METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Drew Brees knows how to put a spin on more than just those accurate spirals he's delivered for record-setting yardage.
The Saints' quarterback also has a way of looking at less-than-ideal circumstances through the most favorable lens possible. He refers to it as his "optimism bias," and he's been doing it this week while discussing his relative lack of preparation for the 2014 regular season.
Because of strained left oblique muscle, Brees missed two weeks of training camp and enters Sunday's regular season opener at Atlanta having played in only three offensive series during the entire preseason. He believes that amounts to the fewest preseason snaps of his career.
"I did what I needed to do to get it healthy. I feel strong; I feel 100 percent," Brees said this week. "I certainly tried to make the most of the time I was out. It's the optimism bias. I can't change my circumstances, but I can change my perception of the circumstances.
"I felt like there were some things that I was able to sit back and kind of see from a 10,000-foot view that made me a better player," Brees added.
Coach Sean Payton has been on the sideline for most of Brees' record-setting performances, not to mention 12 of Brees' 13 victories over the Falcons since both coach and quarterback arrived in New Orleans in 2006.
He's been monitoring Brees closely and doesn't seem concerned about the quarterback's form, his timing or even his chemistry with some younger receivers — including rookie Brandin Cooks and third-year pro Nick Toon — who are expected to contribute to the Saints' passing game this season.
"It would be more concerning if he wasn't receiving the practice snaps that he's had," Payton said of Brees' limited preseason game action. "But he has gotten a ton of work. He likes to take almost every (repetition), so I think it would be more significant if he wasn't getting those practice snaps."
Brees, who has passed for more than 5,000 yards in each of the past three seasons, added that he's focused during practice on executing plays with the same intensity as a game.
"If you approach practice as if it's game-like, so that your mind is there and the speed and intensity at which you are playing is there, then it's as if you did take" more exhibition game snaps, Brees explained, grinning as if even he is mildly amused by the psychology he practices on himself. "I think I've tricked my mind into thinking I did get" the preseason snaps.
Brees has faced bigger challenges before, namely in 2006, when his rehabilitation from extensive throwing shoulder surgery prevented him from passing at full strength during the entire offseason. Even during training camp, he wasn't quite at full strength, yet helped a team that had gone 3-13 in 2005 to the NFC title game the very next season.
The Saints aren't about to complain about the results of the three series in which Brees did play this preseason at Indianapolis during New Orleans' third exhibition game. He led a pair of touchdown drives against the Colts' largely first-team defense. He completed 9 of 15 passes for 128 yards and two TDs without an interception.
Brees' teammates have little doubt the quarterback will be in similar form against the Falcons despite sitting out last week's preseason finale.
"His resume speaks for itself, what he's done here," said Saints safety Jairus Byrd, who has worked against Brees in practice. "I'm not curious to see what he does."
Right tackle Zach Strief estimated that Brees has taken more than 9,000 snaps in the Saints' offense during the previous eight seasons.
"I think Drew's fine. I think he's the last guy you worry about," Strief said. "Drew would have played in the last (preseason) game if he felt he didn't have enough yet. He's been practicing really well, been the same guy, obviously was in the game that he played, so we're real confident in him."
Notes: WR Kenny Stills (quad) did not participate in Thursday's practice after being limited Wednesday. Safety Marcus Ball (hamstring) and fullback Erik Lorig (ankle) have not practiced this week. ... The Saints have placed reserve QB Ryan Griffin on their 10-man practice squad. To make room for the second-year pro, the Saints released LB Todd Davis.
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Posted on Fri, September 5, 2014
by Brett Martel, AP Sports Writer