Saints QB Brees calls contract a ‘non-issue’
METAIRIE — Drew Brees had what would have to be an anxious moment for a 38-year-old quarterback entering a contract year.
The New Orleans Saints star nearly became collateral damage when a couple of players got tangled up and tumbled into him during 11-on-11 drills near the end of Thursday’s opening practice of training camp.
Quarterbacks aren’t supposed to be touched during practice, and Brees was grimacing as he rose to his feet. He went back to the huddle, however, and completed a pass to running back Daniel Lasco on the next snap.
“The pile was kind of getting pushed, maybe with pass rushing and that kind of thing,” Brees said while standing in front of his locker in shorts and a T-shirt, showing no evidence of attention from trainers, such as ice or a wrap. “I just kind of went down, but got back up. I’m all good.”
Still, moments like that beg questions whether Brees might want another extension before opposing defenses really are trying to take him down.
“Honestly, my mind has not been there at all,” Brees asserted. “It’s really a non-issue. For me, it’s all about this season and how good can we be this season. That’s really all I’m focused on now.”
On the eve of camp, typically tight-lipped general manager Mickey Loomis declined to answer questions about the possibility of an extension for Brees — or any other player for that matter.
The quarterback said there are not any ongoing contract talks taking place, adding, “I don’t expect them to; I don’t really desire them to.
“That’s not my sense of urgency,” Brees added. “My sense of urgency is in making myself and my team better, and putting ourselves in the best position to go out this year and have success. And I know that that stuff takes care of itself. It takes care of itself when it’s supposed to. It’s just not — that shouldn’t be the priority right now.”
Heading into his 17th NFL season, and having earned about $200 million on playing contracts — never mind endorsements — Brees can afford to put football matters before financial ones.
It certainly sounds like he is.
“I just want to play football,” Brees said. “I want to help this team win.”
Winning hasn’t been easy for the Saints in recent years, even if moving the ball has been. Despite ranking first in the NFL in net yards in 2014 and 2016 (and second in 2015) the Saints have posted three successive 7-9 records.
While it remains to be seen if the Saints can improve a defense that ranked 27th or worse the past three seasons, Brees expects the offense to be strong again. It has been since he and coach Sean Payton first joined forces in 2006.
Brees has yet to show signs of declining performance, and said that as long as he’s in good physical condition, his age could be seen as an advantage.
“There’s knowledge and experience that comes along with that,” Brees said. “I’ve played a lot of football and played a lot of it here, and it’s great having coaches, too, that we’ve all been here together as well.
Payton and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. have been with Brees in New Orleans since 2006.
Quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi and receivers coach Curtis Johnson each had been in New Orleans at least six of the past 11 seasons; both now are in their second stint with the club after a few recent years away.
“There’s just a wealth of this knowledge,” Brees said. “Institutional knowledge.”
Last season, Brees passed for 5,208 yards and 37 touchdowns. But Payton said statistics won’t necessarily be the best measure of what kind of season Brees has.
“The most important thing is for us to win and I think Drew himself would say that,” Payton said. “That’s the stat that we’re playing close attention to.”
NOTES: Rookie Ryan Ramczyk and veteran Khalif Barnes took snaps with the first team as they compete to fill in for injured left tackle Terron Armstead, expected to miss half the season after shoulder surgery. ... The Saints gave third-year linebacker Stephone Anthony an opportunity to take first-team snaps at the weak side spot. Dannell Ellerbe, expected to be released when he comes off the club’s injured reserve list, was the starter at that spot when healthy the past two seasons. ... Cornerback Damian Swan and tight end John Phillips did not participate in the opening practice. Payton said Swan was not able to pass a conditioning test on Wednesday and Phillips was ill.