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Brees now sees painful San Diego exit as biggest blessing

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; METAIRIE, La. -- Look through his Madison Ave. smile and his St. Charles Ave. charm. Swim through the Super Bowl XLIV confetti and the "Awwww!" moments with his son Baylen on the podium waiting to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. None ...

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Old 08-26-2010, 11:09 PM   #1
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METAIRIE, La. -- Look through his Madison Ave. smile and his St. Charles Ave. charm. Swim through the Super Bowl XLIV confetti and the "Awwww!" moments with his son Baylen on the podium waiting to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

None of that may have happened if the San Diego Chargers had banked on and believed Drew Brees was their guy.

It still eats at him, to an extent, that the Chargers doubted him even though he led the charge to the New Orleans Saints' first world championship ever in February.

"It's not necessarily holding a grudge. ... Do I feel like maybe things were a little unfair at times or that I got a little bit of a raw deal? I don't know," Brees said in an interview with CBSSports.com leading up to Friday's preseason game against San Diego. "You can probably say that in some instances. But I've also learned from this game that man, this is a business.
"There's decisions that are made. Sometimes there's guys that like you and believe in you. Sometimes there not, for whatever reason. Sometimes things just seem to be out of your control. You do your best and you hope things work out. But sometimes, you're calling is to go somewhere else. Life takes you in a different direction."

The doubting began when then-Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer benched Brees in 2003 in favor of then-42-year-old Doug Flutie. The hesitation from the front office couldn't have been more obvious when the Chargers drafted Eli Manning and traded for Philip Rivers. Two slaps in the face in about an hour's time during the 2004 draft.

Physics then gave the Chargers a way out. No way was any quarterback's arm going to come away unscathed the way then-Broncos defensive lineman Gerard Warren landed on Brees' right shoulder in the final week of the 2005 season.

That was the beginning of the Rivers era.

"San Diego's drafted well," Brees said. "They've drafted some talented players, and he's one of them. Obviously, they drafted him as the quarterback of the future. I had a different idea about that and held on as long as I could. The injury kind of took me out of that running."

A completely torn labrum. A partially torn rotator cuff. Months of rehab. Maybe he'd play again. Unlikely he'd ever play at the level that sent him to a Pro Bowl one season earlier in 2004.

And in retrospect, it was the best thing to ever happen in his professional life.

"It's funny because when I hurt my shoulder, that was pretty devastating and I was thinking that this was the worst thing to ever happen to me," Brees said. "Now I look back on it and I can say it's the best thing. Did I want it to come in the form of a major injury? No. But now you just say there's no other way I would have ended up in New Orleans if it wasn't for that. Look what the opportunity I've been given here. Not only that, but raising a family in New Orleans, it's been a blessing."

Judging by the numbers, the Chargers would've gotten it right with either player.

Brees has completed 66.8 percent of his passes during the last four seasons for 18,298 yards with 122 touchdowns and 57 interceptions. The Saints went 38-26 through those four years and won two division crowns.

Rivers completed 63.2 percent of his passes during his four seasons as the starter in San Diego for 14,803 yards with 106 touchdowns and 44 interceptions. The Chargers went 46-18 through the time period and they are riding a wave of four consecutive AFC West division titles.

Brees admits he and Rivers aren't on everyday speaking terms despite spending the majority of two seasons standing side by side at practice and in the film room. Brees said he may randomly text message Rivers or chat with the Chargers quarterback if they happen to be at the same event.

It's not to knock Rivers by any means, though.

"I've got a lot of respect for Philip," Brees said. "I think he's a very good player. He's had some good years there thus far. I know they're kind of right on the cusp and have been now on the last few years now. I think it's fun to play a good team at anytime, but especially hey, it's your old team and it's a guy that you know and respect and is a good quarterback on the other side of the ball. That's all good."

Yet we all know what happened five years later for Brees after reconstructive shoulder surgery. In 2005, Brees was still in a sling. In 2010, Brees slung three touchdown passes to propel the Saints past the Colts in Sun Life Stadium.

Bumped aside for Philip Rivers, Brees' exit from San Diego was messy. (Getty Images) After sweeping Brees out of Cali, the Chargers now find themselves trying to live up their decision. Brees is the Super Bowl MVP. The Saints are the current world champions. The Chargers are still waiting to reach the Super Bowl with Rivers at the helm, and time is seemingly running out down in San Diego.
Brees is the ultimate competitor. During the summer when fullback Heath Evans held a charity softball tournament, Brees was convinced he'd win the home run derby leading up to the game. It wasn't even close. He ripped bombs left and right batting left-handed. Midway through his at-bat, he jumped to the other side of the batter's box and did the same thing right-handed. He did it without a smile and was locked and loaded.

And this was just softball against his Saints teammates.

So imagine the satisfaction Brees must have felt that after being discarded by the Chargers that he helped guide a team known more for being down in the dumps and nearly washed away by Hurricane Katrina to a historic world championship before his old team ever made it to the Super Bowl without him.

Brees broke out the humble card when asked if he had added joy in one-upping his old team in winning the Super Bowl before it had: "I always believed that I'd win a Super Bowl, be a champion. Hopefully we've got a few more of those left in us too. I believe we can. I guess there's a little satisfaction. But that's not what drives me though."

Brees said everything that went down in San Diego seems like another life ago, and yet it still sits in his mind, especially when facing the Chargers whether it's preseason or the regular season.

"All that stuff that happened in San Diego seems like so long ago," Brees said. "Listen, I had five great years there and I learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself as a player and as a person. I felt like I grew and developed a lot in all those ways. There were a lot of people in San Diego that helped with that -- Marty Schottenheimier, Brian Schottenheimier, Cam Cameron -- a lot of the mentors I met and stay in touch with outside of the building there in San Diego.

"So, I don't know. I guess we all have those times in our life where you go and you get your bumps and bruises. You take your licks and you just got to keep getting up. The whole idea is that adversity makes you stronger. You find a way to come back stronger from anything that you face. I'm appreciative of my time there and I think it's all worked out the way it was supposed to."

The Chargers may beg to differ on the "way it was supposed to part" as Brees made it happen elsewhere, while Rivers hasn't made it happen yet.

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