METAIRIE, La. — For much of the past six seasons, Saints quarterback Drew Brees has settled in near the top of the NFL in passing yards, pushing New Orleans high in the league’s total offense rankings for much of that period.
And while has been nicked and bruised during that time, his game awareness helps him avoid threatening situations.
“Drew’s got great pocket awareness and he gets a great pre-snap read of potential people coming at him,” acting Saints head coach Joe Vitt said. “He has the ability to get us out of a bad play based on the pre-snap looks that he gets and I think there are a lot of things.”
This past weekend, three quarterbacks (Michael Vick, Alex Smith, Jay Cutler) all left the game with a concussion. Vick’s was described as a “significant” concussion.
But the common factor with those three quarterbacks is their inability to avoid big hits, unlike Brees, who hasn’t been concussed since 2005 when he was with San Diego.
“You never want to see that, especially a lot of head injuries and a lot of concussions,” Brees said. “Unfortunately, it’s part of the game to an extent. But when that many go down on one Sunday and it’s a lot of pretty high-profile guys, you just hope that obviously all the necessary measures are being taken and make sure that they’re definitely healed up before they come back.”
A large part of that is due to Brees’ preparation and acknowledgement that there are times when you’ll get hit and times when you can avoid it.
“I’d say there are things you can do, little things, subtle things, to avoid hits or at least protect yourself to an extent so that you’re not so exposed like we are a lot of times,” Brees said.
Since 2006, Brees has thrown for an NFL-high 31,241 yards and 226 touchdowns. Twice he has set NFL records for completion percentage, the second time breaking his own record.
He has been selected for five Pro Bowls, the only Saints quarterback to be named to more than two of the all-star teams.
And he now owns the NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass, now at 52 straight. That particular record was one of the most significant in the league, owned by Johnny Unitas for 52 years.
He’s done all this without getting seriously injured, playing through a sprained medial collateral ligament in 2010.
This weekend, Brees will guide the Saints (4-5) into Oakland (3-6), where former New Orleans secondary coach Dennis Allen is now the head coach. Allen, for one, knows exactly what Brees can do best.
“I sat there and watched that offense for five straight years,” Allen said. “I have seen what they are able to accomplish. Obviously Drew is a big part of that. The thing about Drew that impresses me as much as anything is that he has never lost anything as far his work ethic and the way he goes about doing his job. That is what has allowed him to have so much success.
“As I watch these tapes, you really get more of an appreciation for what he is doing as you are able to sit back and just watch him play."
As much as his on-field awareness helps him stay healthy, it’s what he does before practice and games and off the field that keeps him in pristine physical shape.
“Flexibility, all those things you try to do to make yourself as durable as possible and just thank your lucky stars when you can make it out of a game and make it out of a season pretty much unscathed,” Brees said. “But you’re going to have things from time to time and that’s part of the game and you just have to deal with those when they do happen.”