Following the first practice of the day, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees met with the media to discuss his offseason itinerary, before moving over to football and talking about some of the club's current issues and challenges as they prepare for the 2009 season. Below is a transcript of the media meeting.
What are the pitfalls as you start out here trying to repeat as champions?
"You'd be naïve to think that you could just show up and everyone would be intimidated because you're the defending world champions or from anything you had accomplished the year before. If anything, you have to work that much harder. My philosophy has always been that each year I want to get a little bit better, so throughout the offseason it's identifying those areas where I can improve and I think for a lot of guys on our team it has been that way. Everyone plays an important role on a team and that's another thing that I think we need to focus on. What's fun about training camp is that those roles are kind of identified throughout this process because you watch the pieces come together and how everything falls in place. You see a young player continue to get better and better and he's going to see the field more or you kind of find a way to get him on the field because he's making plays. I think all of us recognize the challenge that is ahead of us. As we look at our schedule – and obviously the opening game here on that Thursday night against Minnesota – it's not going to be easy. It's going to be very challenging, but we embrace that challenge. We understand how good we can be as a team. We can use that confidence and that swagger that we developed last year to carry us through and help us re-establish where we left off last year. We know how good we are and we know how good we can be. I still feel like we've only scratched the surface and the mentality has to be that we have not yet accomplished what we set out to accomplish. There's still a lot more to be done here."
Is it hard to believe that this is the first day of training camp already with the busy offseason you've had?
"The offseason went by very fast. But when you stay busy and you're doing a lot of cool things like a lot of us had the chance to do, it does go by fast. (sentence muffled by wind) That means what we did in OTAs and minicamp and then the month of July, what I did to get myself ready to come into camp feeling better than I did the year before – which I do. I feel better than I did at the beginning of camp last year. Watching guys run the conditioning test yesterday and blowing it out of the water and then coming out here the first day and really getting some good work in, it's just fun to watch the team come together again. I feel like this training camp will be as competitive as last year or more competitive because I know the OTAs and minicamps were more competitive and there are a lot of guys fighting for jobs here. A lot of that is that we know how good we can be and they want to have a role on this team."
Are you concerned by not having Robert Meachem and Marques Colston available at the start of camp or will you be able to pick up with them whenever they get back?
"I feel like with those two guys, we've had enough time together that when they do come back we'll be able to get right back in the swing of things very quickly. I try to look at the positive of every situation and with those two guys being down, I think it gives great opportunities to some young receivers to get some significant playing time and some good reps and watch them develop and see how they might be able to fit in this offense, whether it be this year or down the road. Whenever one guy is down, the others have to step up and contribute."
Are you tired of hearing about the potential "Super Bowl hangover"?
"It's old, but it will be that way until we go out and show them that it's not true. I think history would show you that half of the last ten Super Bowl winners have come out the next year and not made the playoffs, so if you ignore history then you're in trouble. I think we recognize that and I feel like we've taken all the measures so far that we need to take to make sure that that doesn't happen to us. Yeah, I'm tired of hearing about it but it's just like the period of time at the end of last season when we lost the last three games in a row and all we heard was that we weren't ready and no one knew which Saints team would show up and no team has ever lost their last three games and gone on to the Super Bowl. We proved all that wrong and I guess this wouldn't be any different."
What do you put your finger on that is a real concern with this team?
"I think the big thing is that human nature is to relax a little bit or feel like we've arrived or feel like we're there and take the approach of not needing to get better every day to get to that level because we're at the level. I think when you have that mentality, you're in trouble. When you start to think that way, you let the little things slide and that's a disease. The fact is that we recognize those things and because we recognize them, we're not going to let it happen."
Did anyone in particular give you a cautionary tale or good advice?
"I've had some great advice from a lot of people over the last month or two. They are definitely things that I've taken to heart and had a chance to communicate to the team. I'm not going to name any names but those guys know who they are and they're all repeat winners. Some of them have also been part of teams that won and then didn't go to the playoffs the next year. I got both sides of the coin. I got what it takes to win and what can get you beat, so it was very good advice."
How has winning a championship changed you, going through all the celebrity of this offseason?
