Drew Brees has been through a lot in his NFL career, but nothing could have prepared him for a 2012 season in which he would lose his head coach, general manager and two defensive teammates to an NFL suspension process that many people still question. It's been a greater challenge than coming back from the severe shoulder injury that effectively ended his career in San Diego, or helping to bring the New Orleans Saints organization (and the city it calls home) up from its knees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. At 1-4, the Saints have overcome a great deal and are trying to stay on the path.
We recently talked with Brees about several subjects, including his part in the XBox "60 Million Minutes" campaign, which promotes fitness for kids, but we dove into the NFL stuff right away.
You can read Part 1 of our interview here. In Part 2, Brees talks about the holes he sees in the bounty process, Roger Goodell's "success rate" as commissioner and what he would define as the ultimate barometer of success for the 2012 New Orleans Saints.
Shutdown Corner: I've found the bounty investigation and suspension process to be specious at best from the NFL's point of view. When Commissioner Goodell released the letters to the players, explaining his reasoning for re-installing the suspensions of your current and former teammates, it appeared to me as if he moved the goalposts. "You were suspended for this … now, we're re-suspending you for that. We didn't have this evidence, and now it magically appears. We didn't have a signed affidavit from Gregg Williams, and now we do." Now that these new letters and suspensions have come down, do you have a thorough understanding of why these guys have been suspended? Do they?
Drew Brees: I don't. I read Scott Fujita's suspension letter and Jonathan Vilma's suspension letter. And, you're right. In Scott Fujita's suspension letter, he was first being suspended for "contributing significant amounts of money to a pay-to-injure program." In this letter, it says that, well, "we weren't able to find those things, but we believe that you contributed money to a pay-for-performance program, in which you were incentivizing teammates for things like forced fumbles and sacks. So, we're going to suspend you, because that's considered conduct detrimental." Well actually, no, that's a salary cap issue.
So, yeah, I'm reading these letters, and you're right. They've moved the goalposts, and they're playing by a completely different set of rules. And those rules change, however they see fit. I don't believe this process has been executed fairly from the beginning. I feel that there have been biased opinions this entire time, and I think there's an agenda at play here, I feel that there's ego and arrogance involved as well. I feel that there are some personal issues, beyond the facts. I don't believe many of these decisions were based on facts -- certainly not credible information. This is based on speculation, rhetoric and the testimony of two pretty unreliable sources.
So, that part really disappoints me, and I'll say this in all honesty, as a guy who's been in the league for 12 years, I have seen a lot. From an experienced player's perspective, the NFL seems a little out of control right now, in the way it's being conducted and run from the top on down. When you look at the way this replacement-referee situation was handled through the first four games ... it wasn't until a game was actually lost [by the wrong team, in Seattle's 14-12 "win" over the Green Bay Packers]. And the amazing thing was, the NFL actually came out and backed the call made by the referee, when everybody in America -- fans and players, except for maybe Seattle fans and Seattle players -- would sit there and tell you that was an interception. "I don't care when the rule says" … Maybe you'd better change the rule, then. Because if every player in the NFL, and every fan in the NFL, knows that it was an interception, and you're backing the call that says it wasn't, maybe we need to change the rule. Or, it's just a lack of accountability.
I've found that throughout this [bounty] process, as well -- there's been a real lack of leadership and a lack of accountability, from the top down.
SC: Getting back to your team and your season -- it seems that the thing that might most negatively affect you about Sean Payton not being with the team this year is that it's such a physical and mental drain to play quarterback in the NFL -- there is so much asked of you. How much are you affected by the fact that you don't have him as a sounding board in games? Someone who really knows you, and really knows the offense, to see things through your eyes, but also with an objective view, to tell you how to right the ship when that needs to happen?
DB: It's been an adjustment, certainly. Throughout the games, there's a lot of dialogue. I hear his voice in my helmet, and we talk about situations during time-outs, or before critical third downs, or red zone plays. There's a lot of that going on. During the week, too -- there's so much of that during the week, I want to know what's going to come out of his mouth before it does. It's ESP. I want to know what's going to be called in certain situations. I feel that I function so much better that way. Now, Pete Carmichael and I do all the same things that Sean and I used to do. Maybe even more so, because the two of us, we've only had part of last season and this season together in that capacity, where he's the play-caller and I'm the quarterback.
So, we've tried to pick up where we left off with Sean, and I think Pete Carmichael has done an incredible job, but it's a tough situation, no matter how you look at it. Now, we're not going to give ourselves any excuses -- we're professionals, we've been in this system for a long time, and we know it. We feel like we should be successful in this system, no matter what, but there has been a little bit of an adjustment, and I find that we're getting better and better with that each week. Unfortunately, that wasn't good enough to get us a win those first four weeks, but it was this last week. I hope now that we've broken the seal, and this motivates us to get further on -- to get a little bit better each week and start piling on the wins.
SC: How will you define a successful season for the 2012 New Orleans Saints? With all that's gone on, where do you have to finish for you to look back and believe you all did it to the best of your efforts?
DB: Well, you can't sit here and say, "We have to win this many games," but listen, if we don't go to the playoffs, that's disappointing. That is not meeting our expectations or our goals. Honestly, it doesn't matter how we get in, we just want to get in. Because we know we're one of those teams that believes that if we get in, we've got a shot.
SC: Let's say you run the table, and you're the home team in the Super Bowl, and Commissioner Goodell walks up to you. What do you say to him?
DB: Well, is he handing me the Lombardi Trophy or what?
SC: Sure. We're in the realm of the hypothetical here, so we can go all the way for interview purposes. He hands you the trophy, what do you say?
DB: I say, "Thank you, commissioner," and I go celebrate with my teammates. Because I'll tell you what: If we get to that point, we will have fought our tails off, and those are the guys who deserve to be celebrated with.
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