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New Orleans Saints embrace productive joint practice against opponent other than their teammates 

'Any time you can compete against the best players in the world, I think it raises the level of competition and energy'

Off the rip and for the record, Marshon Lattimore couldn't have been much more pleased Tuesday with how the New Orleans Saints defense showed in its joint practice with Green Bay, the first of consecutive days of joint practice before the teams play their second preseason games on Friday night at Lambeau Field.

"What did I learn today?" the Saints' Pro Bowl cornerback asked, repeating a question posed to him. "We were dominating, to me.

"You feel like we had a good day? I think we did."

How does he judge it?

"If we win the periods. If they don't catch the ball on us, we won. Simple."

And one of his running mates in the secondary, safety Tyrann Mathieu, seemed also to tilt toward that direction.

"Thought we left a few plays out there," Mathieu said. "There were a couple times, tipped balls, where we had a chance to make a play on it, we didn't. But for the most part I thought we communicated well and I thought we did what we needed to do."

Whether the Packers agree with that assessment, here's what Green Bay most assuredly wouldn't debate: The joint practice was a hit. Both teams had the opportunity for quality work against an opponent other than the teammates who have served as antagonists for the better part of the previous three weeks.

"It's always better going against someone else than your teammates," Lattimore said. "It's a challenge and just being competitive out there is way better than going against your teammates every day."

"It's nice to go against someone other than ourselves," right tackle Ryan Ramczyk said. "I think it's a good test for us and I think we played, for the most part, really good today. We played physical, we had a good practice out there. Obviously, there's going to be stuff to correct on the film, but I think the first day went well for us."

Mathieu, too, echoed the benefits of practicing against a team projected to be a contender to reach the NFC Championship Game.

"Any time you get to compete against other players outside your team, I think it always adds to the intensity, the competitive spirit," Mathieu said. "There was a lot of that out there (Tuesday).

"It's about to get real, real soon for us so it's all about trying to find ways to improve. Coming out there with the right energy, right spirit every day."

That particularly may have been necessary Tuesday against the Packers and their quarterback, four-time NFL MVP (including the last two years) Aaron Rodgers.

"Any time you can compete against the best players in the world, I think it kind of raises the level of competition and energy as well," Mathieu said. "So any time you get to compete against one of the best players ever, you want to go out there, communicate well and get your hands on some balls."

Coach Dennis Allen said the benefits of the joint workout are numerous.

"It was good work," he said. "We had some situational work, we had some game-like conditions. I thought we utilized the time to get better.

"Our guys, particularly the young guys, get a chance to see some different things both offensively and defensively. I think that's the benefit we get out of it.

"Whenever you go on the road, whether it's during a regular-season game or we're coming up here and are going to spend a week up here, it's just you and the guys. And our team hangs out together, they eat together, they play cards, they're around each other all the time and there's no distractions. I think it's just a cool environment for our guys to get together and kind of get to know each other a little bit better."

Too, there's literally the cool environment. The Green Bay forecast called for a high of 79 degrees on Tuesday; New Orleans was expected to top out at 94, with a heat index eclipsing 100 and a heat advisory in effect.

"I think as much as anything, we wanted to find a good, quality opponent, in a little bit cooler environment – get out of the heat just a little bit – and kind of get our guys tucked away and come together as a unit," Allen said.

Mathieu, a New Orleans native, is a New Orleans guy. But he understood.

"To be honest, I like practicing in New Orleans," Mathieu said. "But any time you get to go against some guys in a different jersey, that's good. Camp can get a little drained going against your teammates every day, so it was a nice changeup to compete against somebody else for a change."

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