Saints, Chargers praise each other for lively joint practice

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              New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, left, and Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers share a light moment after the teams' joint NFL football practice, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018, in Costa Mesa. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The New Orleans Saints took a four-hour flight into Southern California late Tuesday night, and they hit the Los Angeles Chargers‘ training camp fields early Wednesday.

Instead of being bothered by the tough turnaround, the Saints used the circumstances to sharpen their focus for the upcoming season.

The Saints and Chargers are practicing together at Jack Hammett Sports Complex for the second consecutive year, breaking up the late stages of the preseason with two days of joint workouts ahead of their preseason game Saturday night in Carson.

“It’s a game situation for three or four days,” said Saints linebacker Manti Te’o, the former Chargers player. “Everything is better when you’re going against somebody. The competition level rises. We have three mini-games, and then we have the real game. I was really pleased with the energy we had, and it’s nice to go against a team that has similar energy.”

Both head coaches pronounced themselves pleased by their players’ efforts in the practice. The teams also managed to avoid any fights, staying away from a common occurrence in joint practices.

There were a few close shaves, such as Chargers pass-rush specialist Melvin Ingram’s strip-sack of Drew Brees. Ingram later apologized for getting so close to Brees, who wasn’t bothered.

“Stuff is happening fast out there,” Brees said with a shrug. “At times, some people are going to bump into you.”

Chargers receiver Mike Williams was particularly sharp in the workouts, making another series of tough catches in his impressive start to the season. Williams missed training camp as a rookie last year due to injury, but he looked impressive against the Saints’ defensive backs.

“He’s out here every day and you just see him working and pushing through,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. “I’m sure he’s tired and sore like all of those guys are. He’s working through that, and every day you see him make a play. It’s exciting.”

New Orleans coach Sean Payton brought his team out West for the second straight year because the benefits of joint practices are particularly helpful to the Saints, who are looking to build on last season’s 11-5 finish and playoff berth. The Chargers barely missed the playoffs at 9-7, but are popular picks to be an AFC contender after returning almost every key player from a team that won nine of its last 12 games.

“One big thing is it changes the routine,” Payton said. “And I think that’s good in our league, because we’re constantly changing. But also you’re working against a different defense than your own, and I don’t mean just a different defense, but how they play defense. The coverage schemes are different. What they do offensively, specifically with the running game. When you do that, especially for two or three days like we are, you have a chance to see some of the weaknesses or holes in certain areas that we have not seen at home.”