It has been 21/2 seasons since Drew Brees wore the lightning bolt on his uniform but it's not all water under the bridge for the New Orleans Saints quarterback as he looks toward his first game against his former team, the San Diego Chargers.
"I'd be lying if I told you it was just another game," Brees said this week in Watford, England, where the Saints were preparing for their game today against the Chargers at London's Wembley Stadium.
"I'm not blowing it out of proportion or trying to put any extra pressure on my team. I still know a lot of those players. I'm friends with a lot of these players. I knew this day would come. I'm just looking forward to the opportunity to play against the old team."
Without a lot of fanfare, Brees is in the midst of a potential landmark quarterbacking season. He has completed 180 of 263 pass for a completion percentage of 68.4, within striking range of Ken Anderson's 26-year-old league record of 70.55%. He also has thrown for more than 300 yards in five of his seven games, for a total of 2,224 yards, almost 400 yards more than his closest pursuer.
On his current yardage pace, he conceivably could challenge Dan Marino's 24-year-old record for yards in a season (5,084).
At the end of the 2005 season, with Brees recovering from a serious shoulder injury, the Chargers decided to give the keys to Phillip Rivers and let Brees walk into free agency. The Saints signed him and in 2006, he threw 554 passes for 4,418 yards and led the Saints to the playoffs, finishing second to LaDainian Tomlinson in MVP voting.
In 39 regular-season starts with the Saints, Brees has thrown for 11,065 yards, only about 1,000 fewer yards than he threw for in 58 starts for the Chargers.
During his time in San Diego, Brees mentored Rivers, freely giving of his time and expertise to help the young quarterback get his feet under him in the NFL. It's a relationship that Rivers gratefully acknowledges to this day.
"This game isn't about Philip and I," Brees said. "Any time you play in a game against a good team, and especially against another good quarterback, of course there is that little extra, to kind of outperform that guy. But that is all within the realm of winning the game. I don't want to leave the game and say: 'Hey, I had better stats than this guy, but we lost.' That doesn't mean a thing."
With J.J. Arrington looking to get more touches and rookie Tim Hightower labelled as the running back of the future, Edgerrin James openly is wondering about his future with the Arizona Cardinals.
"I don't want to just be on a team. I like to play," James told the Arizona Republic. "If I'm not playing, it's not serving a purpose. What purpose is it serving? I don't want to feel like I'm selfish, but you want to play."
James is signed through the 2009 season but he has carried the ball only 101 times for 363 yards this season, after two 1,000-yard-plus seasons in a row. In the past three games, he has rushed for 29, 57 and 29 yards, respectively.
"I don't know what's going on," James said. "I'm just here, just going to ride it out and get to the playoffs and, hey, that may be it right there."
James needs just 30 yards to reach 12,000 for his career and 105 yards to pass Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas for 12th on the career list.
FALL FROM GRACE
Brett Favre still might be able to sling a football, but he has been his own worst PR man. Eight months ago, Packer Nation wept with him at his retirement announcement. Then came the unretirement and then the subtle subterfuge to get himself traded to the Minnesota Vikings. When that didn't work, he came to camp and, intentionally or not, undermined the new No. 1 QB, Aaron Rodgers. This week Favre's star dipped even lower as news came out that he had attempted to give the Detroit Lions a leg up by filling in Detroit's coaching staff on Green Bay's secrets. Whether or not the allegations are true doesn't matter. They'll be believed in Wisconsin. O.J. Simpson aside, has anybody ever had a more swift or precipitous reputation meltdown?