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Transcript: Drew Brees training camp conference call - Monday, August 17

New Orleans Saints quarterback spoke with media about new quarterback room, offensive weapons and more

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees
Training Camp Videoconference Call with New Orleans Media
Monday, August 17, 2020

Before we get into opening up camp, I was just curious what your thoughts were on Alex Smith being cleared to return to football.
"Yeah, man, I was really excited for him. I've known Alex a long time. Ever since his, rookie year, second year in the league, we actually trained together in San Diego. He is a San Diego kid went to Helix High School, was friends with Reggie (Bush). So we all trained together for a bit way back then, shoot what, 15, 16 years ago. So, obviously, such a tragic injury and what he has had to endure since then. Just to be able to get back on the field again and play the game he loves and he's had to overcome so much. So him and his family have been in my prayers. I've been in touch with him a little bit during that time. Actually, when I heard the news yesterday I shot him a text just to tell him how happy and excited I was for him and he responded back so I'm sure he's really excited, really relieved to be able to get back out there again."

What has this new normal been like for you as far as just all the protocols and doing this press conference on zoom and all that?
"Yes. It is different. Obviously, we are used to training camp, having fans out there, creating a little bit of an atmosphere, spending time with them after practice, seeing you guys out there as well and in the locker room too. All this is a bit different. We're taking it as it comes. Obviously, the rules are such that we had this ramp up period. So it's not like we jumped right into practice, but you know what, I thought it was a good opportunity for us to take what is what is this year's team, with the addition of the rookies and the free agents and spend a lot of time together just doing a lot of fundamental things that otherwise you'd just jump right into pads and you'd get going. This has given us an opportunity to focus on some of the details, (such as) watch a little bit more film. So we've tried to make the most of it."

Is it a relief just to even be out there considering everything was such a question not too long ago?
"Yeah. Listen, I think we've all been pretty confident that we were going to play. We just didn't know under what circumstances or parameters or protocols. Listen, we show up at the facility every morning and take a COVID test and we're trying to display a lot of personal responsibility with wearing masks and that sort of thing around the facility. We've all got these tracers on our wrists that track kind of where you are and who you're in contact with and all that stuff. I think whether you're staying at home or staying in the hotel, guys are just exhibiting a lot of personal responsibility there as well. I think we've handled it all very well. I think that our organization has obviously worked very hard from Beau Lowery in the training room to Coach (Sean) Payton to Mickey (Loomis) to just the entire staff just in the way that we're trying to make this as safe of an environment as possible so we can all do our jobs."

Am I wrong that this is a new look for you? I know you shaved your head for charity earlier this offseason. Is a summer cut or is this inspired by anything?
"Well, it's a little bit of both, it makes me feel younger. Especially when I'm losing hair up top, I might as well just cut it off. But, when it's a when it's when it's 1000 degrees outside, it cools things off a bit."

What are your impressions of Jameis Winston actually seeing him on the field and going through drills with him for a couple weeks now?
"Yeah, I have been impressed with Jameis. He loves football, he loves the game, he loves to compete. Great personality, (a) very likable guy, wants to learn. So all those things are the first components that you kind of see and recognize. Obviously, we are just getting into pads and so we are just getting into real life situations that we are trying to create in practice. The reps have been somewhat limited for all of us up to this point. But as that ramps up, I really like our quarterback room, me, Taysom and Jameis. I think we all work well together."

You alluded to it there, how did it feel to get out there in pads today and just throw things around as normal as it can possibly be right now?
"Yeah. It is different. Obviously, today was short, it is this ramp up so I think it was 90 minutes on the field today, which is pretty brief for a for a training camp practice. But, again, (we're) just trying to maximize the reps, make the most of it, create a sense of urgency with everything we do so we can maximize the reps."

You went to I think Colorado to work out some with Emmanuel Sanders, but what has it been like to have for a little bit more extended period of time, do you see the chemistry developing there?
"Yeah, absolutely and he is a pro. I think that is what you recognize with these veteran receivers. I recognized it with Ted Ginn when he came in three years ago was, there's just a veteran presence, a mature nature and just a way that he goes about his work and his business and his preparation, his attention to detail, and just a lot of little things just begin to pop up and you realize why he's been able to play at such a high level for so long. I'm really excited to have Emmanuel, I think he's going to add a great element to what we do. He's another weapon, he's got a great skill set and I feel like every day we're just continuing to get on the same page and work through the nuances of this offense and this system so that we're speaking the same language out there."

What are your impressions of Tommy Stevens so far and then second, I'm curious, how the update on eliminating your finger licking habit is coming?
"So Tommy's been great. Talk about a guy who's just been willing to do whatever we're asking him to do. I think the vision for him coming in was, obviously, he was a quarterback, but we could put him in this Taysom Hill kind of role where he's such a big, strong, good athlete, that he could provide this dimension, maybe at the tight end position or this f position. And he's actually embraced that role really well. I know he did a little bit of it in college, but obviously you're stepping up to a whole other level when you talk about the NFL, but he's a smart guy. He's been able to pick it up relatively quickly, just watching him run routes and watching them do certain tight end type things, you actually kind of shake your head and say, 'it shouldn't be that comfortable or natural for a guy who hasn't been doing it very long and certainly going against this level of competition.' I've been impressed mostly just with his desire to do whatever it takes to help the team, to get on the field and to develop as a player. Then the finger licking, I can't really think of a time where I've licked my fingers. So we'll see."

