|Pats and Saints set to kick off joint practices Tuesday||08.09.10 at 11:46 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The dog days of August are going to get a little more interesting.
The Patriots and Saints will kick off three joint practices Tuesday morning in Foxboro, culminating with the preseason opener for both teams at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night. This year will mark the first time New England has engaged in a series of combined practices with another team since they worked out with the Giants in the summer of 2001.
“It was just a whole different way to approach practice,” said left tackle Matt Light, one of the few players remaining from those 2001 sessions . “I think everybody was a lot more mentally ready to go. They were really working on what they had to do individually. It’s a great competitive atmosphere.”
The two teams will have three joint practices — two on Tuesday (9 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.) and one Wednesday (9 a.m.) on the fields behind Gillette Stadium before playing on Thursday night.
According to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, the two teams will start apart at the beginning of practice, going through stretching, warmups and drills before coming together and start working about 1/3 of the way through practice before working together the rest of the way. Both practices are currently scheduled to be in pads.
“It’s definitely good to see a different scheme, different offense, different players, different uniforms,” said cornerback Leigh Bodden. “You can bang around with them a little bit and not have to worry about if you hurt a guy, it’s not your teammate, and it definitely gets guys prepared for the game.”
It’ll be a chance to divert from the usual training camp routine, something that the Patriots welcome. Roughly 19 practices in, New England is clearly itching for a little break in the routine — tight end Aaron Hernandez mixed it up with linebacker Thomas Williams during Monday’s afternoon practice session.
It will also be an opportunity to welcome some former Patriots to town — fullback Heath Evans, cornerback Randall Gay and tight end Dave Thomas all used to play in New England before they went on to win a Super Bowl title with the Saints. In addition, former Boston College offensive lineman Matt Tennant was a fifth-round pick of New Orleans this past spring.
And it will also be a chance for the Patriots to measure themselves against the best in the game, the defending Super Bowl champions who crushed them in a regular-season meeting last November in the Superdome, 38-17.
“They were the best football team in the NFL last year, so we can throw accolades at them all morning,” Belichick said. “They’re good players, they’re well coached. They certainly handled us down there in every phase of the game.
“It’s a new year, but we know that they’re a great football team and it will be a good opportunity for us to compete against somebody that we know has a high quality of performance, coming off a great year.”
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