August 17, 2017

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) Not much went right for the New Orleans Saints on the first day of their joint practice with the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

There were penalties, turnovers and issues with pass protection.

In the long run, Saints quarterback Drew Brees expects the two days of workouts to be valuable, even more so than Sunday's preseason game against the Chargers.

''It's a good measuring stick for where we're at, where we want to go and just the opportunity to compete against different looks,'' Brees said.

Saints head coach Sean Payton and his staff met with first-year Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn and his assistants for about 30 minutes Wednesday night to finalize the format for the practices, which will continue on Friday.

For the Saints players, however, there was no preparation or planning for what the Chargers would do.

Unlike a traditional game week, where everything is focused on learning the tendencies of opposing players and schemes, unfamiliarity provides a truer test of where the team is in training camp.

''We just kind of show up today for the first time and it's like, OK, here's their personnel and here's the looks that we are getting. This is the stuff they have been working on in training camp that nobody has really seen yet, and so it just gives us a chance to get a lot of good reps,'' Brees said.

The early returns were not great. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers outplayed his former teammate Brees in the team periods, and Payton was especially upset with the five penalties his defense committed during a two-minute drill.

Brees also had a tipped pass intercepted during red zone drills near the end of practice, and the Chargers defensive line was able to consistently create pressure off the edge with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

''I didn't think we were real sharp today,'' Brees said. ''But just the way that it felt, didn't really feel like we had a whole lot of tempo or rhythm.''

But Brees also got to test himself with a heavier workload than he will likely see in all but the third preseason game. Brees went as far as saying these joint practices are more valuable than preseason games.

''Who knows how many reps we will get in this game, but we're going to get a heck of a lot more reps than we will during the game,'' Brees said. ''There's no guarantee that you are going to get certain situations in a game, like two-minute. We're probably not going to get a two-minute drive as the first group in this game, but we got two two-minute drives today, you know. You get a bunch of third-down reps, you get a bunch of red-zone reps. It's all good stuff.''

The practice also had other tangible benefits for the Saints. They were able to work out in warm but not unpleasant conditions, bolstered by a constant off-shore breeze. Then again, anything would be better than Louisiana's heat and humidity in August.

''It's like, what, 117 degrees heat index there right now, so this is great,'' Brees said.

A significant number of the 3,000 fans attending the open session were Saints fans, and more than a hundred waited nearly an hour after practice concluded for Brees to sign autographs.

''Yeah, I'm wondering where they came from,'' Brees said. ''Are they all SoCal folks or did they come up from New Orleans? I don't know, but Who Dat Nation is everywhere.''

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