FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints have held joint practices each of the past two years, one of the top matchups has been Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler against Saints receiver Brandin Cooks.
The rising young talents got after each other early in Tuesday’s full-pads practice, and when it was over, Butler gave Cooks his due.
“I’ll say he got the best of me today, but got another day to improve,” Butler said after the workout. “I got some work put on me today, but that’s the goal, to come out and compete each and every day and go against the best. No matter who it is, you go all out.”
The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Cooks, a 2014 first-round draft choice out of Oregon State, made several contested catches against Butler in one-on-one and then team drills. But Butler had his moments, too, with perhaps his best coming when he batted away a Drew Brees pass intended for Cooks in the corner of the end zone.
Butler has shared his admiration for Cooks in the past and echoed those thoughts Tuesday.
“Fast, he can stop on a dime, he’s strong. Besides the height, he has it all,” he said.
With the Butler vs. Cooks matchup as a springboard, let's take a closer look at what we saw (and heard) from the Patriots-Saints joint practice:
Injuries put cloud over things: Receiver Julian Edelman was off to a strong start in practice, dominating in one-on-ones by shaking rookie defensive backs Jimmy Pruitt (undrafted) and Vonn Bell (second round) with sharp cuts and decisive route-running. But things turned in the wrong direction for Edelman shortly thereafter when he took himself out of practice, throwing his helmet in disgust and then having his surgically repaired left foot looked at. The early indication is that Edelman dodged a serious injury, but he is still scheduled to undergo further testing. Meanwhile, starting defensive end Rob Ninkovich left practice with a triceps injury and was scheduled to undergo an MRI to determine the severity. With Ninkovich out, Shea McClellin saw extended work on the edge.
Play of the day: The Patriots’ overall offensive execution wasn’t sharp, which is why one play that stood out -- Saints rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins' interception on a Tom Brady on a screen pass -- lands in this category. It was reflective of a day that wasn’t the Patriots’ best. "I didn’t really realize it was Tom Brady until after, when somebody told me, ‘You just picked off a four-time Super Bowl champion.’ And then it kind of sunk in a little bit,” Rankins said.
What's on the set list? Music wasn’t a big part of practice, as the tunes were played during warm-ups:
"Boys of Fall," Kenny Chesney
"Hustlin,'" Rick Ross
"Stand Up and Get Crunk," Ying Yang Twins
Playing “Boys of Fall” could have been a tip of the cap to Saints coach Sean Payton, who is a longtime friend of Chesney. If that was indeed the case, it was a nice touch by the Patriots.
Stork increases workload; Solder not at practice: Starting center Bryan Stork, who reportedly sustained a concussion July 30, participated in full-team drills for the first time since the injury. He mixed in with the second unit. ... Starting left tackle Nate Solder was not present (reason unknown), which had LaAdrian Waddle moving to the top unit at left tackle and Marcus Cannon staying at right tackle. ... Sixth-round draft choice Ted Karras of Illinois got some work at left guard after mostly playing right guard and center through the first 10 practices of camp. ... Four-year veteran Josh Kline was the top right guard, with Shaq Mason on the second unit.
Extra points: Defensive end Jabaal Sheard seemed to have a strong day in one-on-one drills, generating consistent pressure. ... A drop over the middle by tight end Rob Gronkowski was one of several on the day for the team. ... Credit safety Duron Harmon with an interception of quarterback Luke McCown. ... Rookie cornerback Cyrus Jones, the Patriots’ top draft pick, showed up with a pass breakup on second-year receiver Willie Snead. ... The Patriots are getting a long look at third-year running back Tyler Gaffney, who received a steady diet of work. ... Undrafted running back D.J. Foster of Arizona State remains out of practice. ... Officials were on hand working the practice, throwing penalty flags when there were infractions.
Wednesday's schedule: Patriots-Saints joint practice in shorts and light shoulder pads (9:15 a.m.).