Emmanuel Sanders said the other day, you were instrumental in bringing Bennie Fowler in, what stood out to you about him from that workout that you have together?
"(A) veteran, mature, obviously, his size and physical skills I think are unique for receiver. Bennie is about 6'1, 6'2, over 200 pounds. So he is big, strong, powerful. The way he ran routes, you could tell there was a veteran nature too, he had an understanding of concepts and how to get open and what to do at the top of the route, how to get separation, just some of the little things that typically it takes younger receivers a while to learn and understand at this level. Obviously, Bennie, this is going to be his seventh year and he's a guy who came in as an undrafted free agent so we say that he came in the hard way, right? He's had to earn it each and every year, he's had to play a ton of special teams. So, to me, those guys are just football players. They're football players, whatever you need for them to do, they're willing to step in and do it and at times that's the dirty work. They've got to block, they've got to run, they've got to tackle, they've got to do all this stuff, until they get the chance to run routes, to catch passes. I know that he's had to do a little bit of everything and he has been in positions where he's had to be the starter, right? In New York, I think two years ago, he was the starter opposite Odell Beckham for a while. So I know he has done a lot of good things. He certainly earned the position that he has right now. And I like seeing guys like that succeed. I loved just the time that we had together during the offseason and felt like he would be a great addition to our team and listen, we've got some young receivers, too, that are battling. But at the very least, bring him in and let's see how this competition plays out."

We saw you were still working with Erik McCoy in today's practice, but have you either taken time one on one or in drills to try to work on your rhythm with Cesar Ruiz or do you plan to do that going forward?
"Yes, we've had a lot of reps just with walkthroughs, to practice, etc. Those guys have been working and rotating. We are mixing and matching quite a bit right now just to see what might end up being the final lineup, but at the end of the day I think all those guys know we can mix and match a little bit. That's the versatility we have at that position, especially with our center/guards, all of them have played center or guard, right? At the end of the day, we'll choose what the best lineup is when the time comes. But in the meantime, I think all those guys know that their ability to do a little bit everything and be versatile and to kind of roll with it is what we need right now."

Do you have any impressions of Ruiz? Just how quick he picks things up?
"Yeah, he comes across as a really sharp, smart football player, a guy that is not fazed by the speed or the strength on the other side of the ball. He's got a great skill, but listen, coming from the Big 10, you see a lot of O-linemen come out of the Big 10. They've had to play against some pretty stiff competition so I sense a level of maturity from him, especially for being such a young guy. He's not afraid of the challenge, not afraid to work. So we'll see how that plays out, but I've been impressed with him."

We talked to Michael Thomas, I think it was last week or whenever it was, he mentioned that he thinks he might can break that record. Is that possible and what does it say about him that 150 (catches) is something that he's even thinking about?
"Yeah, that is a lot of catches (laughter). Listen, anything is possible. I think that just goes to show where his head's at, his level of preparation, intensity, expectation level and just how he approaches each and every day and each and every game. I think in his mind, and for me, it's like, alright, he's uncomfortable. There is always a place where Mike is going to create some separation or give you a place where you can throw the ball where he can get it and the other guy can't. I think most elite receivers, number ones, have that mentality like, man, I'm never covered, I'm always going to find a way to get open. But, I think the benefit too that Mike has is when you have got these other weapons around him, it's not like you can just focus on Mike, right? We can beat you with a lot of different guys and (in) a lot of different ways. I think all those guys, like the addition of Emmanuel Sanders, and obviously Jared Cook, another season in this offense and Tre'Quan Smith, and obviously Alvin (Kamara) and Latavius (Murray) and then other weapons that would potentially evolve through camp, all those guys do nothing but help Mike and add more versatility to the offense."

Talking to Joe Lombardi a couple weeks ago, we were asking about your turnover numbers (the) last three years being very good and his answer was, well, Drew just decided to stop throwing interceptions. So I guess the question is, how long did it take you to get to a point where you could just kind of decide this is what I'm going to do and then actually, like, had that take effect on the field?
"Yeah, that's something that takes a while. I've even studied guys over the years, like Aaron Rodgers, like (Tom) Brady, some of the great players and just kind of that evolution of being a younger player, let's just say even in your first ten years, your first ten years as a starter. You are you are still growing and maturing so much and I think one of the big indicators of that is when you are able to recognize just what a big difference that part of your game makes. It's that fine line between playing so confident and aggressive, that you know when to take the chance or when not to take the chance, right? How to kind of calculate how high percentage that throw is or how necessary that throw is in that situation versus just checking it down, maybe playing a little bit more safe, and then coming back to it another time. It just comes with experience. I would say that certainly over the last three years especially I've really tried to make a great emphasis on the decision making that goes into taking care of the football. It doesn't take away the confidence, it doesn't take away the aggressive nature, but there just is that element of understanding just how important a statistic is and winning and losing."

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