With the New Orleans Saints set to open training camp less than three weeks from now, I had the opportunity to interview Saints quarterback Drew Brees last Thursday. Brees, who was speaking to us on behalf of Can-Am Spyder, touched upon various subjects ranging from how long he plans to play football for the Saints, to the decision by NFL arbitrator Stephen Burbank to rule in favor of the Saints following the Jimmy Graham tight end/wide receiver grievance hearing.
We also discussed how Brees retired for a day in order to enjoy riding the Can-Am Spyder three wheels motorcycle, since his National Football League contract forbids him to ride any type of motorcycles. Fret not however, Brees ended his one-day (fictional) retirement after cruising around New Orleans and he will indeed start for the Saints in 2014.
This was my first ever interview with an NFL player, let alone the quarterback of the team I root for and a superstar like Drew Brees. The experience was a blast, although next time I'll try and remember not to say "absolutely" about 1000 times. Oh and I'm giving Drew some serious props for understanding my French/African/Pan-American accent! :-)
Below are the transcripts of the interview (you can also hear the entire conversation with Drew in the podcast attached)
Canal Street Chronicles: Hi Drew, good afternoon, thank you so much for giving us a little bit of your time today.
Drew Brees: Yeah, no problem.
CSC: So Drew, you have training camp coming fast, three weeks away. But before we look ahead, I just wanted you to give us maybe your final impression of the 2013 season?
DB: Well, you know we had certainly as good a chance as anybody I thought, going into the playoffs. The regular season is merely just preparation I think, for the postseason. So you're putting yourself in the best position to succeed, by hopefully creating some type of momentum. Obviously we didn't have homefield-advantage; we were the Wild Card team, so we had to go on the road. We did, and won a big game at Philadelphia which had won 10 out of 12, they were a pretty good team going into that game. And then, obviously went on the road at Seattle and I felt like we battled them extremely hard, certainly played them better than the first time we played up there about a month earlier and we had a chance and I think that's all you can ask for. We know how good they are, we also know that they're going to be around for a while, as is San Francisco, as are some of these other teams that have been going deep in the playoffs for the last three years. At the end of the day, (you do) whatever you got to do to win a championship: so you evaluate your team, what areas you can improve upon, areas where you can create competition for positions and roles. I feel like we hold the pieces in place to make another run at it, obviously you got to have some things kind of go your way, have the ball bounce your way, but at the end of the day you just want a chance and I feel like we really have as good a chance as anybody.
CSC: Speaking of the Seahawks, this is one of the rare teams that you have now lost to three times in a row. Is it almost a team that you're looking forward to facing again, maybe in the playoffs this year to kind of set things right?
DB: Well, I mean here's the thing: that team, we just played (them) twice. Last time we played them twice in 2010. They came to our place and we waxed them and then we went up their place in the playoffs and then had a tough go, it was a high scoring game, we ended up losing but you know, all we care about is obviously put ourselves in the best position to compete in the playoffs, and you got to first of all look at your own division and think about how we're going to get past these guys. I think we've had as strong a division as anybody over the last few years. Atlanta has been extremely strong, obviously they had a tough go last year but they're going to bounce back. Carolina has been strong obviously they were our division winner last year. Tampa is going to be rebuilt, rejuvenated with Lovie Smith now their coach and the talent they've gone out and got in free agency and through the draft the last two years so it all starts in our division, we've got to put ourselves in our division to hopefully win and gain some kind of homefield-advantage and then be able to compete in the playoffs. But man, it's one game at a time; you can tell anybody can beat anybody else on any given Sunday. We're not necessarily worried about anybody that is not on our schedule at this point. Seattle is not on our schedule and obviously we know that if things go the way that we have planned, in the playoffs we imagine that they'll be there and we'll have to face them, but there's a lot of football to be played before then.
CSC: Getting back to training camp, this year you're going to repeat something you did in 2009, which was really interesting: you went for a week in Oxnard, Southern California. This year you're going to go to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. Do you like that or do you feel like it's a little bit of a disruption?
DB: No, I like the fact that we're going away, you know for a portion of camp, I think it makes it all about football; the focus is going to be all about football. It gets us into some better weather conditions, so hopefully we'll be able to get more reps outdoors as opposed to when you have a practice in New Orleans, it's so hot and humid, the number of guys you have is decreased so there's only so many reps you can get outside before guys are just wasted. I think that'll give us more of an opportunity to get more reps and it'll eliminate distractions. I think there can be distractions when you're at home, whereas when you're on the road, it kind of cuts away with those distractions and it becomes all about football.
