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Patriots see joint practices with Panthers as their first "big test" of training camp

Patriots gearing up for joint practices with Carolina Panthers
Patriots gearing up for joint practices with Carolina Panthers 02:47

FOXBORO -- With most of the starters sitting out last week's preseason opener, many Patriots players are still looking to hit someone other than their teammates for the first time this summer. That opportunity will finally come Tuesday.

To borrow a phrase from the Boston Celtics, the energy is about to shift in Foxboro. Heck, it's about to be turned up to 11. The Carolina Panthers are coming to town for a pair of joint practices.

The Patriots and the Panthers will share the practice field behind Gillette Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday, before they take the field inside the stadium on Friday night for preseason game No. 2. Players on both sides of the ball are eager to get these joint sessions going, giving them their first opportunity to actually lay a lick on someone in an opposing uniform.

The energy is about to skyrocket. The adrenaline will be pumping. The competition will be through the roof -- or at least erupting into the New England sky. 

"Definitely, the competition level will go up," tackle Trent Brown said after Monday's light practice session in Foxboro. "It has to or you get your ass beat out here. Just try to win every rep."

Whether they're a starter or a backup, winning every rep will be important to everyone on the field. The Patriots view these joint practices as their best test yet this preseason and a great opportunity to see where the team is in their progress.

"[Tuesday] will be our first big test," added Brown. "With Week 1 three weeks away, it will be a nice gaze to see where we are and see what we need to do before Week 1."

The Patriots have had a dozen practices during training camp, with Monday's session on the lighter side. Players were in shorts and shells after having the weekend off, a relatively calm session ahead of what will be a pretty rambunctious couple of days ahead.

"Playing against your own teammates gets kind of old," said receiver Kendrick Bourne. "It's nice to go against someone else to see where you're at."

Along with the great competition, center David Andrews said that the joint sessions offer additional opportunities for the team to grow together on the field

"It's a welcome break, to some extent. You kind of come together as a team; you're no longer going against your defense or doing 1 on 1s against your guys. It's the Patriots against the Panthers," said Andrews. "It's great competition and a great way to see different looks."

Bill Belichick kept the majority of his likely starters out of last Thursday's preseason opener against the Giants. It was a move that caught many by surprise, given all the changeover on the coaching staff and with some new wrinkles being added to the offense.

While preseason game action is valuable to the learning and growth process of a team -- not to mention the evaluation process -- it sounds like Belichick values the joint practices even more.

"There's so many things [to take from joint practices]," Belichick said Monday. "The individual matchups are good. We've been working against each other for a long time, so new individual matchups, schemes are different. We'll see some different x's and o's, but also maybe techniques on the way guys pass-rush or route-running or things like that. And, I would say, less predictability of practice. We kind of know what's on the other side of the ball and what we can and can't do. Some things we aren't going to see from the opposite side of the ball. With a new team, everything's kind of new, so it keeps you on your toes and forces more communication and more awareness, and we need that."

Belichick has been a huge fan of joint practices for years, and when the Patriots are all done with the Panthers at the end of the week, they'll head out to Las Vegas for some more joint sessions -- and the preseason finale -- with the Raiders next week.

Tune in to Friday's Patriots-Panthers preseason game on WBZ-TV -- the flagship station of the New England Patriots. Coverage begins at 6:30pm with Patriots GameDay, kickoff is set for 7pm, and stay tuned after the game for full reaction and analysis on Patriots Fifth Quarter!

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