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Armed And Ready

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; By Jimmy Smith JACKSON, MISS. Admittedly a year ago, there were still lingering doubts as the red-shirted No. 9 sprinted up the hill toward the upper practice fields at Millsaps College before the horn blew to convene the Saints' first ...

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Old 07-29-2007, 12:57 AM   #1
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Cool Armed And Ready

By Jimmy Smith

Admittedly a year ago, there were still lingering doubts as the red-shirted No. 9 sprinted up the hill toward the upper practice fields at Millsaps College before the horn blew to convene the Saints' first training-camp practice.

The days and weeks that followed eliminated any fears about the structural stability of Drew Brees' surgically repaired right shoulder, and the weeks and months that followed New Orleans' initial summer here erased any reservations about just what kind of quarterback this newcomer really is.

As the Brees-Sean Payton offensive era embarked on year two Friday, Payton could reflect on the events of last summer when he got his first true glimpse of what Brees had to offer on many different levels.

"I think at this time a year ago," Payton said, "and where we were at, it was really our first week, if you will, of seeing him throw with the receivers and in team situations because we didn't see that in the spring. Even then, there was a lot of progress on his part to be made. Credit him. He wasn't 100 percent, yet. It wasn't until probably the second or third (exhibition game), maybe end of preseason when he felt he had his timing and velocity back.

"But he's someone, back to the initial evaluation, who's always found a way to win football games, regardless of what level. He's very competitive. He's got a good presence about him in the pocket. He's very smart.

"I think he's a very good quarterback. And I think we're fortunate to have him. And that gets back to the time we signed him a year ago. I think he's a great leader. So I think he has the ability to elevate the play of others around him and look for the little things, just as we do as coaches, to be done right. I think he's continuing to improve."

Welcome news for a young team many are considering one of the front-runners to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLII.

Disconcerting news for opposing defensive players, who must wonder if Brees can improve on a 2006 season during which he set eight team passing records, was selected All-Pro -- ahead of Super Bowl XLI MVP Peyton Manning -- and directed the No. 1 passing offense in the NFL.

After an offseason that included travels to Iraq with the league's USO tour, a vacation in Costa Rica and a great deal of time in the more temperate climes of San Diego, Brees picked up Friday where he left off at season's end -- grinding toward the same glittery destination that a year ago was 60 minutes and a snowy field away.

But this summer, while he admittedly was focused a year ago, Brees says there are no physical misgivings about which to be concerned.

"Last year," Brees said after the morning workout, "I think the thoughts running through my head were gradually, each day I'd be able to throw the ball a little bit better, throw it a little bit farther. I had a pitch count at this time.

"Like this afternoon's practice, last year I wouldn't be throwing, where this year I'll throw as many times as I want. That feels a lot better. I can really focus now on some of the little things. I've set goals for myself this camp, some of the things I want to work on, so now I can focus on those things as opposed to just being able to throw again."

Brees said that while he was able to maintain concentration a year ago, "I wanted to just keep an eye on this arm every second of the day.

"This year, it allows me to not have to worry about the arm, and focus on other things, just getting better every day, taking my game to the next level, doing whatever I can to help this team win. It's nice to be in that position."

And it's nice, for a change, to be in a position that the Saints arguably have never been in -- legitimate contenders to play in the last game of the season. That makes it easy for Brees to buy into 2007's "Earn It" slogan.

"Just because we finished where we did last year, it doesn't mean that anything is going to be given to us," Brees said. "I think we even have to go out and work harder. Once you taste that level of success, human nature is to just relax.

"But in our case, we're trying to take things to the next level. We fell a game short of our ultimate goal last year. Our ultimate goal was not to make it to the NFC championship. It was to win the Super Bowl.

"So that is our No. 1 priority, our No. 1 goal. So our attitude now should be 'expect more.' That's for our team. That's for all of New Orleans. Expect more. We're where we are because we worked extremely hard to get here. But there's still another level. Let's work extremely hard to get there."

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