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John DeShazier: 'Sharp' Drew Brees ready to roll vs. Cardinals

Saints franchise quarterback didn't play much in preseason because he didn't need to

By virtue of Drew Brees' nature – namely, the fact that he doesn't appear to have an "off" switch – Brees undoubtedly worked harder this preseason.

But the decision of Coach Sean Payton assured that Brees worked smarter, too. Specifically, there was less chance of Brees taking a beating in preseason games this year because he only appeared in two of them, for a total of four drives.

Still, Payton and Brees said, the quarterback with an NFL-record four 5,000-yard passing seasons got in the work that he needed to be ready for Sunday's regular-season opener, against Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

"I think, Year 10 in what we're doing, and based on what we saw in training camp, he's been sharp, he's been playing sharp in practice, he's gotten a ton of reps," Payton said. "He's a lot further along than a year ago, when he strained his oblique.

"I think it was just kind of paying attention to what we were seeing in practice, the work he got versus New England (in two days of joint practices at The Greenbrier). I would say the second preseason game with New England would be probably about where we would have played him in '06 or '07. It was a little different then, we played guys a little longer. But we felt like the work was in. So, it's really paying attention to the experience and the timing.

"With him, it was easy."

And the workaholic Brees didn't disagree. He played four series in two preseason game appearances, leading the Saints' starting offense to a pair of touchdowns and a pair of field goals.

"I've got a great comfort level with all the guys that are out there with me," he said. "I feel like I got the work done that I needed to get done. Now, we're into a week of game prep, which is much different than training camp. Training camp, you're rolling three groups – you're really kind of limited in the amount of reps you get. And now, you're taking all the reps.

"I feel like I get so many more reps now throughout the course of a week than I do during a training camp or a preseason, which I think just helps prepare us all even more for the game.

"Every team handles it different, as far as how long the starters are playing and there are different circumstances and scenarios surrounding that. I think Sean's philosophy was, 'I want the first offense to go in and control the game, play with great tempo, look sharp, move the football, convert third downs, score points.' And once he felt like they got the work done that I wanted them to get done, then I'm getting them out.

"And there are a lot of these young players that I want to get time, I want to evaluate them. Once Sean saw what he wanted to see then we were out, and that's that. Going into those games, I was ready to potentially play a full quarter, a full half, whatever it might be. But when we're done, we're done."

The efficiency included drives of 61 (field goal), 62 (touchdown), 63 (touchdown) and 75 (field goal) yards. Brees completed 12 of 16 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, without an interception.

"Bottom line is, each team has a plan for what they want to get accomplished during the preseason," Brees said. "Sean has said it, and I'll say it: We got accomplished what we wanted to get accomplished during the preseason, in regards to certain guys getting work.

"You're experimenting with things. You don't gameplan those games. You just kind of go in – you're not showing a whole lot, you're keeping it pretty basic and at the end of the day, you're pulling your starters out pretty early to keep guys healthy."

And, particularly, there isn't much reason to risk the health of the 36-year-old, turn-back-the-clock quarterback who has nothing to prove in preseason.

"I know his routine, I know how detailed it is, I know how he takes care of his body both from recovery, from work, a nutrition standpoint," Payton said. "All those things give him a chance to be ahead of the curve relative to what 36 is. He looks great, he looks sharp. I see someone who…you couldn't tell his age."

Or whether he played a ton of snaps in preseason games.

Photos from New Orleans Saints practice on Wednesday, September 9, 2015. Photos by Alex Restrepo (New Orleans Saints photos)

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