"You do not just practice to practice."
You don't need a ton of clues to envision which New Orleans Saint would be atop the list of players most likely to utter such a statement.
Probably, Drew Brees' skin crawled as he was relegated to watching the first two preseason games from the sideline, shut down as Coach Sean Payton and his staff evaluated Chase Daniel, Garrett Grayson and Ryan Nassib.
He was a willing and animated sideline contributor, as always. But he wasn't taking snaps from under center or out of the shotgun, wasn't handing off or pinpointing a pass. So he's ready, to put it mildly.
Saturday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Brees will get his first playing time of the preseason, against the Houston Texans. And even though the Saints had two days of joint practices with the Texans, Brees still wants to get a taste of the real thing, in the preseason game that most closely resembles the real thing.
"I get a little antsy," he said. "You prepare all week to play in games. I'm looking forward to it.
"Obviously it's against a very good team. Hopefully as a first unit we go out there and we're sharp and we execute very well and score points. This is all preparation for what's going to happen here in two weeks with our first game at Minnesota. We still have a lot of work to do. It's just steps at a time and this is the next step."
Brees is among several Saints expected to make their preseason debuts Saturday night. The list includes defensive end Cam Jordan and running backs Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. All have been healthy holdouts by the coaching staff; center Max Unger, recently returned from foot surgery, also is a possibility to play for the first time this preseason.
Brees said he understands why he hasn't been on the field, and noted that the snaps taken in a joint practice often can be as beneficial, or more so, than quarterbacking for a series or two.
"I know that there's a plan," he said. "I know there are a lot of reps that you're trying to give guys. Time's based upon what the rest of the unit looks like, decisions are made to, 'Hey, let's just take another opportunity to rest guys and get guys healthy.'
"(The) bottom line is how do we put ourselves in the best position to be successful week one, and be the most healthy. For me, I think having practice against (the) Los Angeles (Chargers) for three days last week (was valuable), a lot of good reps there. So you can almost say that replaced what the value of 15 plays would have been in the game, because we got a lot of reps.
"This being the third preseason game, typically is when we play more. I expect us to and we'll see how we do. I think a lot of how long we play is dependent upon how well we do so we want to look good and we want to be sharp."
The first-team offense will attempt to sharpen against one of the league's best defenses, headlined by defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Houston led the league in total defense last season(301.3 yards allowed per game) and were 11th in points allowed (20.5).
The Saints had several successful offensive sessions in Thursday's practice, including in the two-minute phase. Brees connected with Brandon Coleman for a long touchdown pass to conclude one possession.
"We moved the ball," Brees said. "That's a tough defense. It's a great pass rush. They have some really good secondary players. It's one of those just take what you can get. I felt like we moved the ball down the field a little bit and then you're just waiting for your opportunity to maybe make a big play.
"Once we got deep into their territory – I don't know if you knew the situation, but it was when you're just playing for a field goal. We were right on the outskirts of field goal range, so you know you're going to get an aggressive look from them and (we) were able to hit a big play."