Nose tackle Larry Ogunjobi walked off the field after the 49ers first practice in pads and was asked how it went.
"Good. Real good," Ogunjobi responded, a broad smile crossing his face. "That was fun."
Today, it looked fun.
Today, it looked like football.
Players in pads and helmets. Coaches getting after it on every drill. The offensive and defensive units taking sides for plays from scrimmage.
"We looked like a football team," said 49ers head coach Brad Lambert, whose 49ers are practicing this fall in preparation for the start-up program's inaugural season of 2013. "It's the final step. You're putting it together. We're doing the whole deal now. It's really a lot of fun today. Today's been the best day."
With 49 weeks still to come before their first game, the 49ers have plenty to work on.
"We didn't move around real well, but they we're trying and that's the key," Lambert added. "Early was really good. Late they started dragging which is about what we figured but they're trying hard and that's the key. We don't play for a year so we've got time. We've got time to work on fundamentals. We've got time to establish a base and lay the foundation."
Still, after three weeks of conditioning workouts, the players were anxious to have some full practices.
Today's was the first.
"We were real pumped up," said cornerback Tank Norman. "We woke up pumped up. Early this morning we were talking at breakfast at seven o'clock this morning. We've been amped up all day. You're always excited the first day of hitting."
"It definitely became real today for everybody," noted quarterback Matt Johnson. "When we got to put our pads on, got to look at ourselves in the mirror and see the Charlotte logo on the pants -- it was awesome. I was dressed probably an hour before practice. My ankle's been taped since about 1:50. We've been sitting in there, itching to come out."
After more than an hour and a half of intense workouts and the first full-blown practice, the players knew things had changed.
Receiver Austin Duke, one of the last players to leave the field, said "that's a different level. A whole different level."
"It's different from high school," Norman added. "The practice field's a whole lot faster than what I expected, but it was fun."
For the players and coaches, alike, today was a long-awaited opportunity to get back to football. Real football. Real fun football.
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