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Brees Ready for "Tough Test" against Panthers

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New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees
Media Availability
Wednesday, October 2, 2011

Did you ever have a stretch in your career where you personally were playing well but the team was struggling at a 1-3 stretch, possibly comparable to the Panthers with Cam Newton?
"I'm not sure. I think my mentality is that you're never going to play a perfect game. So even though you might play very well, you're always going to think about the one or two things you could do differently to affect the outcome of the game. That would be my perspective."

Were you a little disappointed that even though you racked up over 500 yards on Sunday, you managed only 23 points?
"Yes. I was actually happy that we got a win on the road in a tough environment that you look at statistically in terms of that no NFC South team had ever gone in there and won. We over the last few years can point to a few games that might be similar to that. That was a team that plays very well at home. That was a team that defensively had played very well this season even though the stats in the Jets game might not point to it because they were put in some bad positions, but to put up 500 yards of total offense you shake your head because you look at the scoreboard and that should show up some more. Obviously you look and say why is that? We got down inside the 20 three times and just came away with field goals and not touchdowns. That certainly could have helped. We had a big play or two and it could have gotten us more points. I was, being the personality I am, I'm happy for us as a team to come out of the game healthy, get a big win and keep the streak going, but I'm also upset at myself for some things and feeling like we still have to improve at some things."

Are you impressed at how Cam Newton has done given the lack of an offseason?
"Yes. I haven't seen any film on him. The only thing I saw was when they played Jacksonville before us. It (conditions) were really sloppy, so it was hard to get a gauge for the guy. You look at the sheer statistics and shake your head. I don't care how long you've been in this league. It's hard to put up the numbers he's put up. He's certainly a raw talent. We all knew that, but I don't know if anybody could predict it, so you certainly have to give him credit for what he's been able to accomplish so far."

How would you compare and contrast the defensive styles of John Fox and Ron Rivera?
"They're (Panthers) doing some different things. Some stuff you see a little bit of the Philly carryover with Sean McDermott and his experience there. Ron Rivera being in a 4-3 scheme up in Chicago when he was the defensive coordinator there in '06 when we played him and then he went on to be the d-coordinator in San Diego where they run the 3-4 and obviously now he's in Carolina where they do the 4-3, yet they do some stuff in the nickel that looks like there's some 3-4 ideas. I think it's a mixture of a little bit of everything. I know they had two big injuries in (Jon) Beason and Thomas Davis but I have a lot of respect for that defense. I lot of those guys have been together for a while. I know they're pretty young up front. The secondary and those guys have been together for a while and I think it shows."

Cam Newton says he's a big fan of yours and would love to learn how you run an offense. How would you size him up and what words of wisdom would you give?
"How would I size him up? He towers over me. Maybe some words of wisdom after the game. I think there's always a competitive thing between quarterbacks when you're playing against each other even though I'm not directly facing Cam Newton and he's not directly facing me. He's facing our defense and I'm facing his defense. It's hard to go into any game against a talented young player or seasoned veteran that you know has a lot of talent and you have a lot of respect for and has a little bit of extra oomph and your kind of going step for step. But, in the end, I'm focused on scoring as many points as I can, hopefully that's more than they score, but he's obviously in our division. We're going to be seeing a lot of this guy."

What do you remember about Darren Sproles when he came to San Diego? Did you wonder what type of role he would have at his size?
"We drafted him in '05. He walks in the door and you think gosh this guy is tiny by NFL standards in terms of a running back. He had accomplished some great things in college. He was coming into a situation where we had LaDanian Tomlinson and Michael Turner, so really he was just fulfilling that special teams role the first year. Then from afar, I'm watching him because I liked him and wanted him to succeed. I'm watching his role increase and increase. He really was doing some great things in San Diego by the time he entered his fourth, fifth, sixth season and that was a big reason why this offseason, training with him and watching the way he works, he's a pro. He does anything you ask. When it came time to go back to camp, I said to Sean (Payton", 'You might want to go after this guy.'."

Was this the first offseason you and Todd Durkin worked with Sproles?
"Yes."

