Shutdown Corner - NFL

Drew Brees(notes) is footing the bill so his New Orleans Saints teammates can participate in involuntary offseason practices during the lockout.

The All-Pro quarterback helped organize three workouts this week at Tulane University which were attended by 37 players from the team's 2010 roster. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Brees will pay as much as five figures for Tulane staff to help out with the practices, insurance and lodging for younger players. He also flew in his personal trainer to oversee the conditioning program.

"It's worth it," he told the newspaper.

Brees shared planning duties with some of his teammates, but was the clear leader of the workouts. Though a number of teams have had players organize similar unofficial practices -- London Fletcher(notes) did the same thing with the Washington Redskins last month -- the Saints' turnout is thought to be the highest thus far.

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It's a testament to Brees that he can get players who aren't under contract for 2011 to fly in from all over the country in order to attend three workouts in early May. Guys like him and Fletcher show that true leadership extends beyond the huddle.

"When you have a leader like that on your team, it makes it easy for guys to rally around and understand what's available to us," right tackle Jon Stinchcomb(notes) said to the Times-Picayune.

Saints players say the workouts are almost identical to team-run workouts, except for a no-contact policy they've instituted. Like other teams, they're using last year's playbook and sets.

Don't give the players too much credit, though. These offseason workouts are as much of a public relations move as they are a concerted effort to keep fresh for a potential season. Notice the presence of reporters and cameras at each of these team practices, the better to get the word out that the players just want to play, darn it! Ignore the fact that while they're doing so, labor negotiators are figuring out ways to cut down these same offseason workouts, which players have despised for years.

At least the players are doing something productive and showing PR savvy. Roger Goodell and the owners are doing neither of those things, unless you count writing unsympathetic op-eds and insulting players to be constructive.

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