New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees*
Thursday, September 7, 2017*
How do you feel about this squad going into the opener?
"I feel good. (It is) Just constant improvement, trying to get better every day. There is a process in place obviously from going back to strength and conditioning when we first got here in April, to the OTAs, minicamps and training camp. Once you get to preseason games you try to use that as a measuring stick to where you are at. You are in a constant race to improve and get better. Obviously none of those games count. These are the games that count. This is when the win-loss record begins to count."
Thoughts on when people say this game is critical?
"Oh yes. It is critical because it is the first game. But also, you want to get off to a fast start. There's a lot that that does for you in regards to confidence and momentum. It is something that we haven't done here over the last few years. So it would be nice to get off to a fast start."
Do you put a lot of emphasis on those early games and the early part of the regular season?
"Emphasis but not pressure. We know that if we focus on the process, the result will take care of itself. If we detail all the stuff, we need to in practice. This is when we win the game so to speak, is in our preparation. It allows us to go out with a ton of confidence and relax and play ball on Monday night."
How emotional do you think it will be for Adrian (Peterson)?
"I'm sure it'll be really emotional. The guy spent basically his whole career there before coming here. Obviously he had some great years too, as a future hall of famer. I know he has meant a lot to that team for a long time and probably community as well. Yes, it is emotional. I can (look back at) those times when we play the Chargers and what that means to me. So I can imagine what this one means to him."
You and Adrian share a unique thing where you've both been faces of franchises; how does that change your relationship with the fans?
"I think you take on more of a responsibility. You feel more of a responsibility. Not only do you represent your team everywhere you go but you represent your fan base. You represent the city and the community. So I'd say that's the thing that I feel most".
Is it fair to say that this Minnesota team can be right there and can be there with other teams like Detroit and Green Bay?
"Without question. I don't think anybody is overlooking them in the league and certainly not us. These guys are arguably (one of) the best defenses in the league and have been for a couple of years. They started off extremely fast last year and then obviously were not able to make the playoffs but they come of out of very tough division. Two of the other teams did not make the playoffs. We know this is going to be an extremely hard fight. A tough, physical game. I have a ton of respect for Mike Zimmer and the program that he's built there over the last few years. We expect them to be their absolute best."
Turnovers kind of get a crowd into it and take over the game a little bit. I know ball security is important, do you think it's something extra special to with a team like this?
"It's something they thrive on and they do a very good job with, especially in their stadium. So it's something that we've emphasized a lot. You just understand what an important factor that can be in a game like this."
Would you be as aggressive as you usually are, or maybe you have to scale it down a little based on their defense?
"No, that's not our mentality. I've heard it said being phrased "aggressively smart". Bottom line is when you have your opportunities to make plays, you have make them. You have opportunities to make big plays and big shots, you take them. And if they're not there you take it down and you'll just know that you'll call it again another time."
Has Xavier Rhodes emerged as kind of a top tiered cornerback of this league?
"Rhodes is a top-tiered cornerback. I had the chance to be with him in the Pro Bowl. Obviously we played against him in his rookie season in 2014. Just to watch his improvement and the confidence he plays with. First of all, he has all of the traits: size, speed, strength. And he's arguably one of the best cornerbacks in this league for a good reason."
When you finished last season, the difference in how you feel from the last game to the first game this year without Brandin Cooks and Drew Brees?
"Obviously that all happened in March (with Cooks), we have been moving along with the guys that we have and feel very good about that. Obviously the (other) move was about Snead. (Losing) Snead (for three games) was tough and he's a big part of what we do offensively. But the next man up mentality and the guys that will step into that role will do a good job. We'll keep tracking along and obviously we'll miss him. But we have to keep moving along".
What was that Rajan Rondo QB challenge about?
"It was not even really called like a full-blown competition, not like the ones we do in training camp, but every time we leave the field we usually pick a target and throw at it and it is just one throw to see if you can hit it and the objective was, it was about a 50,55-yard throw. The objective was there was a training table out there where a guy would get his ankles taped on and it has a black pad on the top and so we just try to throw it and hit the top of the pad. I threw and hit the pad, someone else threw and they got close and the other person got close and then Rondo steps up and I am telling you he had thrown like three practice throws, maybe like 10-yards and I am thinking he is not going to get within 20-yards of this thing and just flicks one out there and kind of hits the back of the pad and the trash can behind the pad and hits the pad, hits the trash can and then hops up on the pad and it rests on the pad. We've been doing this for 12 years and that has never happened and the dude comes out on his first throw and does it. Pretty impressive and he was just out there today catching balls off the jug machine one-handed and he threw gloves on and was catching punts. He seems like he is a gym rat and he is extremely talented. You can tell he was probably one of those multi-sport athletes, probably played QB in high school running the show. He is a great athlete."
What have you heard about U.S. Bank Stadium?
"Just heard it's loud. Heard it's very loud. Obviously we are playing a night game, but otherwise I'd say there is a lot of natural light that comes in because they have that big, one whole panel of glass on one end at least, but it looks like it's loud. It looks like they feed off it. I'd say it's very similar to the Superdome for us. That gives us a mind-set of what it's going to be like."
Do you ever take note of playing on September 11?
"Yeah, absolutely I think that's one of those events that everyone here and around our country knows exactly where they were when they got the news. They were sitting there just staring at the TV screens wondering how this would be possible. It should always be very close to our mind and hearts those that died at those events and obviously where we are today as a result of that. Never forget those that were lost and obviously the heroes that came. All the first responders and all those who sacrificed so much to save others."
What are your thoughts on how Sean Payton can find mismatches for everyone on the field?
"That's one of the things he's the best at and you always assume that through stretches of the season you'll be without certain guys and you always try and put yourself in position where other guys can step up and when they do you just have to put them in positions to succeed according to what they are good at. We take the toolbox and tools and put them to work according to where you think they fit best. That's something that he's always been very good at and obviously that applies to this week too."
Do you think you had more turnover on offense this year than in past years?
"I guess I don't even think about it like that because even when you do get a new guy in you get to work with him from the offseason, to the time that we put in together away from the facility, to all of training camp and here we are. You have to get on the same page quick, especially in this offense because there are a lot of nuisances to it that just require a lot of that me to you type chemistry. We continue to get better and better, but obviously we have hit the ground running when we get to Minnesota."
This will be the most rookies you play since 2006, is that something you hope talent overcomes the lack of experience?
"Yeah I guess so. I mean I know the guys are well-coached and they are going to play their butts off and we'll see where the chips fall, but I like our group and I love the way we work and we'll be prepared."
Is there something you learned about Zach Line since he arrived that you hadn't known before?
"Just the guy's presence and how he is in the locker room, how is he as a practice player and I could not be more impressed by the way he has been. He's one of the guys, extremely well-liked in the locker room and then on the field the guy plays with as much energy, passion and intensity as he does on gamedays. (I) Love everything about him that regard."