FOXBORO, Mass. — The highlight of Tuesday’s joint practice between the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints came courtesy of Saints rookie defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins.
Rankins, the 12th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, was the only Saints defender to intercept a Tom Brady pass, picking off the Patriots quarterback on the second play of 11-on-11 drills.
?I didn?t really realize it was Tom Brady until afterward when somebody told me, ?You just picked off a four-time Super Bowl champion,? ” Rankins told reporters after practice. “And then it kind of sunk in. But I just tried to go out and practice hard, be in the right places when I needed to be there, and I was.”
Rankins’ big-man interception elicited a big cheer from the Saints’ sideline, but the Louisville product said he knew better than to follow it up with any trash talk.
?I wouldn?t want to tempt (Brady) like that,” he said. “He?s been doing this for a long time. I definitely wouldn?t want to upset him and have him go out there and try even harder than he already does, so no, I didn?t say anything to him.”
Strangely enough, Rankins has enjoyed great success against New England-based teams in recent years. When asked to recall his last interception, the 22-year-old came to the realization that he picked off a pass against Boston College during his junior year at Louisville and also returned a fumble for a touchdown against BC as a senior.
?The interception was in Boston,” Rankins said. “The fumble return for a touchdown was against Boston College. Wow. OK, I guess I?ve got a thing for Boston. That?s funny, actually.”
Rankins will get his first taste of NFL action Thursday when the Patriots and Saints square off at Gillette Stadium in the preseason opener for both teams.
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images