Skirmishes erupt during the Saints' Thursday practice _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS Saints quarterback Drew Brees breaks up a fight between runing back Khiry Robinson and linebacker Curtis Lofton during training camp practice Thursday at The Greenbriar in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It was one of several scuffles Thursday.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — The most aggressive, chippy, even nasty day of Saints training camp started with a shoving match between defensive end Akiem Hicks and right tackle Zach Strief — two NFL giants whose size and girth rival household refrigerators.

It continued Thursday morning with defensive end Cameron Jordan throwing rookie offensive tackle Tavon Rooks to the turf at The Greenbrier, part of their own physical beef.

“He was wearing a white jersey at the time ... he just got in the way,” said Jordan.

Don’t forget about running back Khiry Robinson and middle linebacker Curtis Lofton. Their macho mayhem didn’t end until Drew Brees stepped in.

So much for goodwill between Saints. Looks like the NFL team that wins together wars against each other at training camp.

“We want to see what guys will do when they’re being pushed, it’s hot, they’re exhausted,” said Strief, who earlier in camp said he offered Hicks a high five after a practice drill.

Hicks declined.

“We want to see if they’re going to quit or play harder,” Strief said.

That’s just what coach Sean Payton wants as a precursor to the season.

“It’s important that we learn to play as best we can in a game mode and create the competition each day,” Payton said. “And that’s something we can’t be afraid of.”

Also, rookie cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, known for his bump-and-run abilities, bumped receiver Nick Toon a tad too much for his liking, part of another flare-up.

We don’t often see this side of the Saints, except on gamedays, and certainly not so up close. But that’s what is different about training camp, where guys are tested and tried by their peers, with everybody aiming to move up the depth chart or maintain their starting status.

That includes guys like Hicks, who was also involved in an altercation with rookie offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe. Go figure. Hicks is known off the field as one of the loveable players on the roster.

Different guy on the field, said his teammate, Cameron Jordan.

“When he makes up his mind at 345 pounds, you’re not really going to change that,” Jordan, also a defensive end, said. “I wouldn’t want to be in front of him.”

Unless you’re Strief.