken, head trainer Pepper Burruss, team physicians Dr. Pat McKenzie and Dr. John Gray, director of corporate security Jerry Parins, and a handful of others.
Executive committee members John Fabry, John Bergstrom and Peter Platten, along with former members Dr. Don Harden and John Underwood also will attend.