WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has plenty to be excited about as the team heads into its first day off.
First and foremost, he's not delusional. The 35-year-old, who recently made waves when he insisted he could play for another 10 years, said he's serious and it can be done.
'I know that that's something that would be extremely difficult to do,' Brees said. 'Not many have done that. George Blanda, he was plenty past 45. I've played with a couple of kickers, (John) Carney, John Kasay, of course Morten Anderson played past 45. Vinnie Testaverde was 44. A lot of things would have to fall into place.'
Brees said his proclamation is really more about hitting his next milestone.
'I came in this league as a second-round pick to the San Diego Chargers,' he said. 'They signed Doug Flutie in free agency so I knew I was coming into a backup position for Doug Flutie. At that point your goal becomes, you know what, I just want to become a starter in this league and earn a starting role, (as) a starter in the NFL.
'So then the minute you kind of get that then (you say) OK, what is the next step? I want to be a really good player. I want to be a Pro Bowl player in this league.
'Then you accomplish that. Now it's my fourth year. I think I can make it to double digits. I can play 10 years in this league. Then you hit that, then you are like OK, I want to play until I'm 35. Now I'm 35, so what is the next thing?'
Not a 'random' drug test. He joked about already being subjected to one of those this week.
Brees' skillset remains as sharp as his wit. And ever the competitor, he'll continue, he said, to push the envelope with the hopes of maintaining his physical and mental edge. Brees is vigilant about his training regime, which he said has changed since he entered the league 13 years ago.
Now, he focuses solely on exercises that directly translate to helping him on the field. He calls it 'cross specific training.'
Anything else, he said, is a waste of his time.
'I have to do more to take care of my body after a game,' he said. 'It takes a little bit longer. It takes more time I have to devote to those things. That's probably going to increase, my rest, diet, sleep habits, all those things become that much more important.
'But listen, if you care about it enough and you are going to be disciplined with it then you are going to find a way.'
More excitement for Brees: Rookie wide receiver Brandon Cooks continues to impress with his speed and playmaking ability. But equally as important is who he's impressing -- namely, Brees.
The two have connected on several occasions during the first five practices. But it was a middle screen that Cooks took for a long touchdown that really got the Saints quarterback amped.
'That was awesome,' Brees said, grinning ear to ear. 'I knew we had a big play the minute they were bringing pressure from that side and we were able to get it to him. But man, watching his explosive ability to just navigate those blocks and hit a seam if he hits the seam, he's gone.
'I think that just gives you a taste of what we have in him.'
Brees lights up at the mere mention of his new weapon's skillset, saying Cooks has 'short area quickness, great transition ability, and phenomenal straight-line speed.'
Moreover, Brees is confident in his ability to get Cooks the ball anywhere on the field and said his mindset is 'no matter how tight the coverage, there's always a place to throw the ball.'
Saints getting healthy...er: After a brief stint on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), Jairus Byrd returned to the active roster Tuesday. While Byrd was the biggest name, he wasn't the only one.
Rookie tackle Tavon Rooks, who was on the non-football injury list, the functional equivalent of the PUP, also returned, as did wide receiver Robert Meachem.
Meachem missed two days with a minor back injury, which head coach Sean Payton said flared up on Saturday.
Defensive tackle John Jenkins remains on the PUP list while he rehabs a pectoral injury that also kept him out during OTAs in June.
After pulling up lame with a quad injury that Payton said was sustained a few weeks ago while working out in San Diego, wide receiver Kenny Stills missed his fourth day of practices.
Offensive guard Ben Grubs was again is shorts for the second consecutive day. Payton declined to comment on why Grubbs' sat out.
Quotable: How does Brees plan to spend his off day?
'I am just going to hang out with the fellas, do a few things to enjoy what we have here and then probably watch a little film and get ready for some more football on Thursday,' he said.