There is a lot of hype going into this game with Drew Brees having the chance to break the record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass. What are your thoughts on him being able to do that and how you think he’s grown as a quarterback since the two of you were teammates?
“Obviously that’s a lot of games in a row with touchdowns. If something stands for 50 years, it shows what an awesome accomplishment that is. That’s just one of many records and many great things he’s done over an 11-year career. He deserves all the recognition he’s received. I was only with him those two years kind of early in his ascent to where he is today. He was a heck of a player then, obviously before the Super Bowl and the other great things he’s done since he’s come to New Orleans. It’s certainly been impressive to see.”
Besides how long the record’s stood, can you quantify how hard or easy it is to throw a touchdown pass in every game?
“Obviously game circumstances and a lot of other factors, factor in. The one thing that holds is, it’s scoring seven points. It means you’ve scored a touchdown in how many straight games as well. It’s a heck of an accomplishment. To quantify how hard or not hard (it is), it’s obviously very hard, since it’s happened only a handful of times in this 50-year span. You look at how it hasn’t happened and look at all the quarterbacks that have played in those 50 years, that’s a heck of a deal.”
You talked about one of the potential reasons for this happening is his ability to stay level-headed. Is that one of the qualities that you think has helped Drew along this path and one of the things you may have learned from him?
“Yes, I was more commenting on the way he prepared, week to week, whether they won lost, whether he played good, bad, whatever happened he was going to have the same routine and go about his preparation (the same way). It’s different than in college, where if you lose a game or two, your hopes of winning a national championship or a conference championship a lot of times are shot at that very moment, but in this league, as we’ve seen in years past, there’s 9-7, 8-8, 10-6, teams that find a way to get in the playoffs and win a championship. I think that being said, Drew’s ability to maintain that level of preparation and even, steady keel win, lose, whatever, helps give his team the best chance to win. That’s something I took from him as a young player when he was here. The question I was asked was about the Saints being 0-4. Nobody here’s worried about what their record is. We know what we’re going to get. We know what type of team they are. We know how they prepare and Drew’s obviously the leader of that group. We know what we’re getting into this weekend down in New Orleans.”
Do you understand that there’s going to be a connection between the two of you as long as you are playing?
“Yes, it makes sense. We were on the same team there for the first couple years.”
Are you able to not worry about the fact that Drew won a Super Bowl already in the comparisons? Has it grown easier to do that since time has passed
“Yes, I never really found that part of it difficult. You know those things exist. You know they exist with players you were drafted with. Players you played with. That had never been a distraction or something that has bogged me down or anything like that. It’s something you’re aware of. I appreciate having played here with him those two years. Yes, we’re linked, but I don’t feel any sense of competition. It doesn’t give me any drive because of that link.”
What kind of teammate and competitor was Darren Sproles?
“First, as a teammate, top notch. (He was) one of the best, one of my favorites of all-time and as a player, he ranks right up there as well. He was great to have, the way he worked, practiced and how he worked in the offseason and just the type of guy he was in the locker room and off the field is awesome. Certainly, we’re excited about the backs we have here now, just thinking about what we had last week with Jackie Battle and Ryan (Mathews) complementing each other and sharing the load with the carries and Ronnie Brown having some big third down catches out of the backfield, it’s slighting the guys we have here, but certainly having Darren here all those years and the way he played for us was awesome. Certainly you miss a player like that, but it’s always fun to watch him. It’s tough to watch him sometimes seeing what he does in New Orleans and knowing he’s not here, but you’re always pulling for him.”
Drew Brees kind of recruited him away from the Chargers. Did you do anything to try to keep him in San Diego?
“I did all I could. I’m sure Drew recruited him. I don’t know if it was a straight-up recruitment down there. Obviously there are other things involved.”
Darren had a crucial drop and fumble Sunday. Having played with him, how do you think he would take something like that?
“He’s going to bounce back huge. He’s going to bounce back. One thing about Darren, is he cares as much or more than anybody in that locker room. He’s so dependable. Anytime he was to have a negative play when he was here, which is very rare and I’m sure it has been there, he’s the kind of guy that’s on to the next play. As strong as tough as he is physically, he is the same way mentally.”
