Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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METAIRIE, La. When a reporter tried to sarcastically ask New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees about his rusty first day of practice, the $100 million man didn't flinch in his answer.

'Clearly, you didn't watch practice,' Brees said Thursday, Day 1 of the Saints' nearly three-week training camp and the quarterback's first day with the team since holding out for a long-term contract this offseason.

Slimmed down to 208 pounds, Brees said he's as strong as he has ever been in New Orleans.

And one of Brees' favorite targets from 2011, tight end Jimmy Graham, knew Wednesday that his quarterback was ready for this season.

'I can tell that he has had a lot of time to think and definitely a lot of time to work out,' Graham said Thursday. 'In the sprints, he was trying to race me yesterday. He is definitely in shape. He's definitely ready.'

Graham let Brees win, saying that he was told to 'never pull on, to never tug on Superman's cape.'

With no Sean Payton there to run and guide the offense, Brees took on a leadership role during the practice session. Several times he pulled over a young receiver, diagramming a pass route in the air to help out.

But maybe the biggest thing Brees brought was stability, his six previous years of experience with the team something the relied upon on the opening day of practice.

Brees kept the tempo quick, something acting head coach Joe Vitt called an 'earmark of this football team.' He was in and out of the huddle and quick with his delivery.

'I don't think anybody's eyes lied to him,' Vitt said. 'Excellent tempo, excellent ball location, in and out of the huddle, up and down, on and off, outstanding.'

As for Wednesday's race with Graham, Brees had a slightly different view of why it went down the way it went down.

'He is going to be doing a lot more running in camp than I am,' Brees said. 'In the back of his mind, I am sure that he was thinking about all of those go-routes and other routes that I am going to be making him run while I am sitting in the pocket. I had a little more in the tank to give yesterday during the conditioning test.'

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