||07-25-2011 12:58 AM
An Exclusive Q&A with Drew Brees by Athlon Sports
Get excited for this season Saints fans! It's football time at last!!!
Drew Brees has emerged as one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL over the past few years. Two years ao, the Texas native and former Purdue Boilermaker threw for 4,388 yards and a league high 34 touchdowns in the process of leading the Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl title. Brees was in the headlines for different reasons this spring and summer. First, he joined Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and other players in an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. Then, in June, he organized player-only workouts for the Saints during the lockout. Athlon Sports caught up with Brees to talk about those workouts, the labor issues and the Saints' hopes for the 2011 season.
Athlon Sports: What was the idea behind organizing the offseason program you guys had at Tulane University?
Drew Brees: Honestly, it's to prepare us to have a championship football season. That's obviously our ultimate goal, and I feel like the more organized you can be as a team and the more that you can communicate during this time, in May and June and July, prior to training camp and then a season, I think the better off we'll be once the season does come around. ...All we want to do is play football. This gives us the best position to be successful once the season does start. ...It definitely helps being a veteran team, and it also helps having young guys that are strong in character and are willing to follow the leaders on this team, and when you have veteran guys showing up like (Darren) Sharper and (Jonathan) Vilma and countless others, (Jonathan) Stinchcomb, Heath Evans, David Thomas, all these guys, then the young guys can say, "You know what, these guys are doing the right thing. These guys know how to be a pro and I want to be there because I want to show them that I'm committed, too."
Did the high participation surprise you?
It exceeded my expectations. Typically, there's exciement early on and then it begins to fade. Our excitement has maintained itself and even climbed a little bit because we've had the opportunity to do a lot more football-specific stuff, and that's what's fun. You can only come out and run so many sprints and lift so many weights before you're just like, "Man, I just wanna play football." This is football. It's been fun to watch the young guys, our draft picks and guys who haven't got a lot of playing time up to this point but we know are going to be key contributors for us in the future. I think it's empowered a bunch of guys to step up into some leadership roles, which has been very positive. It just makes me more and more excited about our team.
It seems like you've used the workouts to bring the rookies along just as you would have used the organized team activities. They're learning the playbook, and the veterans are coaching them up on their assignments.
You've got to throw them into the fire a little. Obvioously we've had some classroom time with them and some opportunities to talk through fundamentals and position-specific stuff. And then you just throw them out there and let the natural athlete and the natural competitor come out in them and see what their strengths are and how you can work around those.
Do you think there will be any carryover in the acrimony between the players and owners going forward?
I think that's been blown out of proportion a little bit. People like to talk about, hey the players feel disrespected and all that. No, we just want to play football. We just want a fair deal. That's what we played under the last five years. It was a very fair deal. We just want to get back on the field. We just want to play. ...(The lockout is) not good for the owners. It's not good for the players. It's not good for the fans. It's not good for the future of the game.
At this time in 2009 there was a tangible feeling among the players that this team was onto something special. Is that feeling still there?
I think we've felt that over the last three years here, that we've got something really special in the locker room here with our guys. That feeling has not gone away. If anything it's gotten stronger.
Do you think the club's success has contributed to the high turnout among the players at the offseason program?
Absolutely. When you know you're a contender, guys want to be a part of that. Guys want to have a role on that team. Not many guys get that opportunity. I think that says a lot about the kind of guys we have and the type of team. We all see how good we could be, how great we could be. I think guys want to be a part of that. That's what I take from that.
Can you tell us about the "D.W.I. Lockout 2011" T-shirts some of the players have been wearing during the offseason?
No I can't. D.W.I., that might mean something else somewhere else, but it means something different to us. This will be my sixth year here with the Saints and every year we have sayings, we have mantras, quotes that we live by, that we play by, that we preach every day. That's been a saying for us during this lockout, just for our team. It's just for us.
Tight end Jimmy Graham is a guy who has stood out. He's told us he's added 12 pounds of muscle this offseason. Everyone expects a big year from him, yet I notice all of the veterans are constantly ribbing him trying to keep him humble.
You're not going to get away with anything on this team, which is good. Nobody's going to get too big. Everybody is going to be brought back down pretty quickly if the ego gets out of hand. We all hold each other in check, and that's a good thing. We're trying to make this fun. We're out here, we're playing football, we're together, we're working hard, we're trying to get better, but we're going to have fun doing it. There's plenty of jawing back and forth out there.
He's a guy that you all have great expectations for, though, right?
Yeah. Not to put pressure on him, but I love his mindset, I love his psyche. He's one of those guys that experienced some great success in the latter half of the season last year. And yet in his mind he knows how much better he needs to be. There's so many things he can work on and he has worked on this offseason, and it shows. Thankfully he's got a great mentor in David Thomas, as a veteran player who knows the fundamentals of the tight end position and, in my opinion, is one of the unsung heroes of our team and has done a great job the last two years. He's been great with Jimmy and Jimmy will tell you that. Jimmy's a competitor. He loves football, and he wants to be great. There's fire that burns inside of him that doesn't burn inside of everybody. That's what you need to be a great player, and he's got it.
Another young guy with high expectations is rookie running back Mark Ingram. What are your impressions of him?
I think he adds an awesome element to an already impressive backfield that we have, so when you look at Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, Reggie Bush and now Mark Ingram, I think all of them have unique strengths. Wehn you have three physical backs like you're talking about with Pierre and Ivory and Mark Ingram, you need that many guys to be able to pound the ball, and then you throw in Reggie with the ability to split out and catch the ball and run the ball in any situation, that's four guys that are pretty lethal.
What was your reaction to Reggie Bush and his controversial post-draft tweets about the club?
I saw his tweets, just like you did, you know, right after. I think that's just frustration a little bit, just because they draft a guy at your position, but I think the message that was sent to him was, "By no means look at that as the fact that you're getting shown the door, that we don't want you or anything like that." In fact, you could probably look back to five years ago when Deuce McAllister was sitting there and Reggie Bush gets drafted as the second pick. So the roles have almost been reversed. And yet I think Deuce handled that situation better than anybody ever could have, and he had one of his best seasons in 2006. He was a huge part of our success. I think Reggie has that same potential to be that big a part of our success this year despite the fact that we've got three other guys. Each of them plays a role. The important thing is, any time you go into a season, especially at that position, everybody plays a role. You need three or four guys, as you can see last year. How many did we need last year? Six? You need that many guys because it's a physical position.
Did you reach out to him?
I did. I immediately texted him because I knew what was going through his mind. I mean, he's a young guy, he's very prideful and wants to be great. He wants as many opportunities as he can get. I think you immediately see that as, "Oh, well that's taking opportunities away from me." But in reality I think you've got to find the positive in it, and that is, no, this doesn't take opportunities away. This kind of solidifies my role and it probably makes things easier on me because it takes a little bit of the weight off my shoulders because this guy can do some things that are really going to help our offense and it's going to open things up for me. So I think in the end it's a very good thing for everybody.
I rewrote this whole thing out from the advertisement for Athlon Sports that came with our local newspaper this weekend. Great interview with Brees showing his, and the entire team's, outlook for the upcoming season.
See now why I am so excited for a big year starting with the very first game out of the gates up in Green Bay?
Seriously guys, there is no way in the world that the Packers will be anywhere near as prepared as the Saints for this first game of the season. Think about it!
It's football season again!!!