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New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees returns for 20th season to chase Super Bowl, play alongside teammates

'That's why I came back'



When it came down to it, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees , in a wide-ranging teleconference with local media Saturday morning, said he returned for his 20th NFL reason for those two reasons.

Brees wholeheartedly agreed with left tackle Terron Armstead, who on Thursday said it's "Super Bowl or bust for the Saints."

"That's why I came back," Brees said.

"Whether it's fair or not, I think we all agree that quarterbacks and head coaches, in large part, are evaluated on wins, losses, championships," he said. "We acknowledge that and we take on that responsibility. I came back for my team, and I came back to chase that. We'll take it one day at a time, one week at a time. And man, I'm going to enjoy every second of this journey and value every moment. Stay in the moment.

"(But) that mind-set of chasing a championship is the exact same mind-set that we've had, certainly for the last three years. That's just the level of expectation that we have with this organization, and that starts from the top down. That's what we've built, and that's why there's such a great sense of urgency every day in our work ethic and our approach. So nothing's changed there. And it's not added pressure because that's just who we are."

Brees – the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns, among several other records – said he pondered the decision and gave himself the necessary time after the season. But now that he's in it, he'll confine his thoughts only to this season, rather than the future.

"A lot of thought, a lot of prayer, a lot of conversations with my wife, with others, with mentors," he said. "At the end of the day, I chose to come back for my team.

"I'm not looking past one day at a time. With the new normal, we're navigating that and I'm just taking it, literally, one day at a time. I'm excited for this season.

"There's obviously a lot of unknowns and there's a lot of variable and there's a lot of things that we're going to have to navigate, but I think that that's something that we've always been very good at. I mean, how many times have we had to evacuate for hurricanes, or have to make adjustments on the fly for various reasons or circumstances? I think it certainly makes you value the type of organization that we're in and the type of guys that we have in the locker room, and the coaching staff, and I think just the consistency of what we have been able to put together here for so long.

"But at the end of the day, my wife and I had this conversation back when I made the decision. Yes, I'm coming back, I want to play for my team. But I also feel that this year is going to be about something much greater than football, and at this point I think that was an understatement."

BREES OPENING STATEMENT: To place context on Brees' "understatement" description, he opened Saturday's teleconference with a lengthy statement, addressing the offseason controversy in which he was embroiled, before fielding questions. Here is that statement, presented in its entirety.

"I've always been someone who has felt compelled to serve. It's the main reason why Brittany and I came to New Orleans (in 2006). There was a time when I really wasn't sure if I would ever play football again, but I knew that I had a chance to be a part of something much greater than myself. And the last 15 years in New Orleans have been some of the proudest, most rewarding moments of our lives. And we've tried to dedicate ourselves to creating a lasting legacy of hope, of love and progress, especially in this city.

"Going back to my comment on June 3, to think for a second that New Orleans, or the state of Louisiana, or the Black community, would think that I was not standing with them for social justice – that completely broke my heart. It was crushing. Never, ever would I feel that way. I recognize that I missed an opportunity that day. I had an opportunity to talk about and emphasize the social injustices that exist for our Black community, and our need as a country to support them and to advocate for systemic change. And my lack of awareness in that moment hurt a lot of people.

"There are three key things I want to make very clear. No. 1, I'll always stand for the flag because of what it means to me and to honor all those who have sacrificed, who have served, and died for our country. And all those who have struggled to move this country forward. Second, I acknowledge and respect anyone who chooses to kneel or any other form of peaceful protest, to bring attention to the social injustices and systemic racism that so many have endured and continue to endure in our country. I will always support and advocate for the Black and brown communities in the fight for social justice. Always.

"Third, I'm the same person now that I've always been. I'm someone who cares deeply for people in my community – New Orleans, the state of Louisiana, people everywhere. I'm someone who will always address the inequities and disparities that exist. I'm someone who has great empathy for those who are hurting, struggling or are victims of injustice. And I'm someone who feels a great sense of responsibility to serve and to lead, and to bring true equality to everyone."

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