WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. VA.- Don't tell 35-year-old Saints quarterback Drew Brees he's getting old.
He insists he doesn't feel old, and he certainly didn't act like it during the opening day of Saints training camp at the Greenbrier.
'I'm not in the decline like most guys in their mid-30s,' he proclaimed. 'In my mind I'm not in my mid-30s, I'm 25 years old.'
Throughout the morning session, Brees exhibited a pep in his step and plenty of zip on his throws, especially during an impromptu Frisbee target practice session with his fellow quarterbacks and head coach Sean Payton.
Now in his 14th NFL season, Brees, unlike so many veterans who detest the grind of training camp, is eager to immerse himself in the experience and develop a bond with the team's impressive contingent of young players.
He says young guys like Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills and Nick Toon keep him keep the game fresh while also an'rejuvenate' him.
'They get me excited to come to work every day,' he said. 'To work with these guys to try and build that same trust and ESP as we think about this system and where we're trying to take this offense.'
Lance Moore and Devery Henderson, two of the 'Big 4' receivers with whom Brees had developed such a strong bond, are gone. Consequently, Brees said he's going to do everything he can to help the younger guys along, as he already has with first-round pick Brandin Cooks.
Brees helped Cooks gain familiarity with the playbook while he missed most of OTAs to finish school at Oregon State.
'We had a chance to spend some time together in July and I felt like that was pretty crucial coming into to camp,' Brees said. 'That way there was a level of familiarity in regards the playbook with things sounding familiar.
Brees says Cooks is extremely talented, but even more impressive is that he strives for greatness each day.
'He's a sponge. Every time he comes up to me, he's just eyes wide, just 'feed me, feed me' information and then he absorbs it very quickly and he's able to go out and apply it. I'd say that's pretty rare for a young guy. Typically, their head's spinning for a while. It doesn't seem like anything has been too big for him.'
It didn't take long to for Brees and Cooks to connect on Day 1. Early in the session, Cooks flashed a glimpse of his playmaking ability, going up high over a defender to snag a deep crossing route.
'It was an interesting play because there are some different things you see on film and it is harder for a player with his stature, farther down the field you go,' Payton said. 'Often times it is harder to make plays above your head, but it was a good play in traffic. It was good to see.'
Cooks wasn't the only rookie receiver to turn heads during the morning session. Brandon Coleman, the 6-foot-6, 225-pound undrafted free agent from Rutgers, pulled in a high back-shoulder throw from backup Ryan Griffin.
'That was a big play and good to see,' Payton said. 'It was a real good throw too by Ryan (Griffin). It is just always interesting to see these younger players, how they transition from the spring or they have gotten a taste for what we are doing and all of a sudden now they get to install it or hear the install again.
'Hopefully they continue to progress.'
Because Brees is young at heart and says he isn't going anywhere any time soon.
'If I tell myself I am 25, I'm 25 and that's honest to God. That's my mindset.I can play for another 10 years,' he said. 'That would be my goal, but I'm taking it one year at a time.There's no reason why I couldn't do that.'