Brees: ‘American people need sports right now’

  • Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
  • Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
  • Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate

Drew Brees said Wednesday on “The Ellen Show” that he thinks “the American people need sports right now.” The New Orleans Saints quarterback is also eager to return to the field this fall so he can compete against new NFC South rival Tom Brady.

“Yeah, well, the division just got a little bit better, didn’t it?” Brees said with a laugh when asked about Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “And in addition to that, Teddy Bridgewater — who played so well for us with the Saints last year when I got hurt — he’s now the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. So our division has Teddy Bridgewater, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and myself with the Saints.

“It’s always been a very challenging division, and it just kicked up a notch.”

Brees and his wife, Brittany, discussed a variety of topics with host Ellen DeGeneres, including home-schooling their four children and their $5 million pledge to help Louisiana get through the coronavirus pandemic.

Brees said he hopes that sports can return and be part of the recovery process.

“That’s typically something that’s really brought us through a lot of tough situations throughout our country,” Brees said. “I think people have been able to lean on their local sports teams or national teams to just unite them and get their minds off the challenges of daily life or daily struggle.

“We don’t even have that right now, and I think that’s another reason why this is so tough. And obviously we hope that football can be back to normal — or this can be back to normal so that we can play real football.”

Brees talked about the possibility of playing games in empty stadiums, saying he had never thought about the idea of playing without fans before and that it would be “really weird.”

“From Texas high school football, through college in the Big Ten, to games now in the Superdome, you’re used to those loud, electric atmospheres,” Brees said. “And so I think it would be really weird. Maybe you just click in and you’re in the zone.

“But I tell you where the fans really help is whenever you get hit and knocked down and you’re wondering what happened, you just listen to the sound of the fans and they usually tell you whether the ball was complete or not. So that was one big benefit; obviously, we miss out on that. But it would be really weird. I hope we’re obviously beyond that, and we can get back to that level of normalcy.”

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Saints set up draft headquarters in brewery

  • Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
  • Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
  • Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate

METAIRIE, La. – With NFL facilities closed during the coronavirus pandemic, the New Orleans Saints had to find a new space to set up their makeshift draft headquarters.

So they turned to their draught headquarters.

The Saints have set up shop in the brand new Dixie Brewing Company facility in New Orleans East, which is also owned by team owner Gayle Benson – and is closed to the public for the time being. Saints coach Sean Payton said the team is prepared to stay at the brewery through the draft on April 23-25 if needed.

Payton said staff members are following all CDC guidelines, with only about 6-7 people on site and spread out from each other in a big board room, including Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant general manager Jeff Ireland. Each day, everyone takes their temperature upon arrival.

Everyone else joins the discussions via video conference, including scouts and position coaches as needed.

“This facility is fantastic,” Payton said. “There’s no one out here. We have our board set up, we’ve got seven monitors. … We’re certainly distanced away from each other. There’s plenty of space. And then the monitors have all the scouts and everyone else, so the total people (involved) in the meeting might be 20.”

Payton, who was diagnosed with coronavirus two weeks ago before being cleared last week, joked that, “I’m kind of like the guy they all want to sit away from.” But he said now that he has already had the virus, “I’m like, ‘Look, I’m the safest guy in the room here.'”

The Saints also considered using space at the Benson Tower office building downtown but liked both the space available and the remote location at Dixie Brewing.

The Saints have also been holding “virtual meetings” with many draft prospects over video chats in lieu of pro days.

“Anyone we didn’t get completely at the combine or had follow-up work to do,” Payton said.

But Payton did admit that it will be tougher for teams to evaluate players who had injury or character question marks.

“There’s probably more unchecked boxes this year for teams than normal because that month of March after the combine was eliminated. But, look, that’s part of the deal,” Payton said. “In the normal schedule you might fly that player in and investigate the data a little bit more, the injury a little bit more. If it was a character concern, you might bring that player in or go to the school and spend more time. … You may not be able to clarify or clean up some of the question marks that you normally would in each year.

