Title in Hand, Brees Embraces Platform
On a recent sweltering afternoon in Times Square, people might have been too busy searching for an open hydrant to pay much attention to the man wearing a New Orleans Saints jersey tossing copies of the soon-to-be released Madden NFL 11 video game into the crowd.
But the pinpoint accuracy of the throws — some plastic cases landing in the hands of sunbathers in elevated bleachers at West 47th Street — made it clear this was not a heat-induced mirage.
Drew Brees, the most valuable player of the Super Bowl and the quarterback featured on the cover of the Madden game, was in Manhattan last week to film a commercial for the game and to promote the publication of his book, “Coming Back Stronger.”
Brees, 31, invited fans to play the game with him as he tried to win the Super Bowl again, this time on a large screen above Times Square.
“The more that you play the game, the more that you think the game,” he said of his football video skills.
For Brees, there is no off-season if you are trying to defend a championship, especially for a Saints team that will have to replace players like offensive tackle Jammal Brown, defensive ends Bobby McCray and Charles Grant, linebacker Scott Fujita and running back Mike Bell.
“Any time you win a Super Bowl, other teams want to pick guys off your team as free agents or in other deals,” Brees said. “It was unfortunate to lose those guys. But I feel that means there are opportunities for the young guys on the team to step up.”
Brees knows that teams will be motivated to beat the champions, so he wants the Saints to be up for the challenge.
“I think the level of expectation definitely has been set, looking at what we did last year,” he said.
The Saints will open the season at home against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 9.
Brees says he expects to see a familiar adversary taking the snaps for the opposition.
“I believe Brett is coming back,” he said, referring Brett Favre, who has not committed to returning to the Vikings. “Despite what everybody might say, I believe he’s coming back.”
Although the Saints will not face the Jets during the regular season, Brees said he liked what he had seen of Mark Sanchez, another undersize quarterback competing against giants.
“He’s kind of a gym rat, always wanting to learn more and be good,” Brees said. “He’s on a very good team with a very good offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer.”
Brees said he thought the Jets would benefit from the presence of running back LaDainian Tomlinson, a former teammate of his in San Diego who signed as a free agent in March.
“LaDainian will absolutely help them,” he said. “Not only with his productivity on the field, but he’ll also be a great complement back to Shonn Greene, who’s an extremely talented runner.”
Brees said Tomlinson would help stabilize the young Jets offense.
“His veteran presence and his experience will make a difference,” he said. “He’s played a lot of football. He will go down as one of the best running backs in the history of the game. He’s played at that level and knows what it takes to get to that level.”
When Brees is not playing football, an important part of his life is his charity, the Brees Dream Foundation.
The organization supports cancer research and provides care, education and opportunities for children in need.
“We started the foundation in 2003,” Brees said. “So in the last seven years we’ve been able to raise or commit over $5.5 million. By the end of the year, we would like to have that number around $7 million. That would be a huge accomplishment. I take as much pride in that as I do in my on-the-field performance.”
The foundation’s latest project is Hope Lodge, a place where cancer patients can stay when they come to New Orleans for treatment.
There has also been speculation that Brees could enter politics after he throws his last pass.
“I won’t close the door on anything,” he said. “There’s a lot of things I’ve love to do later on in life. I mean, I’m 31 years old. I feel like I’m pretty young. Hopefully, I have another 5 to 10 years in the N.F.L. ahead of me. There are a lot of opportunities out there.
“Right now I see the platform that I have, not only as an N.F.L player but as someone who can make a difference in the community and have an impact in young people’s lives.”
He hopes his new book also has an impact on young people. In it, Brees details how he has coped with adversity, including his mother’s suicide and his career-threatening shoulder injury.
“I wrote the book because I understand the impact that I have as a professional athlete,” he said. “I’ve been given a chance to reach out and motivate and inspire young people.”
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