Brees squeezes in time to rehab elbow in offseason
METAIRIE, La. -- How's this for an offseason?
Drew Brees played in the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, rode in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, went on vacations with his wife to Costa Rica and Europe, flew with the Blue Angels in southern California and visited troops in the Middle East.
Mixed in were visits to renowned sports medicine surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., because of an elbow injury during the pro bowl, subsequent rehabilitation sessions and even a few rounds of golf when he started to feel better.
Brees squeezed it all into a little more than two months, and on Tuesday was back in Saints workout gear at the team's training headquarters, getting in shape for minicamp in June, followed by training camp in late July at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss.
Brees said he now expects to remain in New Orleans straight through until the Saints pack up for Jackson, and if any fans run into him around town, one thing he does not want them to do is hold doors open for him out of sympathy for his injured elbow.
"No, shoot, I need that work. That's extra rehab," Brees said.
In part because he throws with his right hand, Brees said his injured left elbow was in good enough shape two or three weeks ago for him to play football.
"It's where I want it to be right now," Brees said. "I'm able to do everything in the weight room and with our conditioning program. So I'm good."
Brees said he had no regrets about playing in the Pro Bowl and would be inclined to go back, despite the injury.
"It's a shame that happened, just because I think it did raise a lot of those questions" about whether players should skip it, Brees said. "Being chosen to the Pro Bowl is a tremendous honor. ... Playing in that game is a tremendous honor. As long as I'm invited to play in that game I'm going to play in it. I think that was just a freak deal, and why it happened? I don't know. ... I guess I understand when guys, if they get invited to the Pro Bowl, and they're in a contract year or their contract's being negotiated in February or March, I understand why a guy might not play. Because it might be an unnecessary risk. If something happens to them, they really would lose a lot."
Now in the second year of a six-year contract he signed with New Orleans, Brees counted his weeklong trip to meet with troops in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates as one of the highlights of his time off, even though he was disappointed that an excursion to Baghdad was called off because of an escalation in violence while he was there a few weeks ago.
"I mean, hey, if you go all that way, it might be your only opportunity," Brees said. "I'm not trying to be stupid or anything. I understood that, hey, if it's not safe, it's not safe. But you know, you're that close. You kind of want to see it all, especially if you're as big a fan of the military as I am. ... You want to be as much a part of it as you can without actually taking the live rounds flying by your head."
Brees went with former Chargers teammate Donnie Edwards, who now plays for Kansas City. They had planned to go together when they were still with San Diego in 2005, but Brees' shoulder injury late that season delayed it.
"It was amazing to see these guys and obviously the amount of discipline it takes to do what they do and the amount of commitment," Brees said. "And it was pretty neat because there were a lot of Louisiana and Mississippi, Gulf Coast guys over there. A lot of Saints fans, which was nice. They were all excited obviously about the season and ... asking me about the draft and all that stuff. So that was cool. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
Brees was awe-struck by his flight with the Blue Angels, but that experience also made it harder for him to learn the news of the flying team's accident that killed one of the pilots, Lt. Cmdr. Kevin J. Davis, last weekend. Brees had not flown with Davis, but had met him and the rest of the squadron.
"For something like that to happen, my heart goes out to him and the whole team and the family," Brees said. "You wonder how they go on after something like that. They're professionals, and obviously, when you're in the military, unfortunately, that stuff happens and you try to move on."
Now Brees is trying to get back to football and to build on the most successful Saints season in franchise history.
"It's going to juice it up all right," Brees said. "It's always tough to lose a guy like that. Joe's been the face of this team, heart and soul, always the outspoken one. When I look back on my year with Joe, obviously last year being such a special year, but he was one of the main reasons why it was so special because he's a great teammate. He just brings so much fire and passion to the game, into the locker room and everything else. You can't replace a guy like that. ... This is just part of the business. I think we all understand that. Joe's getting a great opportunity to go to Atlanta and I'm happy for him."
Brees said overall he was happy with the players the Saints were able to retain from last season and with some key additions they made during free agency, including veteran receiver David Patten, who won three Super Bowls with New England, and tight end Eric Johnson, who led San Francisco in receptions three seasons ago.
"I love the guys we have. Eric is going to add another element to that as well," Brees said. "He's a great pass-catcher. I had a chance to throw with him a little bit last week. You can tell, he's just very natural with route-running and catching the ball. I think that's going to help us a lot."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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