QBs for Patriots, Saints enter important preseason stretch
FOXBOROUGH >> Three quarterbacks will be in the spotlight on Thursday night when the Saints and Patriots open their preseason schedules.
It will be just another tuneup for two of the league's most productive veteran signal callers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. For the other, it will serve as an important prelude to an opportunity he's prepped for just over two years.
New England's Jimmy Garoppolo has known since the abrupt conclusion of "Deflategate" last month that he would get the first regular-season starts of his career when Brady's league-imposed, four-game suspension begins next month. What remains unclear is if that new status will also translate into Garoppolo starting during the preseason and taking the majority of the snaps.
"It's always different on game day. It's a different feel and everything," Garoppolo said. "You get those butterflies in your stomach and all that. It's awesome. Football is back now."
It will also be the first peek this season at the 39-year-old Brady and 37-year-old Saints quarterback Drew Brees as they continue to progress toward the conclusion of their respective NFL runs — though both plan on playing for a few more seasons.
While the teams have held joint preseason practices three times in the last five years, this latest edition brought about more reminiscences for the former Big Ten rivals.
Brees said the steady rain that fell during Wednesday's practice took them both back to when Brady's Michigan team faced Brees' Purdue squad in 1999.
"The weather today the exact same as it was for that game," Brees said. "Tom actually threw it out there. He said, 'Hey, remember that game, Michigan-Purdue in the Big House?' It was just like it. They kind of smoked us that day, though."
From college kids to veteran pros, Brees said there is an appreciation for the longevity that both have had in the league.
"I think we're thankful for the opportunities that we've been given," Brees said. "Obviously, he is a part of a great organization, and has been for a long time. I'm part of a great organization and have been for a long time.
"From knowing him and his approach, I think we both understand we gotta prove it each and every time out. We're in the business of winning. I think we both have high expectations as to how long we can play. But we don't take it for granted."
Brees said he has been told he would play "a series or so" on Thursday, leaving ample time for backups Luke McCown and Garrett Grayson to get snaps.
Garoppolo and Brady have each had equal time working alongside players that will likely make up the Patriots' first-team offense. Garoppolo said after Wednesday's rain soaked practice he hadn't yet received any indication from the coaching staff on who would start Thursday.
"I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine," he said.
NOTES: Patriots WR Julian Edelman was back on the field Wednesday after leaving practice early Tuesday with an unspecified lower left leg injury. Edelman was in uniform, but did not participate in live pass-catching drills. He instead worked on conditioning with a small group of other players. ... Saints RB Mark Ingram, who missed a couple of practices recently, also said he isn't sure how much playing time he will get Thursday. But he said his time off was nothing major. "Yeah, I'm fine," he said. "They were taking care of me a little bit. So, I'm good." ...Former Rutgers football player turned motivational speaker Eric LeGrand was at practice Wednesday, and addressed players afterward. LeGrand, who was paralyzed while attempting a tackle during a 2010 Rutgers game, was in town working on a new web series. Patriots Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon both played alongside LeGrand at the school.