What was his mentality?
"He's a quiet guy, competitive though. There are guys like that. Marques Colston (is) competitive but quiet. Devery (Henderson), (Robert) Meachem, you don't hear a lot from those guys vocally, but deep down there's a fire inside that burns. Sproles has got unbelievable spirit and that competitive fire. You can see little things. I think that's why he's so good with a lot of things. If you find a thing he hasn't mastered yet or quite worked on, he's going to find a way to get better at it. I see it when there's a big play to be made and he doesn't make it. It's on to the next play too. He's not one to dwell. I really like him. It's hard because my perspective that first year in San Diego, him looking at LaDanian Tomlinson who's in the prime of his career, Michael Turner who I believe was in his second year, but we know what kind of player he's become, so I'm sure Sprolesie was thinking he was going to watch these guys, learn how to be a pro, learn how to get it done and contribute. Did I think Sproles would be the player he now is when he first came in? I don't know. He's just a rare talent, not just physically, but his mental makeup. I think it takes a really tough person, physically, mentally, at his size to do what he's done."

How often were you making casual references to him to join the Saints?
"Just when we trained. I didn't know what was going to happen with Reggie (Bush). I told him if Reggie's not here, you're going to be here."

Maybe in San Diego he didn't have that many snaps, but what's been the difference here?
"I'm not sure. You'd have to ask him."

Is it a situation where he's used more?
"San Diego played a few primetime games. I'm a fan so I watch those. It seems like his name was always coming up. Always, whether it was a catch out of the backfield for a 50-yard touchdown, a punt return, his name was always getting thrown around. He was making plays. I never really counted the snaps, but I think here, maybe what's so great about his role here is the fact with our three backs in Pierre (Thomas), Mark (Ingram) and Sproles, each one of them has a role and yet you can plug them all in at any place. I feel very confident about all their skill sets. I think when you take his contributions in all phases…I think he has a hand in everything. He knows his number will get called and he'll have opportunities. I have to give a lot of credit to Sean, because Sean has a knack for everything. Every guy has their plays, their opportunities. They're in the plan. They're going to get (their number) called. That keeps guys excited and focused, knowing that my number's going to get called and I have to get ready."

Why have you guys had trouble against Carolina in the past?
"They're a tough team. I think they play us tough. This is no excuse, two times we played them in the last game of the season when we were resting starters, still if you were looking at it, it's even and I believe in that case it's 4-4. We've traded punches many times, had some close games."

Have other division games been like that?
"Yes, you could say the same thing for Atlanta. Those have been close. Tampa, the last two years has been weird. We've gone to their place the last two years and dominated and they've come to ours and beaten us. What the heck? It's divisional opponents, where you know each other well. You know each other's personnel. You really try to beat each other up each time you play. Anything can happen

Can you talk about the importance of your third down conversion percentage?
"Third down conversions are big, because those sustained drives, you wear a defense down, the more points you score, at least the more opportunities you will have to score points, the longer you can rest your defense, so they can come out there and give you the ball right back. That's a big stat. Turnover ratio is a big stat. Red Zone efficiency is a big stat. Those are a couple that I pay attention to."

What is your explanation for what you think is a league trend for how much yardage and scoring is occuring?
"I don't know. Who knows? We're only four games into the season. I'd like to think that trend's going to continue for us with the yardage, points and everything else. It's hard to put your finger on it because we were all in the same boat this season, offenses and defenses. There's always the argument about what side of the ball needs the most time to execute. You could say offensively if one guy messes up it could mess up a whole play, you could probably say the same for defense. So much of what you do defensively is just reacting, whereas on offense your interacting. I don't know. I'm just kind of talking. I don't know.

What do you think of currently having six quarterbacks on pace to beat Dan Marino's single season yardage record that you came close to breaking three years ago?
"That's unusual. The rules I would say. Even though there weren't any rules changes this offseason that I can think of that with the exception of even more emphasis of protecting players down the field with hits. Guys aren't worried about catching balls and having their head taken off because of penalties and a fine. Guys have more of a chance to catch it because they're hit in the body rather than the head. But other than that, they're protecting the quarterbacks the same as they always have in the pocket. You get out, throw the ball  away, not go past the line of scrimmage. All those rules are the same. Why this year instead of last year? Everybody's searching for the answers. A lot want to blame it on the lockout. I just think there are some good quarterbacks and skill position players in this league. You see what Calvin Johnson's doing. There's some freak athletes out there. Did anybody expect Cam Newton to be doing what he's doing? It's hard to believe. Buffalo putting up the points and numbers they're putting up, (Ryan) Fitzpatrick. There are tons of guys that are playing at a high level around the league. It's fun to watch. For a guy like me who's involved in it. It's still fun to watch. I keep up with it."

What did you think of the Mercedes-Benz announcement?
"Mr. Benson has obviously had a longstanding relationship with Mercedes-Benz both here and in San Antonio. When you think about international brands that really garner respect and stand for quality and excellence it's definitely Mercedes-Benz. I think we're all real proud to have that hanging in the Superdome."

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