AP SPORTS — Some of the best competition in the NFL this summer takes place on practice fields.

More teams are holding joint practices and holding their star players out of preseason games. It’s been a growing trend since the preseason schedule was shortened to three games.

A total of 27 teams are scheduled to participate in joint sessions this year, up from 23 last season. Thirteen teams are holding joint practices with two clubs, up from seven last year.

The joint sessions allow coaches to see their starters in a more controlled atmosphere with less fear of injury. Meanwhile, rookies, backups and players battling for starting jobs or roster spots get most of the game action.

“I think the joint practices are really going to be a good evaluation tool,” Houston Texans general manager Nick Caserio said. “What a lot of teams have done throughout the league, sometimes your most competitive snaps and most competitive reps occur during the course of the week. Maybe you handle the game a little bit differently.”

Texans rookie C.J. Stroud is the only starting quarterback who has taken any snaps in the three NFL preseason games already played. Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick, threw one interception in four pass attempts. No. 1 pick Bryce Young will start for the Carolina Panthers against the New York Jets on Saturday.

Aaron Rodgers hasn’t played a down in the preseason since 2018. Justin Herbert has never played in an exhibition game.

The Jets and Panthers faced each other in practice this week ahead of their game. The Jets will do it again next week with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rodgers will likely get all of his preseason work with his new team in New York’s joint practices.

“I’m a big fan of the scrimmages because you get to work against new schemes,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “You get to work against new verbiage. You get to work against different humans, obviously in a respectful way, but you go in there, you compete under a controlled environment, so you’re not trying to make things up. We’re not trying to scheme against them. We’re still installing our stuff. You’re just getting to do it against a different person and a different way of doing things, a different scheme. We’re just trying to continue to get better, to be honest with you.”

Buccaneers veteran QB Baker Mayfield will start Friday night’s preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mayfield is competing with Kyle Trask for the starting job. Tom Brady played a few series in the preseason during his three seasons in Tampa Bay.

Two-time Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes will play the first quarter in Kansas City’s preseason opener on Sunday. Matthew Stafford didn’t play in any exhibition games in his first two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams will hold scrimmages with the Las Vegas Raiders and Denver Broncos over the next two weeks.

“I think as a competitor you always want to play, but at the same time, I totally understand the choice not to,” Stafford said. “Especially with the amount of experiences I’ve had in this league, I feel like I can get myself ready to play without doing that. And with the addition of all the joint practices that teams are doing, you really get some great work in there while being able to keep in somewhat of a safe environment.”

The New York Giants and Detroit Lions practiced together this week leading into Friday night’s game. Staying healthy while getting productive work is a priority.

“You have a bunch of competitive people that are hitting each other every day but we are going to try and take care of one another, keep people off the ground, stay away from the quarterback,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. “Just practice the right way like you are practicing against your team but again the competitive juices flow but do a good job of respecting them and look forward to that in return.”

Players enjoy facing a different opponent. Coaches see more value in evaluating them.

“I want to see now that we’re getting new competition, a different kind of competition, some damn good players over there on both sides of the ball, can you focus in on the little details, or are you going to go rogue on us, or start playing rap ball? Just trying to make plays and now you’re out of position, and it costs us,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “Those are the things I am looking for.”

Only Buffalo, Pittsburgh, defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City, Dallas and Seattle aren’t participating in joint practices.

“I think we control practice better the way we do it,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Look how hard we were running against each other the other day. More than that, we cherish the preseason games. We use the preseason games. I’ve done those practices before, but we feel like we can keep our focus and stay within the stuff we need to do.”