“So how do we philosophically then approach the draft this year? I think it’s a great question. You might be more conservative relative to aversion to taking a risk if you don’t have the information you’re looking for.”

As for getting treatment for injured players and getting new players acclimated to the playbook, Payton said most of that has been normal so far, with players still having access to the training staff or choosing to be treated elsewhere if desired. If the quarantine continues into the summer, Payton said it would be reminiscent of the 2011 lockout – and that he is confident players will be diligent in those areas even when they’re away from the team facility.

“A lot of it will be done either via the mail, via the phone, and we’ll get those players up to speed as quickly as possible once we’re together,” Payton said. “These are all paid professionals. These guys are all going to understand the importance of taking care of their body. Certainly it’s easier when they’re at your facility, but clearly, with where we’re at today, most all of them are at home with their families where they should be. …

“I think one of the things we do well is adjust. Whether a schedule changes and all of a sudden you’re playing at a different time, you’re having to play over in London, maybe there’s a hurricane that forces you out of the city for a week. No different than any one of those things, albeit on a larger scale — this is certainly at a large scale. We’ll adjust accordingly and get the information to our players, and then plan accordingly.”

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Saints will have NFL Draft war room at New Orleans brewery

If the Saints can’t conduct their 2020 NFL Draft in their usual war room, they’ll just have to go for the next-best thing: a brewery.

Saints coach Sean Payton on Wednesday told the “Rich Eisen Show” that, in lieu of the team’s usual war room, they’ll conduct their draft at New Orleans’ Dixie Beer brewery — owned by Saints owner Gayle Benson, and under current social distancing guidelines, of course.

Leave it to the Saints to make the best of a bad situation as coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact the sports world. That said, something tells us they’ll put a hold on celebratory drinks until after the draft (or the first few rounds, at least).

After the Saints make their selections — Sporting News projects them to take LSU linebacker Patrick Queen with the 24th overall pick — their next big choice will be whether to go for the Dixie Light or the Dixie Lager. Or maybe something from the Voodoo series?

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Drew Brees donating $5 million to State of Louisiana

Drew Brees is giving back to the community in a big way during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback announced Thursday, he and his family will donate $5 million to help deliver meals to needy people in Louisiana.

"Brittany and I are committing $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana in 2020," Brees wrote. "The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time. After considerable research and conversations with local organizations, we will be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need. Let’s all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together."

Brittany and I are committing $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana in 2020. The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time. After considerable research and conversations with local organizations, we will be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need. Let’s all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on

Louisiana has been among the most hard-hit by the novel coronavirus that continues to spread throughout the United States.

Saints coach Sean Payton was the first in the NFL community to announce he contracted the virus. The coach said Wednesday he has since been cleared.

Brees’ donation continues the growing trend of players and clubs alike making big donations to help those most devastated by local shutdowns due to the pandemic.

The Detroit Lions announced quarterback Matthew Stafford and his wife Kelly are launching programs on multiple levels this week to assist in dealing with changes in daily life and hardships brought on by the virus.

Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon and his girlfriend Treyleanna Robinson are partnering with Feeding Northeast Florida to greater Jacksonville respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported. The couple has pledged a donation that will provide over 10,000 meals to those affected by the ongoing crisis, Garafolo added.

Following the Denver Broncos’ $500,000 donation to the Colorado COVID-19 Relief Fund, they announced general manager John Elway is personally donating $50,000 to help support our community during this time of need.

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WR Sanders agrees to 2-year deal with Saints

Veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has agreed to a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, he told ESPN’s Josina Anderson and Ed Werder.

Sanders had appealing NFC options. Sanders spoke with the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers but preferred to wind up with the Saints, where he landed a $16 million deal worth up to $19 million, sources tell ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“Still got to take a physical but it’s a done deal,” Sanders told Anderson.

A No. 2 receiver has been the Saints’ most glaring need for the past two years, with the team kicking the tires on the likes of Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Cameron Meredith during that span.

