There isn't much of anything Drew Brees won't study when it comes to self-improvement. So, of course, the New Orleans Saints quarterback – a future Pro Football Hall of Famer and the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards (74,437) and completion percentage (67.3) – is all in on studying why and when players begin to drop off, and how to stiff-arm it.
"I study all that stuff," Brees said Friday, after the Saints' first training camp practice at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center. "I feel like I'm pretty aware of what you lose with the aging process. And so, everything I do, from a training perspective and recovery perspective, is to combat that. So you try to stay ahead of that curve.
"So far, I feel like I'm beating it."
Whenever it is that the drop occurs – if, indeed, it does occur – Brees successfully will have staved it off for about as long as any non-specialist in league history.
Last season, his NFL-record streak of 12 consecutive years with at least 4,000 passing yards ended because, with 3,992 yards entering the regular-season finale and the NFC's No. 1 seed already assured, Brees sat out the game. But his 6.4-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (32 touchdowns, five picks) was the best of his career, and he raised the single-season completion percentage record to 74.4.
The Saints tied a franchise record with 13 regular-season victories, posted a 10-game winning streak and for the first time in franchise history, won a division title for the second straight year.
In his 19th training camp – Beyonce still was leading Destiny's Child when Brees was a rookie in 2001, Shrek lost his bachelor pad and welcomed Fiona and Donkey to his swamp, and FUBU was huge on the fashion scene – Brees is finding new and improved ways to stay sharp.
"That's really what it is, just finding ways to stay young, feel young, recover, be as efficient as possible," he said. "Having the body operate as efficient as possible. Doing all the little things so you're having to be as accurate as possible. Be as quick as possible. Just all those little things."
The little things include his role as a mentor now.
Brees is the only player on the roster remaining from his first season in 2006, and one of just two on the roster (along with punter Thomas Morstead) who remain from the Super Bowl season. But he has stored a wealth of knowledge in his photographic memory.
"That's the fun part, in a lot of ways," he said. "That's what keeps you young. And also, I feel like I've lived it so many times that I know the way it's supposed to look, I know the way it's supposed to feel, I know the timing.
"And so, as I sit there and communicate that to a young guy, I can sit there and just tell him story after story about rep after rep that would back that up. And then we have the chance to go out there and rep it together.
"I like to think when those guys listen to me and I'm telling stories about this rep with Marques Colston, this rep with Jimmy Graham or this rep with Lance Moore – whoever it might have been – that there's some credibility there. Like, 'OK, I saw what you guys and that offense were able to do when you were clicking on all cylinders,' and all these guys want to be part of something like that again."
That process began anew for Brees on Friday. His workload in training camp will be monitored – Teddy Bridgewater will get a heavier load of reps with the No. 1 offense – but that may be the only dialing back Brees will experience. His enthusiasm may match his production.
"This is where it all truly begins," Brees said. "You obviously work real hard during the offseason on certain things, whether that be on your own, and that transitions into OTAs and minicamp.
"But really at training camp, this is where you really start stacking those bricks, so to speak, to build a foundation by which we're going to be able to do great things this year."