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New Orleans Saints program cover story: Drew Brees

Legendary quarterback going for all-time passing mark on 'Monday Night Football'

The roses can wait.

Don't worry, Drew Brees will get around to taking a deep inhalation at some point, rather than a quick jog-by. They won't wither, decompose or lose their fragrance before he does.

But the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints (3-1) is a little busy right now, fully prepped for tonight's nationally-televised game against Washington in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on "Monday Night Football," and not daring to peer into his NFL future much further than that.

So, yes, the record is on schedule to fall tonight. Brees is 201 passing yards short of topping Peyton Manning's NFL-record 71,940 and in 194 regular-season games as the Saints' starter, he has failed to top that mark only 15 times. And six of those occasions occurred in the 2006 season, his first as a Saint, when he was returning from major shoulder surgery.

But the near-future NFL King of Sling is a lot more concerned with winning as many games as he possibly can as Saints quarterback, than he is about planting his flag atop another NFL record. And he already owns the marks for completions, 300-yard passing games, games with five-plus touchdown passes, 5,000-yard passing seasons and seasons with 30-plus touchdown passes.

"It doesn't affect my approach," he said.

That's not just a line. Check an article – probably, any article – quoting Brees in the run-up to a league or franchise record, and the words will look and sound extremely familiar.

"Just, just focusing on winning the next game, whoever that opponent is," he said. "Just trying not to make a bigger deal out of this than it already is. Just focus on my preparation and my process and let the rest take care of itself."

Who's going to argue with that approach? It only has helped Brees become the most accurate passer in NFL history (67.1 percent; oops, omitted that one earlier) and one of the most trusted, reliable players for both of the franchises he has played with.

"One of the most important jobs of a quarterback – and I was told this very early in my career – is being durable, being available," Brees said. "Now, are there certain things that are out of your control? Yes, there are.

"You put a lot of trust and confidence in the guys around you. And I've always had guys that I've had so much trust and confidence in, from the guys blocking, to the guys catching, to the guys on the other side of the ball that are complementing everything that we do.

"But I do take great pride in trying to always be there for my team and be someone that they can count on. That's very important to me."

That reliability, infamously, was tested once, when Brees tore the labrum in his right shoulder in the regular-season finale of 2005 while playing with the Chargers. Right before he hit the free agent market.

"I can remember specifically the injury happened and you know, as a coach, you're always kind of, 'I wonder how bad is it,' " said Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who was a quality control and assistant receivers coach for the Chargers in '05.

"And I can remember being up in the press box and as he came off onto the sidelines, I can remember (offensive coordinator) Cam Cameron saying through the headsets, 'Oh, it's not good.' "

"The initial play, I was in disbelief, like, I just didn't believe he was hurt that bad," said Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson, a Chargers teammate during Brees' five seasons with the franchise. "We were very close, we worked out together and so, to see him kind of holding his shoulder, I was thinking like, it's just a bad sprain. It's not that bad, it'll be OK."

Famously, Brees' reliability won out. A 360-degree repair of the labrum included 11 anchors in his labrum and two in his rotator cuff, arthroscopically inserted.

"You know the type of makeup, the character of Drew Brees, you thought if there was going to be a guy that was going to have some adversity in his life and would be able to overcome it, you knew it would be him," Carmichael said.

"I knew with his work ethic that Drew would bounce back," Tomlinson said. "I had no hesitations about him being able to come back from that injury.

"Of course, a lot of people wondered could he come back. But I had seen the guy, his work ethic in the training room, even in the weight room how tirelessly he worked. And so there was no question in my mind. Even in his mind, he knew that he would get back to being the player that he was before the injury."

Correction. Brees never went back to being that player. He got better – perhaps, exponentially so.

His best completion percentage for a season with the Chargers was 65.5 percent; he has topped that mark nine times as a Saint. He never passed for 4,000 yards as a Charger; as a Saint, he never has totaled less. Once in his first five years, he threw 27 touchdown passes; 10 times since, he has passed that mark.

True, the offenses had different emphases. The Chargers were much more reliant on Tomlinson than have the Saints been on their running game, more willing to ball-control than to air-out. But, too, Saints Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis placed a trust and vision in Brees, who has rewarded the franchise by having a large hand in the best stretch of success in Saints history.

New Orleans has won all seven of its playoff games, including its lone Super Bowl, with Brees taking the snaps from center, and six of New Orleans' 11 seasons of 10-plus wins have been captained by Brees.

He has served as the point man for hope when the team has struggled, as the center attraction when times have been bountiful, as the steady voice when waters have been choppy and as the best hype man in the league when it has been time to play.

Tonight in the Superdome, likely, he will become the player with the most passing yards in the 98-year history of the NFL.

"I hope it does," Brees said of breaking the record at home. "I hope it does, in front of our fans."

It probably will, and they'll celebrate, and Brees' record-breaking feat will be the lead item tonight and all day Tuesday for almost all sports telecasts, and earn mention in many outlets that only mention sports in passing.

Possibly, the game will stop, the acknowledgement will be made, the ball will be awarded and Brees even may remove his helmet to enjoy the shower of appreciation.

But the reciprocity, while heartfelt, will be brief. Even postgame, he likely will answer questions about the feat, then set it aside in preparation for the next challenge.

The roses can wait.

Another down has to be played, another drive completed, another victory pursued.

Brees will take the time to smell later.