All-Pro Michael Thomas had 119 more catches than any other wide receiver on the Saints’ roster last year. And that No. 2 receiver, Ted Ginn Jr., is now a free agent who turns 35 next month.

Sanders seems to be an ideal fit for the Saints, since he lines up frequently in the slot and since Drew Brees thrives on accuracy with a heavy dose of short and midrange passes. Sanders is known as a terrific route runner, and he could help fill the type of role that former Saints receivers like Lance Moore and Willie Snead filled.

Sanders made quite a personal impression on the Saints last December, when he caught seven passes for 157 yards against them in the Superdome, including a 75-yard touchdown. Sanders also completed a 35-yard TD pass in that thrilling 48-46 win for the San Francisco 49ers, which helped decide the pecking order in the NFC playoffs.

The Saints are extremely low on cap space now and could possibly require some additional roster moves to free up more space from this point forward.

Acquired before the trade deadline by the 49ers last season, Sanders walked into the team’s receiver room and was instantly the most accomplished player there. For a team in need of a reliable veteran, Sanders proved the ideal midseason addition.

He played in 10 games for the Niners in the regular season, posting 36 catches for 502 yards and three touchdowns, and started all their postseason contests. Beyond his on-field production, Sanders, who turns 33 on March 17, became a mentor and leader to the team’s young wideouts.

Sanders was originally a third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010 and won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos before the Niners traded for him.

In 144 career regular-season games, he has 601 catches for 7,893 yards and 42 touchdowns.

ESPN’s Mike Triplett and Nick Wagoner contributed to this report.

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Saints coach Payton tests positive for coronavirus

  • ESPN NFL Insider
  • Joined ESPN in 2009
  • Former president of the Pro Football Writers of America and the author of four books

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton tested positive for the coronavirus, he told ESPN on Thursday.

Payton is the first person in the NFL world known to test positive for the virus.

Payton said he didn’t feel well this past Sunday, took the test on Monday, and received the results Thursday afternoon. Payton is resting at home, fatigued, but said he is one of the 20 percent of the cases that has no fever and no cough. But now he will be quarantined in his home through the weekend, and he said he is upbeat and optimistic about a full recovery.

Payton said he came forward with the diagnosis because he wants all people to heed the warnings of government officials, stay inside, and behave responsibly.

“This is not just about social distancing,” Payton told ESPN. “It’s shutting down here for a week to two weeks. If people understand the curve, and understand the bump, we can easily work together as a country to reduce it. Take a minute to understand what the experts are saying. It’s not complicated to do what they’re asking of us. Just that type of small investment by every one of us will have a dramatic impact.

“I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have. I’m lucky. Younger people feel like they can handle this, but they can be a carrier to someone who can’t handle it. So we all need to do our part. It’s important for every one of us to do our part.”

The virus has spread throughout the world, and Louisiana has been one of the most-infected states.

“The concern with Louisiana is the amount of people that come in and out of this area after Mardi Gras season. This is an area that doctors are concerned about. So our parents, and those that are more susceptible to this virus, deserve everyone doing their best to combat it.

“There are hundreds of people right now in tough predicaments, fighting for their lives. Let’s be part of the solution, not the problem. We can easily help reduce the numbers of those impacted. We have to do our best to beat this and I know we can.”

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Source: Brees reaches 2-year deal with Saints

  • Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
  • Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
  • Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate

METAIRIE, La. — Drew Brees has agreed to a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints that is worth approximately $50 million, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

The $25 million per year is the same value as the previous deal he signed with the Saints in 2018. The deal is even more team-friendly than last time, considering the inflation of quarterback salaries since then.

The NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdown passes was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday. But as promised, he didn’t even test the open market heading into his 20th NFL season.

It’s unclear whether the deal includes voidable years tacked on beyond 2021 — but that is likely so that the Saints can spread out the salary-cap costs.

Brees, who turned 41 in January, made it clear that he would play only for the Saints after announcing last month that he was planning to come back and “make another run at it.”

