Bradley Handwerger / Sports Writer

NEW ORLEANS ― Prior to the Saints' Super Bowl run in 2009, players spoke of a feeling, an inner suspicion that they were on the verge of something special.

Two years later, after the penultimate player-led practice at Tulane's Westfeldt Field, quarterback Drew Brees said the feeling is there once more.

Only this time, there is a tangible reason for him to feel this way. Despite searing, record-setting heat for much of the final three weeks of this six-week offseason program, nearly 40 Saints continued to show up for the workout sessions.

Expectations surpassed? You betcha.

'It has exceeded my expectations,' said Brees, who organized the sessions. 'I think typically there's excitement early on and it begins to fade. I feel like our excitement has maintained itself and even climbed a little bit here in the last two weeks just because we've had the opportunity to do a lot more football-specific stuff and that's what's fun.'

Thirty-six players were at Wednesday's penultimate session and that has been normal for the six-week camp. Officials said between 35 and 45 players were always there, a good turnout considering none of the practices were mandated.

That includes rookies, including Nate Bussey, Cameron Jordan and Martez Wilson, who were at the latest practice.

'We always wanted to stay ready and feel like we were gaining an edge,' Brees said. 'I feel like we have been very organized.'

Free agent safety Usama Young put that last bit on Brees, saying the former Super Bowl MVP has been on top of everything from the outset.

'We've got leaders on this team that really take that responsibility and who say, 'Hey, we're going to go out and get organized and we're going to do something to get an edge that the rest of the NFL isn't doing,'' Young said.

'I talked to other guys with other teams and yeah, they're working out and they have their organized workouts, but I think our productivity is a lot higher than other ones.'

And yet, Brees gives all the credit to his teammates, taking none for himself.

Two years after winning a Super Bowl and a year after finishing the regular season as one of the top teams in the NFC, at least record-wise, Brees said it's all about a domino effect the better you are, the more you win and the more you win, the more players want to associate with you.

'When you know you're a contender, guys want to be a part of that,' Brees said. 'Guys want to have a role on that team. Not many guys get that opportunity. I think that says a lot about the type of guys we have and also the type of team we have. I think we all see how good we can be, how great we can be and everyone wants a role on that.

'They want to be a part of that. That's what I take from this. That's why we've got so many guys here.'

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