How much has Robert Meachem grown in the Chargers offense and how has your on-field relationship with him grown?
“He’s been great. He’s been in that system in New Orleans for several years. There are some similarities, there are certainly some differences, both with the play-calling and scheme wise. He’s been great. We’re still growing, both him and I. I think our whole offensive unit is yet to find exactly not who we are, but to get all the way in synch. I think the good thing about that has been to be able to get to 3-1 without completely rolling offensively. But Robert’s been good. He hasn’t had a ton of ball. He didn’t have any this week. But that’s kind of the way it goes here. Even in years past, there’s game where a receiver doesn’t catch a ball or catches one ball, and the next week he catches six or seven and it kind of goes in cycles. One thing was pretty clear when he got here with Eddie Royal and the guys we’ve added is (that he’s) very unselfish. He’s a super team guy and he’s fit right in very well.”
Is it surprising at all that you have an offense like you do in San Diego and Drew Brees has one as potent in New Orleans, but that you go from one season of a lot of success to one just like Drew has said with a different identity? Is that a surprise, even when you have the same guys returning to the team?
“We’ve had quite a bit of new guys here, other than (Antonio) Gates and (Malcolm) Floyd and (Randy) McMichael, but you think about Royal and Meachem and Le’Ron McClain, Jackie Battle, Ronnie Brown, Dante Rosario. Those are all guys in their first year here. But, no, when you look at it as you did this morning, the Saints could be 4-0, there’s such a fine line between winning and losing in this league and it’s a week to week deal. No season’s ever the same and no game’s ever the same. We couldn’t score a touchown against Atlanta. We turned it over four times and we turn it over once (at Kansas City). Obvioulsy the defense got us a lot of turnovers, six turnovers we were able to get. Then we were able to score 37 points. We had defensive touchdonws. That’s the first question we got. How could you not score in Atlanta, but score in Kansas City and do all that. It’s week to week. It’s constantly trying to execute your formula on every play. It’s going to be a super challenge in that dome on Sunday night. We’re going to have to be at our best.”
We know Antonio Gates’ background. Jimmy Graham played basketball primarily and only a year of football. Is it neat to see how people have gone the Antonio Gates mold, grown and how that tight end position has become a major weapon in the NFL?
“Yes, it certainly changed. I think Gates is certainly one of the guys if not the guy who had a hand in that. You see different guys trying to take that path who were primarily basketball (players) and tried to make the move to football and I think probably since Gates, there have been a handful who have tried that route. Jimmy Graham is probably the one that’s really obviously done a heck of a job and become a big time player in this league. It’s amazing to see, but you really see how the basketball benefits them and benefited them in this game at that position from a route-running standpoint, body position and I know I’ve certainly thrown Gates a lot of high balls he’s gone up and gotten. I’ve seen Drew do the same to Graham. I’ve seen him go up and get a bunch of balls and obviously his body position and ability to go up and do that gives us confidence to throw those types of balls that otherwise you might now throw.”
Not all the time do we see guys have a fondness for each other when teammates split up that you and Drew have for each other. What is it about the working relationship that you guys had and what allowed you guys to have a good relationship despite the direct competition?
“I think first off, it was by neither of ours choice that we ended up right here at the points we did in our careers. We’re both competitive, but at the same time, very respectful of one another. There’s no doubt we were going to compete like crazy and that I wanted to be the starter my rookie year and there was no doubt in his mind where he said he wasn’t letting me have it. But at the same time, I was one of the first to high-five him after a touchdown pass those first two years. I pulled for him and I tried to help him as much as I could those first two years and I’d like to think I helped him in some ways, whether it was preparation or something on tape and certainly he was helpful to me those two years and then as we’ve gone our separate ways…We don’t talk a ton or keep up a whole lot. Obviously he has a young family. I have a young family of six little ones. He’s out here some in the offseason. It’s not that we hang out a bunch. But we certainly keep up. I always watch them when they’re playing when I get the chance. He seems to do the same. When you have a solid guy, a good guy and a true pro in the way he plays, it makes it easy to get along and pull for a guy.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times