Akiem Hicks ready for action

The New Orleans Saints finally will get their first real look at their top draft choice.

Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said Thursday he expects to take part in Friday’s padded practice. Hicks had been sidelined by a hand injury, but it sounds like he’s about to get thrown right into the mix. Hicks said he’s been told he’ll play in Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Hicks said he’s used the time on the sideline to get as ready as possible.

“I’ve taken more mental reps than I’ve taken my whole life,’’ Hicks said. “Every play I’m into it, I’m waiting for the next call, I’m ready, I’m doing my own moves on the side and trying to figure out what I need to be ready for when I come back to full contact. A lot of mental reps.”

A third-round choice (the Saints didn’t have a pick in the first two rounds), Hicks has a chance at immediate playing time. The Saints are likely to use Brodrick Bunkley and Sedrick Ellis as their starting defensive tackles. But Hicks will be given a chance to earn a spot in the rotation.