Drew Brees Says Brett Favre Will Return, Saints Will Be Ready
Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees knows his Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints have the most challenging 2010 regular season opener possible -- a rematch of last season's NFC championship game against the Minnesota Vikings.
And Brees fully expects quarterback Brett Favre to be on the field for that Sept. 9 clash at the Louisiana Superdome, playing as well as ever at age 40.
"I don't think there's any doubt that Brett Favre is coming back, and he's going to be as good as he's ever been," Brees said Monday in an interview with FanHouse. "We're going to need our best game to beat him, I know that. They're a good team. A very good team."
The Saints' overtime victory over the Vikings in the conference title game – thanks in large part to a Favre interception late in regulation -- pushed New Orleans toward its Super Bowl XLIV win over the Indianapolis Colts and the first Lombardi Trophy for a city and franchise long accustomed to defeat and associated with frustration.
"There has been some chatter back and forth between our team and their team, and I just kind of hear about it. I don't really do much of it," Brees says of the Vikings this offseason. "Listen, we know that's going to be a big game."
No longer the underdogs, the Saints are now the team to beat, and will be considered a bullseye every week. The Week 1 Minnesota challenge is just the beginning of what will be 17 regular-season weeks of non-stop title defense, Brees concedes, and it's important that everyone understand that and be braced and ready.
He should know: Brees, along with coach Sean Payton, had their collective hands full getting their team in the proper mindset during Super Bowl week in South Florida.
Before the Saints made their Tuesday Media Day appearance at Sun Life Stadium, both the quarterback and head coach tore into the players – some of whom had shown up late after spending Monday night partying – reminding them, in no uncertain terms, to remember why they were there.
After Payton invoked the bluster of Bill Parcells and viciously dressed down players and coaches, warning everyone that a Super Bowl loss would haunt them forever, Brees followed by ordering everyone but players out of the locker room so he could speak to his teammates privately.
"That was the same message that I had, and a couple of the other guys had when addressing the team," Brees recalls. "It was very much that – 'We're not here just to be here. We're here to win this game. This is the mission we set out on a long time ago and let's get our minds right, start focusing on doing whatever we've got to do to win this game.'
"Nobody remembers who loses that game. And that was a big part of the message. Nobody ever remembers who lost. They only remember who won."
In a telling chapter in Payton's upcoming book "Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back To Life," the coach reveals that five players – Tracy Porter, Bobby McCray, Roman Harper, Usama Young and Jermon Bushrod – failed to show up on time with the rest of the team for the mandatory Media Day appearance following a Monday night opportunity to "cut loose."
Payton was steaming as the Saints gathered in the Sun Life Stadium locker room, waiting for the last straggler, Porter, to arrive. With everyone accounted for but a half an hour late, Payton then delivered a blistering speech ripping players and coaches for what he perceived as a "happy-to-be-here attitude" that he perceived as contagious.
In a chapter entitled "Super Psyche," Payton recalls telling the team, "My intuition tells me you guys are in for a rude awakening this coming weekend. I can smell an ass kickin' on the way. I can smell a team that looks like they're just happy to be in the Super Bowl. You guys reek of that team."
Payton was blunt and called out specific players by name but never really raised his voice, he says in the book.
"Hell, the secondary – three of the four cornerbacks – can't make the bus (from the hotel to the stadium) on time. Do you honestly think Pierre Garcon and (expletive) Dallas Clark and those other guys from the Colts are out to the wee hours? Late for Media Day? You're late. You're (expletive) clueless. You got no idea."
Payton had wanted to save that speech for just before game time, but in the book, he says, "This was the perfect time for a crisis, Bill Parcells-style. It was early in the week."
Brees says from then on, the team was very businesslike in its approach to Super Sunday. "Absolutely we were," he says.
That same attitude has carried over into the Saints' offseason, which Brees describes as relatively smooth despite a number of high-profile roster moves.
New Orleans is dealing with the departures of All Pro offensive tackle Jammal Brown, defensive ends McCray and Charles Grant, linebacker Scott Fujita and running back Mike Bell. But their losses are mitigated by the additions of former Bears defensive end Alex Brown and Bucs lineman Jimmy Wilkerson, along with the draft acquisitions of first-round cornerback Patrick Robinson, second-round offensive tackle Charles Brown and third-round tight end Jimmy Graham.
Given all this, the Saints' roster remains about as seasoned and veteran as it has ever been, Brees says, one month before the start of training camp July 29 at the team's practice facility in Metarie, La.
"Anytime you win the Super Bowl, just like any year in the NFL, there is a lot of turnover," Brees says. "I think this is the least amount of turnover I've ever had on a team."
"The way I look at it is, we lost Scott Fujita, a starter on our defense, a linebacker. We released Charles Grant, a starter on defense. And offensively, really, it was Mike Bell, one of our running backs. When you look at it, that's three starters that we lost where, in a lot of years past, we lost four, five, six (starters). So I'd say that's the least number I've ever been a part of."
Brees likes the newcomers and thinks they'll fill in nicely. "Look at what we did in the draft," he says. "And we went out and signed Alex Brown, and that was kind of our replacement for Charles Grant. We have a bunch of young linebackers who will be competing for Scott Fujita's position.
"We've got a young running back right now, Lynell Hamilton, who can step up and take Mike Bell's role. We went out and drafted guys like Jimmy Graham at the tight end position to kind of fill Billy Miller's role (torn Achilles tendon, 2009).
"I look at what our scouting department has done and our general manager (Mickey Loomis) through the draft and through free agency, and we have a plan here. You know you're going to lose some guys, but you try to fill in with guys you feel like fit the system and fit the profile of guys we want in the locker room, from a leadership perspective and character, that kind of thing."
Brees, who has his own book, "Coming Back Stronger" coming out on July 6 and was recently named a co-chair of President Obama's renamed Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition along with three-time Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, says he's happy with the current makeup on the '10 Saints.
Now the biggest challenge comes in maintaining the passion and hunger that inspire a Super Bowl caliber team and organization.
"I like what we have," Brees says. "I think the biggest task for us is, having experienced that level of success, how do you not let it go to your head? How do you stay humble, stay hungry and continue to almost approach it as if you haven't accomplished anything yet?
"We've still got a lot to prove. There's always another challenge ahead."