Drew Brees always practices as if he's going to play.
For the first time since his first season in New Orleans (2006), he will in the Saints' preseason finale, Thursday night against Baltimore in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
"I don't know the playing time at this point, but I know the mind-set this whole week has been that we're playing," Brees said. "We have a lot to work on, obviously, coming off of last week (a 27-14 loss to Pittsburgh). And it's just part of the process.
"We've got things that we're really trying to fine tune, some things that are still in the works to be honest with you – (which is) to be expected in Week 4 of preseason. We're still in preseason, we're still trimming down the roster, guys are still fighting for positions, there's still a lot of work to be done. So whatever the playing time ends up being, we're all anticipating that we're playing."
Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday morning that the starters likely will play a quarter, with several of them taking snaps into the second quarter.
"The more time we can get together, the better," Brees said. "Whatever amount of time we play, we're going to try to go out there and do our best."
The preseason has seen the Saints uncharacteristically struggle on offense, averaging 330 yards and 15 points per game. The three quarterbacks – Brees, Luke McCown and Garrett Grayson – have combined to throw three touchdowns and six interceptions, four by Grayson.
"I've been part of plenty of preseasons where we looked like rock stars," Brees said. "We were 4-0, 3-1, first team scored every time we touched the ball and then we had a slow start to the season. I've also been on teams where we looked awful in the preseason, and we jumped out to a fast start.
"So, does preseason perfectly indicate what's going to happen at the start of the season? No, it doesn't. I think as long as you feel good about your gameplan and your execution and what you're doing going into that Game 1, and you go out and actually do it, then that's all that matters. I know that we're taking the necessary steps and we are very much focusing on the process to get to that point to where we can go out and play our best against Oakland."
Part of that process involves some shuffling along the offensive line. Andrus Peat will move from right to left guard in order to enhance his effectiveness, and Senio Kelemete and Senio Kelemete, who have been vying for the starting job at left guard, will move their position battle to right guard. Peat also has played left tackle this preseason, as a fill-in for Terron Armstead while Armstead recovered from injury.
With that as a backdrop, the offensive line reps amplify in importance.
"There's been some moves, like with Andrus Peat and Terron being out and in of the lineup," Brees said. "A lot of Andrus moving around has been a product of Terron being out. I think we've got a lot of very versatile guys on that O-line, guys that are swing guards that can play center.
"Senio played left tackle for us in the last game of the season last year. Andrus Peat can play tackle, he can play guard. Yes, we're trying to find that right lineup but I think also, it's kind of been out of necessity that we've had to do all these things. And it's given guys some necessary work at a lot of different positons because you never know how this thing's going to play out.
"Senio has played center, guard and tackle. So you never know where you're going to be needed, but it's nice to have a little bit of confidence knowing, 'Hey, I've done this before.' "
Many of the veteran starters haven't often been called upon to do it in the preseason finale. But Thursday, they will be as the Saints look to finish on a positive note.