The practices in professional football can vary according to the level of intensity and equipment worn. The base level of practices are walk-throughs. The practice is exactly as its name implies. Players do not wear shoulder pads or helmets. Players will dress in workout gear with their practice jersey on. Their practice jersey does correspond to their game jersey with the same number. In a walk-through session, the players will walk through new plays and the daily install meeting they just heard in the classroom.
Normally the offensive and defensive units work separately. The normal format is to hear the information in the classroom first, walk through the plays, then practice at game speed, followed by the game itself on Sunday. After the walk-through teams will then practice the plays full speed. Full speed practice can be with different degrees of dress. Workout gear, shoulder pads, game jersey and helmet another level. Full pads is the most intense level which mimics a game with the exception of tackling teammates to the ground.
Once you pass the walk-through stage all other levels are full speed. The amount of contact and intensity of the contact is what coaches manage. It’s important to have enough contact and preparation to feel confident and comfortable game day. It is also important to be safe so you can have your best lineup available game day. Don’t have so much contact that players are getting hurt in practice, or over a period of time lose their crisp hard hitting hunger. Injuries can never be completely controlled but must be a primary concern. All teams want the best players playing. The level of intensity at practice is designed for the most efficient progression for learning and staying healthy.
Professional football differs greatly from college in that pro players can practice any level of intensity with very few athletes ever hitting the ground. In college football, you will see more players getting off the ground. Part of the reason is the fact college athletes as a whole are not nearly as talented; and also, pro players have learned how to practice with great intensity yet keep each other off the ground.
When players are going to the ground the risk of injury is much greater. The coach must find the right balance of contact and non-contact to be prepared and stay healthy.