CSC: Speaking of distractions, I can't help but ask you this: so you've probably heard that yesterday Stephen Burbank, the NFL arbitrator ruled that Jimmy Graham is a tight end rather than a wide receiver. Do you agree with that decision? What are your thoughts about this?
DB: It doesn't really matter. At the end of the day, Jimmy Graham has revolutionized the position. He's a guy who is so talented at so many things you know and obviously he's a big part of our offense and I hope that they're able to reach a long-term agreement here sooner than later. At the end of the day, this is part of the process and I think we all understand that. I was in somewhat of a similar position two years ago, so I get it, I understand how this goes, but he knows that all of his teammates are behind him and hoping that he's able to get what he deserves and then rejoin the team as quickly as possible.
CSC: Are you confident that they're going to reach an agreement soon?
DB: Yeah! Yeah I am. I know the opportunity to reach a long-term agreement goes until July 15th so we've got a couple of weeks here, but you know I'm anxious and hopeful that it'll happen.
CSC: Drew you're speaking to us today on behalf of Can-Am Spyder and I'm really appreciative of your time. So I'm really curious and a lot of fans asked me when they knew I was going to talk to you: can you please first tell us how you got involved with them? But then what they were really curious about is: is there really a stipulation in your contract that forbids you from riding motorcycles?
DB: (laughs) Yeah I mean, there are certain things that are kind of forbidden in your contract that would be considered just outside the realm of your normal training regimen. I mean I think part of your contract just expects you to do everything that is kind of football-related and if that's not something that is helping you become a better football player you know, then it's more so maybe a suggestion (not to do it). It kind of puts all the responsibility into your hands when it comes to that kind of stuff.
You know, I've been a fan of Can-Am for a long time, I've got quite a few friends who actually own Can-Am Spyders and that's how I first heard about them, it was just friends of mine saying that they'd bought them and they absolutely loved them so that's what piqued my interest initially. And then the opportunity came about to work with them and you know, we obviously had to be very creative with the way that we were able to put that together because you know, it's not technically something that my contract allows me to do right now, but certainly if I was not playing football or had that contractual obligation, it's something I would love to do. So that's where we were very creative with the marketing campaign and I'm very upfront when I say that this is something that I would love to do but I can't do it till I'm done playing since my contract forbids me to do it, but it doesn't mean that you can't, so basically do it for me (laughs).
I had the opportunity to get on the Can-Am Spyder when we did the shoot and it's unbelievable, just the experience that is provides. You get that open-air feel like you would on a motorcycle, but yet so much more stable with that Y-frame design, that's what I love about it, I think that's what a lot of people love about it. I think it provides people with a great opportunity to kind of see how that open road feels but with the control and the stability of that Y-frame design.
CSC: So you're telling us you were not the one coming out of the box with the doves flying in the air there with the smoke?
DB: (laughs) No, that wasn't me. That was a stunt double. That wasn't me cruising around New Orleans. But of course, that's the funny part of it you know, we were making it look like I was free-wheeling, I retired for a day so I could ride the Can-Am Spyder, I cruised around, had a bunch of fun then I came out of retirement to play football.
CSC: Well Drew, we have a couple of minutes here so I'm going to hit you with a few more football questions. We had some fans asking, you broke several records in the NFL in your career and I'm sure there are many ahead but what moment was, maybe the most memorable for you: when you broke Dan Marino's single season passing yards back in 2011 or when a year later you broke Johnny Unitas' 47-game with a TD pass record?
DB: Yeah, they were all pretty significant; I have great memories from both. I think Unitas record spanned over the course of four seasons, so it included so many people. So many people were a part of that because it was four-seasons long unlike the passing record which was basically one season long. I'd say that was the difference but they were both significant.
CSC: The last question is a question that is something that is in the back of everybody's head: so after this season, how long do you plan to play football Drew? Looks you could have a future in TV?
DB: You know what, I'm going to play football as long as I can, as long as I'm healthy and I play at a high level and I'm enjoying myself. I don't know why I wouldn't play as long as I possibly could. But I'm just going to take it one year at a time and just enjoy the moment, just understand that every year provides such a great challenge and so, you certainly can't look too far ahead but I'm excited about this year and I'm 35 years old this will be my fourteenth season and let's see how many more we can put together.
CSC: I think Saints fans are really happy to hear that. Thank you so much for the time Drew, happy fourth to you and yours!
DB: Alright man, you too. Have a good one.
Special thanks to Drew Brees for being so gracious with his time on the eve of a holiday weekend. Big thanks to Brooke Boudart of Burson-Marsteller for setting up the interview.