Pats looking forward to joint practices
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Usually by the 11th and 12th days of training camp, players are lagging. These are supposed to be the dog days of camp.
But things are different this year for the New England Patriots.
There was a noticeable energy and excitement among players when discussing what will take place Tuesday and Wednesday as the New Orleans Saints come to town for joint practices. The joint practices will lead into the team's preseason opener Thursday at Gillette Stadium.
"This will be great for the fans to see. I think there will be a pretty good buzz throughout practice this week," veteran left tackle Matt Light said.
Light was a rookie the last time the Patriots scheduled joint practices, in 2001 with the New York Giants coming to town. Current Saints head coach Sean Payton was an assistant on the Giants' staff that year, and he later struck up a friendship with Bill Belichick at the 2006 Pro Bowl, which probably contributed to the Patriots and Saints feeling comfortable with scheduling this year's joint practices.
On Monday, Belichick detailed how the open-to-the-public free practices -- which are scheduled for 9 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, and 9 a.m. Wednesday -- will work.
Both teams will be on the two practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. The opening third of the practice will have the Saints on one field and the Patriots on the other.
For the final two-thirds of practice, the teams will come together.
When the teams come together, the work will be varied, including everything from 7-on-7 drills to a possible full-team scrimmage.
"This will be a chance for us to do it against somebody else," Belichick said. "Their schemes and players are different than ours, so it just creates some new matchups."
It also should create a heightened intensity level, and that might explain why Patriots players had the weekend off, so they are well rested and ready to shift things into a higher gear.
"It's a good chance to hit somebody other than the guys you're seeing every day," Light said. "You get the timing figured out against the guys you play against in practice. This will be a good opportunity for all of us to see some new competition, to get some good work here one-on-ones and in the team periods in practice, and really just go out and compete at a higher level than we are now.
"It's a great competitive atmosphere. You can't get hurt doing it."
"It's definitely intense," he recalled. "Especially as a young guy, a free agent, I had to make a name for myself. I was doing everything I could to show our coaches I could play."
"It's cool, a change of pace, going against different guys," Lewis said. "Of course it makes practice a little more competitive. It's fun and gives you a different look. You kind of get tired hitting the same guys every day, so it spices it up a little bit."
"It's an opportunity to cut loose in practice," Warren said. "You don't want to take it to the full extent in practice against your own teammates. But when you get fresh meat in, it's time to go to work."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter. Student assistant Mike Rodak contributed to this report.