"It hasn't changed me. It doesn't change the way I approach anything, other than just having to be very good about managing my time and making sure that I get done everything that I need to get done for my commitment to this team as the quarterback and for my family, making sure that I get the family time that I need and want. Other than that, the only thing that suffered was my golf game."
What was the coolest thing you did this offseason?
"I could give you a top five. I got to fly with the F-16 Thunderbirds up in Shreveport which was awesome; I got to go on a USO trip to Dubai, Turkey and Djibouti; I got to play golf with Jack Nicklaus; the ESPYs just a few weeks ago was a thrill, just having so many guys there and our team being a part of so many of the awards. That week after the Super Bowl will always be one of the craziest times of my life when you look at Disneyworld and then the talk shows and then the Super Bowl parade, which was just unbelievable and then Mardi Gras, being king of Bacchus. The list goes on and on and is kind of never-ending, but it was all fun."
What do you say to yourself now that it's time to switch gears?
"It's time. This is our window of opportunity and I'd be very disappointed if we didn't take advantage of it because you just never know when opportunities like this will ever come again. We have enough veteran guys on our team that we've all been a part of some really good teams and we've all been a part of some bad teams. We see what we have here and it's something that can be really special. Nothing will ever take away from what we did last year, but I think just like any time you experience success and especially in a city like New Orleans where everyone is so excited – as they should be, they deserve to celebrate forever – but for us important to find a way to win again. We're in a business of winning and winning now and also we have an opportunity to create a legacy here that's not just about one championship; it's how many can we win and every year we feel like we have that chance. We're right there and we have that chance."
In what ways can this team get better than the 2009 team?
"The number one stat in football is always the turnover ratio and our defense was the best last year in the league in taking it away – one or two. Offensively, we can get better at taking care of the football, so if our defense can continue to improve at taking it away and we can continue to improve at protecting it, that gap continues to wide as to the number that we are positive in in the turnover ratio and that is a huge stat. Look at our playoff run last year; we had zero turnovers on offense and our defense took it away a number of times. We won the turnover battle in every game we played and the statistics will tell you that you're just about an 80% winner when that happens, especially in the playoffs. We will continue to focus on that stat and continue to try to get better at it. Also our ability to run and pass the football. You saw the improvement in the way we were able to run the football last year and what that meant for us as an offense and our ability to control the line of scrimmage, control the clock, keep our defense off the field and well-rested, score down, wear down defenses – those are all areas that we need to continue to improve upon."
You said you felt better coming into camp than last year. Why is that?
"My training regimen with what I do here and then the guy I work with in San Diego, we're just constantly trying to find new and improved ways to get that edge. Every year, you're searching for that edge and creating that chip on your shoulder, re-establishing your identity. As you become more veteran in your career, I think you just have to be more and more efficient in regards to what you do for your body. Naturally as you get older, they say your skills diminish and it becomes more and more of a task to take care of your body. I'm 31, so I'm not old, but I want to get into good habits of taking care of myself of doing all of those little things from diet to workouts that are going to help to put me in the best position to succeed for my team."
What do you feel like Jimmy Graham could bring to this team?
"I think he could have a huge role on this team and make a big impact on our offense. Just like any rookie, it's a big adjustment going from college to the NFL and he even has more of a challenge because he only played one year of college football. So the adjustment of going from basketball to football and the physical nature of the game, not only in college but now you get to the NFL and you're getting banged around all the time and every time you catch the ball those guys are trying to knock you out. So grasping the offense, practicing down here in the heat, being worn down like he's going to be throughout camp, the mental challenges as well as the physical challenges of playing the tight end position in the NFL; he has his work cut out for him but he has a lot of raw talent."
How does going up against Jonathan Vilma help you during camp?
"Vilma is such a smart football player and also a tough, physical football player. I feel like if I can outsmart him, then I've done something because the guy doesn't miss much. He's constantly making adjustments; constantly making checks; getting guys in the right positions. He knows that defense very, very well, even only having been in it for one year now. So that constant match of wits and that chess match is something that makes me look forward to practice every day because I'm going up against one of the league's best and it's fun and it's helping me become a better player."