Still, it was important for New Orleans to get the deal done with Brees before the start of the new league year on Wednesday to avoid being hit with the full $21.3 million salary-cap charge in “dead money” from his previous deal.

That’s crucial because the Saints entered this week with less than $10 million in cap space.

The Saints almost certainly can’t afford to bring back all three of their quarterbacks from last season, though, as backup Teddy Bridgewater is also an unrestricted free agent and backup Taysom Hill is a restricted free agent.

Bridgewater, 27, is likely to be the odd man out — especially if he earns an opportunity to start elsewhere after his impressive 5-0 stint in 2019 while Brees was sidelined by a thumb injury.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported last week that the Saints plan to place a first-round tender on Hill with a qualifying offer of just under $5 million. That means the Saints could match any offer that Hill might sign with another team or receive a first-round draft pick from that team as compensation.

The Saints could also work out a long-term extension instead with the versatile 29-year-old Hill, whom they view as a possible successor to Brees whenever he does retire.

Brees has repeatedly said that he believes he could play at a high level through age 45 — but only if he wants to keep playing that long. He has been taking that decision “year by year” for the past several years now.

In the meantime, Brees has also agreed to be paid “year by year” with a series of contracts that guarantee him only one year of salary at a time. The last time he was a free agent in 2018, he also accepted slightly less than market value with a two-year, $50 million contract that included just $27 million guaranteed.

Since then, Brees has broken Peyton Manning’s NFL records for both career passing yards (77,416 and counting) and career passing TDs (547 and counting). And he has actually posted the two best passer ratings of his career (116.3 in 2019 and 115.7 in 2018).

Brees and the Saints had a disappointing finish last season with a wild-card playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings after a 13-3 regular season. Brees threw for just 208 yards with one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble in that game.

However, Brees was playing some of the best football of his career before that, despite the thumb injury. He was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for December, when he threw 15 touchdowns with zero turnovers and completed a NFL-record 29 of 30 passes in a Week 15 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Saints coach Sean Payton said in late January that it’s hard for him to see any drop-off in Brees’ performance.

“I’m watching this guy perform, and again his numbers this year exceeded last year’s. The job is for him to win, and he’s done that,” Payton said. “Look, is the ball going down the field the same way? Maybe it’s not. And yet his yards per completion and all those things have been real good.”

Brees said late last season that when you combine that efficiency with “all the experience and wisdom, I think that just allows you to maintain your prime for longer and longer.”

“I really do feel like I should be better every week and every year,” Brees said.

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Alvin Kamara 'back to 100' percent after playing at 75

Alvin Kamara basically carried the Drew Brees-less New Orleans Saints to a Week 3 win in Seattle in Teddy Bridgewater’s first start. Kamara shed tacklers like he was taking off a raincoat and tossed aside defender after defender. The running back compiled 161 of the Saints 265 yards and scored twice.

Then the injuries began to take their toll.

Dealing with ankle and knee issues at different points of the 2019 campaign, Kamara didn’t look quite like the player we were used to seeing.

He was still good, mind you, but lacked that extra layer of spice that makes a great dish a mind-altering experience. Kamara seemed to shed fewer tackles, pop less big runs, and his wiggle looked a smidge less wiggly.

Entering his fourth season, the 24-year-old believes he’s put the injury issues in the past.

In response to a video of his 2019 top plays posted by the NFL Twitter handle, Kamara wrote "On 1 leg… At 75%.. but we back to 100, (heart emoji)"

On 1 leg… At 75%.. but we back to 100 ❤️

The Saints need a 100 percent Kamara to win their fourth-straight NFC South title and get over the elusive playoff hump.

When healthy, Kamara is one of the most dangerous weapons in the entire NFL, with the ability to slip a tackle and make a house call at any moment. Even at 75 percent, he’s still a matchup nightmare, but those explosive players were fewer and further between during the second half of last season.

Keeping Kamara closer to 100 percent for most of the 2020 campaign might have to entail Sean Payton not overworking his star running back early in the season, and leaning on Latavius Murray more often in the run game.

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