SC Interview: Brees says he played this season with a torn MCL

Drew Brees(notes) is in Hawaii for the 2011 Pro Bowl and working with the NFL and Procter & Gamble on the largest charity effort in league history. Earlier this week, we spoke on the phone with him to ask him about the NFL playoffs, how to beat the Steelers and, of course, Jay Cutler(notes).

Shutdown Corner: Thanks for talking to us, Drew. You're in Hawaii now for the Pro Bowl. Did you have a chance to catch much football this weekend?

Drew Brees: Yeah, I watch all the games, at least as much as I can of them in between chasing my sons around the house. I love the game, what else can I say? I'm a quarterback in the NFL, but I'm also a fan of football. I watch the games and try to put myself in the moment.

SC: The big news of the weekend, as I'm sure you're aware, wasn't the Steelers and the Packers advancing to the Super Bowl, but of Jay Cutler's injury. It was revealed Monday that he suffered an MCL tear. A lot of players on Twitter and television shows criticized Cutler for coming out of the game. Your teammate, Heath Evans(notes), was on ESPN today and questioned it. He said you played six weeks this season with an MCL sprain of your own. Is it ever fair to question the players toughness like that?

DB: No, it's not fair unless you know exactly what it is. And I think at this point there's varying degrees of when MCL tear or sprain can be. In essence, it's the same thing. An MCL sprain means you tore your MCL to some degree. In some cases I know players that have torn an MCL and been out for six weeks. In some cases it's four weeks. In some cases it's two. And sometimes you're able to fight through and play. None of us know exactly what is, nobody except Jay Cutler and the Bears training staff. So it's nothing that any of us have the right to comment on because we just don't know.

SC: Did you play this season with a sprained MCL?

DB: I did, I did.

SC: And will that require surgery in the off-season or is that something that heals on its own?

DB: No, it heals on its own. I think there might be the most severe cases where there might be some kind of repair that would require surgery but in the majority of cases it's something that just heals on its own.

SC: Is it tougher to watch this year knowing what it's like to win it all?

DB: It's the same kind of feeling as every year; you're just a little disappointed. It seems like the closer you get to the Super Bowl without playing in it the harder it becomes, because you feel like -- man, we were right there, just a play here or play there and we were in it. I definitely felt that way about our team this year, in that we had as good a shot as anybody and it was just a play here that did it down the stretch. The ability to repeat and to go to a Super Bowl back to back, I mean, that's hard to do. Not many have had a chance to do that. You just feel like it was an opportunity that we weren't able to accomplish. Then again, I'm excited about our team and our future.

SC: Why do you think it is so hard to repeat? Since 1998 only one team has done it.

DB: It's tough because the expectation level after you win a Super Bowl goes through the roof. Everybody who plays against you from that point on knows you're the defending Super Bowl champs. You're going to get their best performance and they would love nothing more than to beat the defending world champs. You go through an off-season which is shortened by five weeks because of making it to the Super Bowl. Then you just feel like those next couple months after the game are craziness for everybody. There's so much excitement and everyone gets caught up in it to an extent. Then all of a sudden you're right back to playing football and you feel like you didn't have a lot of time to rest or relax. You jumped right back into another season. For us, after the loss to Seattle, the next few days after the game, you kind of sit back and think the ride from the '09 season just ended. You know, 18 months ago it started. It's kind of an exhausting thing to come back and do.

SC: You're in Hawaii now, and last week you teamed with Procter & Gamble to sponsor the NFL's Play 60 Community Blitz. What's your involvement with the program?

DB: Procter & Gamble has been a great partner with the NFL for a while and they're supporting the NFL Play 60. They're going to be donating $300,000 in support and they've already supported a local park in Pittsburgh, St. Jude's Hospital in Peroria, Ill., and a high school health and wellness center in Connecticut. They're also going to be the presenting sponsor for the Play 60 community blitz this week in Hawaii, which is the largest community service program in the history of the NFL. It's certainly an impressive thing. In addition to that, Procter & Gamble will be donating $5,000 to cities whose players score touchdowns in the Pro Bowls. So hopefully some Saints will score some touchdowns to get some of that money to our United Way.

SC: You were so instrumental in helping rebuild New Orleans both physically and emotionally after Hurricane Katrina and you continue your work in other places. What keeps you so active in this kind of work?

DB: I've been blessed with so much in my life I feel a big responsibility to be able to give back what's been given to me. I have that opportunity and that platform to do that as an NFL player, to really make a difference in the lives of a lot of people. I have the opportunity to partner with companies like P&G that care about the community and want to give back. The fact is you can do that together and you realize you can really make differences in a lot of communities that's something we'll continue to do when I'm playing and beyond my playing days.

SC: You've been lauded by many for your efforts on and off the field. Last week you were named the recipient of the Bart Starr Award, which is given to the player that best exemplifies leadership and character. What's the difference between getting an award from the Associated Press or Sports Illustrated and in getting something like the Bart Starr Award, which was voted on by your peers?

DB: Definitely an award voted on by your peers and teammates and guys throughout the NFL, that's a big deal. In the end, we all know what it's like to be an NFL player, the responsibilities that come along with that and so many times when you're given that respect it means a lot. It's humbling. It's a bigger responsibility. You feel like you definitely have something to live up to.

SC: Since you won the Super Bowl, you've been everywhere. Letterman, Leno, Oprah, Ellen, 60 Minutes, Regis and Kelly and I'm sure I'm missing a bunch. As I was sitting at my desk, "Ellen" was on my TV [don't judge me -- CC] and I saw that you'll be on Tuesday. What's the best talk show on which to appear?

DB: Each one in unique. "Ellen" is so much fun because she's such a great personality and she's from New Orleans so we have so much in common. I've only really met her once, but I'm looking forward to going on again and wishing her happy birthday. David Letterman was fun, he's a funny guy. All these different talk show hosts are unique and there's a lot of fun things about it. You get asked crazy questions at times, but that's all part of the fun.

SC: Ellen apparently has your jerseys hanging in the rafters. Lots of guys have their jerseys hanging in NFL stadiums. I think you're the only one who has it hanging in a talk show studio.

DB: Yeah, like I said, she's a neat person and when you watch her show or are on it, there's so much life to it and engages the audience so well. When watching from your living room you never know what's going to happen next.

SC: I'm sure that Dom Capers and the Packers are going to be looking at game flim of you because you beat the Steelers 20-10 in Week 6. What worked best for you in that game and what can Rodgers and the offense do to break that Steelers defense?

DB: Our defense played great that day, holding their offense to 10 points. We had a big goal-line stand that game. Offensively, it opened up for us in the second half. We started off kind of slow and then the passing game opened up. The Steelers have an ability to bring pressure but still get a lot of guys out in coverage. They give you that illusion that they're bringing a lot of guys to rush the passer and they try to get you to rush, but they're really dropping out into zone coverage and you have to be patient and be able to take what they give you and not force things. And that's where they get you. They get you thinking that you gotta force someone down the field and get rid of the ball quicker than you need to and you end up making mistakes that way.

SC: Any predictions for the game?

DB: No, it's too hard, at this point, both teams are so good, it's going to be a great game.

SC: Drew thanks for talking to Shutdown Corner, congratulations on a great season and good luck in the Pro Bowl.

DB: Thanks.

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