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SmashMouth 08-08-2012 03:44 PM

New Orleans Saints, New England have mutual respect heading into Thursday's preseason game
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The respect is obviously mutual. Players and coaches from the New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots can't help but to compliment each other.
MICHAEL DeMOCKER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE As New England Patriots defensive back Ross Ventrone (35) defends, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Derek Moye (84) catches a ball in the end zone that was ruled incomplete, but would likely have been ruled a touchdown upon review as he had both feet down and control of the ball during practice between the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots on the practice fields of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on Wednesday, August 8, 2012.
Saints practice with Patriots, August 8, 2012 gallery (24 photos)

They all are impressed with the recent history, the division titles, the conference championship appearances and the Super Bowl titles. They even said as much during the course of the last two days when they practiced against each other leading up to Thursday night's preseason game at Gillette Stadium.

While this exhibition game will not count in the standings, the joint practice sessions and game itself, could reveal early signs if either team has Super Bowl potential.

"I would hope so," Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said. "As a veteran I don't think you are going to find too many veterans that like going and practicing against other teams. You kind of like to stick to your schedule and your routine and not do somebody else's routine. But with that being said when you can practice against a team like this and you can kind of size each other up, especially a team that's in the hunt for some type of championship every year, it's good competition."

In the past six years, both teams have been in the hunt, giving this preseason contest a little more pizzazz, while definitely serving as a measuring stick.

The Saints have won 67 games over the past six seasons. Meanwhile, New England, a team that suspended Saints Coach Sean Payton and his staff have referred to as the "Microsoft" of the NFL, is coming off its fifth Super Bowl appearance in a decade.

"Both teams have won a lot of games," said Saints interim coach Joe Vitt, whose team won its preseason opener 17-10 against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday. "They're the defending AFC champions. Their body of work speaks for itself, so we're excited about it."

It's not the first time the teams have been teeming with excitement about testing their mettle against each other.

During the Saints' Super Bowl season in 2009, the Saints and Patriots held joint practices. The teams got to know each other well.

"We know that there are a lot of other great organizations and teams and players and coaches out there," Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said. "It's a good challenge every week and certainly the Saints are one of the top teams in professional football.

"As I said, they're well coached, they have great talent, good players, good scheme (and) they win a lot of games. We played against them two years ago, practiced against them two years ago in their championship season. There isn't any team we have more respect for than the Saints from top to bottom. They do a great job all the way around."

For the Saints, they'll be trying to find out how their revamped defense under new defensive coordinator Steve Spaguolo will hold up against three-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Tom Brady and his All Pro targets in tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Wes Welker.

The Saints, though, will have to make due without their two starting cornerbacks - Jabari Greer (sports hernia) and Patrick Robinson (shoulder) - who will miss the game while recovering from injuries suffered during training camp.

While Vitt said Wednesday afternoon that snap counts for his players hadn't been set yet, the absences of Greer and Robinson will lead to extended playing time for backups Johnny Patrick, Corey White and Marquise Johnson.

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