Saints quarterback Drew Brees spoke with FOXSports.com in a telephone interview about a variety of topics including his tight end Jimmy Graham, safety in the NFL and his remaining goals. Brees, speaking on behalf of Tide Laundry Detergent, was thoughtful and responsive in his answers:
FOX Sports: Do you want to accomplish having the all-time passing yards record? You're about 22,000 shy of Brett Favre's mark.
Drew Brees: That’s a lot of yards, bro. That’s a lot of stinkin’ yards. No, that’s not a part of my thought process right now. Honestly, I’m just having a lot of fun playing the game. I’m in my 13th year. I hope my body holds up for a long time and I can do this for a long time. I want to stay healthy and we’ll see how long I can do it. Then we’ll add it up when it’s all said and done and see where it stacks up. But right now it’s about each week. One at a time. We have a great opportunity here at 7-2 and can control our own destiny. There’s no tougher game than the one coming up against San Francisco at home. These guys kinda had our number the last two years, so we have to find a way to win this game and continue moving forward.
FS: What’s the most important trait in a quarterback?
DB: Leadership. You have to instill confidence in the guy’s you’re playing with so they’ll follow you and play for you so you can get the best out of them. It’s all about leadership.
FS: How much of a factor is height?
DB: Not much. I think the physical qualities are not nearly as important as the psychological qualities of playing the quarterback position. Certainly you have to have some level of throwing ability and fundamentals and that kind of thing. But speed, height, arm strength those things are way overrated when playing the quarterback position.
FS: You've played with two of the best tight ends in the game. Would you rather have Antonio Gates or Jimmy Graham on your team?
DB: Why not have them both? Every team needs two good tight ends. I mean, those guys are phenomenal. They both have a very unique skillset. Antonio Gates is a future Hall of Famer. There’s no question. He’s been so consistent. Jimmy Graham has the potential to be that. He has played at such a high level the last couple years. The future is bright for him. Both of those guys, maybe it’s their basketball background or their instinctiveness whatever it is, they’re just phenomenal players.
FS: Jimmy Graham is a free agent next season. Should he be highest paid TE in the game?
DB: I’m sure he could make that argument. I think his head is in the right place right now, though. He’s thinking about football. He’s thinking about how he can help us win and I think all of that contract stuff will take care of itself when the time is right.
FS: What makes rookie Kenny Stills so good?
DB: He’s made some big time plays in big games. He can really do it all. He’s great at the intermediate routes. He’s great down the field. He’s got great feel. He’s got great ball skills. Just a lot of natural instincts that not everybody has.
He’s a smart guy. He’s got a high football IQ and a great feel for the game. He’s very instinctive. Some guys have it and some guys don’t.
FS: Do you think the commissioner has done enough on player safety?
DB: I think that there have been a lot of positive advancements the last couple of years. I think in large part that’s been because of the NFLPA to get those things passed. We had to bargain for a lot of those things like different rules in the offseason, preseason and training camp. Getting rid of two-a-days. Two times a day banging for four weeks straight is probably never been a healthy proposition, so that was something that we were able to get rid of.
I think the rules certainly made the game safer in regards to protecting defenseless players. Mainly quarterbacks and receivers who cross the middle, but also now linemen, defensive linemen and linebackers as far as the low blocks at the line of scrimmage. I think a lot of it has been in partnership between the NFL and NFLPA.
The more that we’ve learned about the long-term injuries concussions and head injuries and how to identify them and how to treat them. Moving forward that’s been a big improvement. That’s something that we’ll need to take a close look at in regards to when a guy gets dinged on the field, how are we detecting that? What are the protocols that are in place to make sure that players is 100 percent before he goes back on the field? If he’s not, how long is he staying out? Then we need to make sure that there are neurological, baseline tests to release and say he’s ready to roll again.
That goes for players at the levels below the NFL, too so college, high school and Pop Warner these are all things that we need to be aware of. We have to make sure were not putting kids out there especially back out to the field too early after suffering a concussion, neck or head injury.
FS: How much longer can you play?
DB: Just taking it one year at a time. I'm 34 years old. It’s my 13th season. I’d love to play this game as long as I can. I love playing it, God willing I stay healthy and continue to have fun. I think you just look at as a blessing. How many people would love to be playing this game at this level?
FS: What have you been doing this season teaming up with Tide?
DB: I’m one of the 32 Tide color captains around the league. Basically what the campaign is about is to highlight how passionate fans are about their team colors. Certainly the Who Dat Nation is up there in terms of fan loyalty and support. Throughout this season I’ve posted on Twitter and other social networks pictures of my boys wearing their Saints gear before home game and fans around the city rocking the black and gold. So were encouraging the fans to post similar types of pictures and include @TideNFL and #OurColors to show their support.