Brees’ drive appears undiminished by accolades
Drew Brees stood alone on the goal line, reflecting on
everything that went wrong in practice. Then he took off, running
the length of the New Orleans Saints’ practice field several times
It’s his way of punishing himself for bad throws and poor
execution during practice.
At 31, Brees is at the top of his game – and he wants to stay
He routinely throws extra passes after practice to a handful
receivers, and when Brees is the last player remaining on the
field, helmet still on, he runs sprints that no one but himself has
required of him.
”I punish myself from time to time with conditioning or
whatever,” Brees said. ”When you feel like you don’t have
something down … you spend the extra time to get it done and make
sure you feel comfortable and confident with it.”
Brees said he usually determines his extra work load depending
on the number of mistakes he makes.
”If I throw a pick, I might say for every pick I throw, I will
run two extra gassers,” he said. ”Or, for every incompletion or
bad decision, I am going to do this. If I ran a 2-minute drill that
I am not happy with, I might go back through it again and visualize
the defense I saw and run the through the routes that I wish I
would have done or the throws I wish I would have made.”
Brees doesn’t have to wish for much off the field.
He is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, newly published best-selling
author and cover boy for the popular ”Madden” football video
But defending Super Bowl titles has proven tough the past decade
or so, according to statistics which Brees can rattle off from
Five of the previous 11 Super Bowl winners didn’t make it back
to the playoffs one season later. Only the New England Patriots of
2003-04 have repeated as champions in the past decade.
Brees has spoken of being motivated by the fear of failure, and
he said soon after the Saints began offseason training that there
was no better time to instill such fear in the squad than right
after their championship. So when coach Sean Payton highlighted the
failures or recent NFL champs during a meeting last spring, Brees
”We haven’t been down this road before as defending champs, but
the fact of the matter is we all know this is a new season and
everybody has the same hopes and aspirations,” Brees said. ”There
are 32 teams that believe this can be their year. … We know that
we are going to get everybody’s best shot. We know we have to put
our best foot forward every time we step on the field.”
Regardless of how this season plays out, one thing that seems
clear to Brees’ coaches and teammates – the Pro Bowl quarterback’s
preparation has not been diminished by his busy offseason.
Brees bounced around the talk-show, book tour and video game
promotion circuit; his wife, Brittany, is pregnant with their
second child – a boy due in October; and his community service
endeavors were extensive, largely on behalf of children’s programs,
schools and the military.
”One thing you don’t have to worry about with Drew is his work
ethic and his leadership,” said running back Reggie Bush, who also
plays receiver in Payton’s high-octane offense. ”What you see on
the football field is what you get here at the facility every day,
Monday through Saturday. That’s why he’s the leader of this team
and that’s why he’s been so successful.”
Payton said there is no reason for his quarterback’s
self-imposed punishment, but he isn’t about to interfere with
”It’s probably more of him working on aspects of getting
better. I think he’s trying to give himself an edge, whether that’s
the time he’s spending (throwing to receivers after practice) or
whether it’s conditioning,” Payton said. ”I just think it’s his
competitive nature to keep pressing himself.”
The two have a connection that works.
Since Brees and Payton, who calls offensive plays, both arrived
in New Orleans in 2006, the Saints have lead the NFL in offense in
three of four years and were fourth in 2007. During that time,
Brees has complete 66.8 percent of his passes for 18,298 yards –
the highest four-year yardage total in NFL history. In 2008, he
joined Dan Marino as the second player in NFL history to eclipse
5,000 yards passing in a season. Brees’ 5,069 yards fell 15 yards
short of Marino’s single-season record 5,084.
Brees, who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards each season with
New Orleans, now needs 3,437 yards break Archie Manning’s franchise
record of 21,734 yards passing. Brees is already the Saints’
all-time leader in TD tosses with 122.
And he could get better.
”He started out (with the Saints) at a super-high level and
it’s hard to get better, but he finds some way to do it,” receiver
Marques Colston said. ”The thing he’s really done well is
communicate to us what exactly he wants, and that’s what makes the
offense click the way it does.”
Brees, somewhat small for a quarterback at 6-feet tall, has been
underestimated much of his career. He was passed on by the entire
NFL in the first round of the 2001 draft coming out of Purdue.
His journey to Super Bowl MVP with the once sad-sack Saints,
which included his rehabilitation from a career-threatening
throwing shoulder injury in 2005, formed the foundation of his
first book, ”Coming Back Stronger.”
Now, as Brees enters his 10th season, he has established a
reputation as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Former Saints and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Bobby Hebert, now
a sports radio personality in New Orleans, said he has ”never seen
a player work harder to lead by example.”
Bush said Brees has both mental and physical ability to
”He’s extremely athletic,” Bush said. ”He’s extremely
talented and regardless of whether he’s 6-4, 6-5 or 5-9, he’s still
going to be Drew Brees. And he’s a great quarterback.”