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Saints provide incentive

Memories of ’09 rout not lost on Patriots

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By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / August 10, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Mention the New Orleans Saints and some may think about last season’s Super Bowl championship, the franchise’s first. Around the Patriots, the Saints spark a few unpleasant memories from last season.

The November meeting in New Orleans between the Patriots and Saints was supposed to be a measuring stick for the Saints, who were fighting to stretch their perfect season to 11 games. Drew Brees seamlessly threaded his way through the Patriots secondary with 371 passing yards and five touchdowns in the Saints’ 38-17 win.

Today the Saints arrive in Foxborough to give the Patriots another sort of test.

The teams will hold joint practices today and tomorrow, capping the meetings with an exhibition game Thursday at Gillette Stadium. Given the struggles the secondary faced against the Saints last season, it is no surprise the group sees an opportunity to work on the miscues that plagued them last year.

“Definitely it will be a good test for us — Super Bowl champs, their passing attack was great last year and I’m pretty sure that they’re fine-tuning it and we’re fine-tuning our defense and we have a lot of new guys and we have some veterans in the secondary,’’ Patriots cornerback Leigh Bodden said. “So we’re just looking forward to the challenge and we’re looking forward to doing some good things, better than what we did last year.’’

Patriots players have watched film of the Saints game to see what went wrong.

Offensively, the Patriots were just as challenged, as Tom Brady completed 21 of 36 passes for 237 yards and two interceptions.

“They were the best football team in the NFL last year, so we can throw accolades at them all morning,’’ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “They’re good players, they’re well coached. They certainly handled us down there in every phase of the game. They handled us defensively. They handled us offensively. We had a couple plays in the kicking game, but [those] were far outweighed by everything else.

“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.’’

Yesterday, Belichick explained how the practices will work.

All workouts will be on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium, with two sessions today and one tomorrow. The teams will begin separately, going through warmups and individual drills. About a third of the way through the practice, the teams will come together to finish the rest of their work, which is expected to include a combination of group and team drills.

Patriots defensive lineman Gerard Warren has participated in combined practices with other teams and said the setup can be a welcome change of pace.

“It’s just an opportunity to kind of cut loose in practice,’’ Warren said. “You don’t want to take it to the full extent when you practice against your teammates, but when you get fresh meat in, it’s time to go to work.’’

While evaluations are never-ending in training camp, Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said a couple of practices against another team could help some players stand out.

“It gives you a wider array of competition and different looks and different players that you’re going against,’’ Banta-Cain said. “From a competition standpoint, you get to see a little bit more of what a guy can do when he’s not going against the same guy every day. From a player’s aspect, practicing against different players gives you a chance to really hone in on your own personal skills to see if what’s working against guys on your own team will work against another player.’’

This is the first time since 2001 that the Patriots have participated in a joint practice, and this season they are doing it twice. Next week, the Patriots will be in Atlanta as part of a joint practice with the Falcons before an exhibition game.

Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said he doesn’t worry about the structure of practices, but he is looking forward to the different approach.

“I’m excited about it,’’ Wilfork said. “I can only speak for myself, but I’m going to treat it like a game situation.’’

Shalise Manza Young of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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