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METAIRIE -- "It's not pressure. It's a sense of responsibility.''
That response Tuesday from the NFL's highest-paid player --the New Orleans Saints' first $100 million man -- tells me that quarterback Drew Brees is in mid-season form.
He handled my question at the opening press conference of training camp with the aplomb of someone who truly appreciates what he means to his teammates, his organization, its fan base, the hometown city and Gulf Coast region.
He is not just any player. He is Andrew Christopher Brees.
And with that historic five-year, $100 million contract and $37 million signing bonus comes the heavy burden of not only trying to fulfill his own lofty expectations but also those placed on him by others.
"It's not pressure. It's a sense of responsibility.''
And I predict he will be up to the task.
To borrow a line from Jack Nicholson as Colonel Jessup in "A Few Good Men:" "You don't want me on that wall, you NEED me on that wall.''
Well, the Saints and Who Dat Nation NEED Drew Brees "on that wall,'' particularly in light of what has happened to the team and organization during this offseason. Yes, a $60 million guarantee ($40 million alone this season) is a heavy price to pay but one shudders to think what this team would be like without No. 9.
"It's not pressure,'' Brees said. "It's a sense of responsibility. I'm careful not to put that extra pressure on myself. There might be plenty of reasons where that would be easy to do. In all circumstances - Sean (Payton) not being here, me not being here during the offseason, the contract, all that stuff.
"The fact is I just need to be me.''
So exactly who is Drew Brees? For a partial answer to that question, let's go back to July 13, the day he ended months of sometimes contentious negotiations with team officials and agreed to a blockbuster contract.
Truth is, Brees is many things to many people but first and foremost he's a loving husband and a doting father.
"Somebody asked me what I did right when I found out that the contract was done and we agreed to terms,'' Brees said. "The minute I got off the phone, I changed Bowen's poopy diaper. I then went downstairs and did some little whites in the washer and then I went upstairs and put Baylen's lunch away in the refrigerator.
"That was pretty much standard operation every day during the offseason, so nothing changed. I didn't jump up and down. I didn't do anything. Was I excited? Was I stunned and relieved that it was done? Yes. But other than that, I had the same mindset every day. I was preparing as if I was here or as if I was getting ready to go to work at any moment. My mindset never swayed in any way. It was always the same.''
That determined and unwavering mindset bodes well for a team that finds itself going into "unchartered territory,'' embarking on the great "unknown.''
Those are Brees' words.
"In the end, it's just about doing your job,'' he said. "To me, it's business as usual. I'll be honest, you might look at me and think I'm crazy, especially after the way the whole contract process went throughout this entire offseason, the ups and downs, and how it was dragged out to the very last minute.
"But for me, I could not wait to get back here and get back to work, and get back to playing football, get back to being around the guys in the locker room, on the field, with the fans, and just soaking it all in again and enjoying the moment. And thinking about each day, trying to improve and helping to fulfill my role to take this team where we want to go.''
Where the 2012 Saints team wants to go is as far away from the 2012 offseason as is humanly possible -- "Back to the Benz'' for Super Bowl XLVII.
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