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John DeShazier: There are no meaningless games for Saints players

Brees: 'We’ve got guys that we don’t want to let down'

All is calm on the Brees front this week.

There's no questioning whether the New Orleans Saints quarterback will be available to play in the season finale Sunday against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome, no doubting whether the torn plantar fascia ligament in his right foot will hamper his effectiveness, no absurdity wafting that New Orleans should sit Drew Brees because it's not a playoff-bound team.

But it's no less of an insult to Brees in hindsight to reflect on the premise that he shouldn't have played against Jacksonville even if he was cleared physically – and not just because he carved up the Jaguars (25 of 36 for 412 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception).

"There are a lot of guys that are banged up, nicked up," Brees said. "You could very easily say, 'We're not playing for a playoff position. Why risk it? Why do this?'

"Because, first of all, this is our job, this is what we're paid to do, we take pride in what we do. But also, we've got guys that we don't want to let down, we want to be there for them and we want to do this together."

No less of a slight is the theory he should have sat regardless because the Saints needed to get an assessment of rookie quarterback Garrett Grayson in the last two games, or Brees could cause more damage to his foot, or in a diminished capacity he didn't give the Saints their best chance of winning, or any number of hollow rationalizations that seemed to bubble up the moment that Brees stepped to the postgame podium wearing a walking boot after the Saints' loss to Detroit.

Players play.

Great players ache to play.

Hall of Fame-caliber players endure pain, injury and heaven knows what else to play at a high level because competing is in their DNA, and winning is so important that losing induces sleeplessness, and being accountable to their teammates – the co-workers who best know whether they're putting forth a professional effort, who see the work they put in to prepare to be the best they possibly can be, and who they implore to do the same – is a high priority.

Think about it this way: Probably, many of the same people who wanted Brees to sit criticize other players who they believe aren't doing everything in their power to play.

The notion of a team not doing everything possible to win is stupefying, the thought of it not playing its best players is almost nauseating.

Is anyone enjoying what the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers appear to have been doing the last three seasons, presumably in the name of acquiring high draft picks? Think the Cleveland Browns wish they had a Brees that they could count on to play quarterback every week, come hell or high water?

The mere suggestion that the Saints play for draft positioning, or sit an able-to-play Brees because they need to get a look at Grayson (or anyone else), is an affront to the teammates who limp to the training room and barely can practice during the week due to injury maintenance (left tackle Terron Armstead comes to mind), then tape and wrap the ailment on Sunday and play against some of the strongest, fastest, most agile and violent men on the planet.

"Certainly, no one's going to give us a better chance (to win than Brees)," right tackle Zach Strief said. "I think the idea of saying, 'Well, let's give someone else reps to give him reps,' goes against the reality that we're trying to win a football game and we want the best guys to put us in the best situation to do that, to do it.

"No one in this locker room gives a damn, frankly, about our draft location or where we're picking. We don't care. That's not our concern. Our concern is, there's a lot of guys in there with a lot of pride, guys that are not going to go out and lay down and fold their cards and lose a game that is perceived as meaningless, because it's not meaningless to us.

"It's not meaningless to me to go to Atlanta and lose a game because I'm not going to make the playoffs. It's very much meaningful to go and win a game, to be on the field the last time with this locker room, with these guys, and leave winners and leave with a couple of wins in our pockets. All of those things, to us, are a lot more important than somebody getting extra reps or you're picking a spot higher (in the draft).

"You don't want those people on your team, the guys that want to sit down because it 'doesn't matter.' "

They're all playing to win, whether the record is 5-9 or 9-5. The feeling gained from having won, and the thought of winning again, is what makes the journey worthwhile.

So Brees is going to show up for work this week, too.

Just as he did last week, and every other week except two during the last 10 seasons, he's going to start at quarterback for the Saints, and he's going to give New Orleans its best chance of winning its season finale against Atlanta in the Georgia Dome.

We should want that to be the case every week, for every player.

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