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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.

He will have to do it this year without receiver Joe Horn, who
has signed with the South Division rival Atlanta Falcons, a move
that might intensify the twice-a-season matchup even more.

"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."