ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Thursday and Friday's practices certainly had all the familiar symptoms of training camp.
Fans lined the practice fields, which were freshly painted and filled with players fired up for the next step toward the 2013 season.
Still, something seemed to be missing. Saturday, that piece arrived -- the pads went on -- and it officially felt like training camp.
"I was going to put them on myself today," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio laughed. "It's always great to get into the padded portion of camp. You go through the offseason — spring practices, OTAs and all that — in shorts. It's good to find out what you're going to do in pads because that is what really counts."
The familiar pop of shoulder pads colliding seemed to get both sides of the ball -- and the crowd -- even more riled up.
Del Rio said he liked the energy he saw on the field, and Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase noticed an impact particularly on running plays.
"We had some big runs, which is a different feel for us because it seems like without pads the holes close up a lot quicker," Gase said. "It seemed like those holes were a little bigger today. You saw some explosive plays and that is what we are looking for."
Aside from the longer runs and bigger hits, tight end Jacob Tamme said the team benefits from padded practices because they help with technique like hand placement and footwork.
All in all, the coaches were impressed with what they saw.
"I thought," Head Coach John Fox said, "it was a very good first day."