Brees says he's healthy and ready to move on
By: JAY PARIS - Staff Writer
Down South, Drew Brees is confident he'll rise again.
Just not with the Chargers.
Brees is likely entering his final 24 hours as a Charger with no progress on securing a long-term contract. So Brees, who is rehabbing his surgically repaired right shoulder in Birmingham, Ala., is set to roll with the tide: the one pulling him from San Diego when free agency starts Friday.
"I'm not trying to break the bank,'' Brees said on Wednesday. "I just want what is fair."
The Chargers' lone six-year proposal included a first-year guarantee substantially less than the $9.7 million Brees would have earned if designated a franchise or transition player. The final five years of the pact were filled with escalators and incentive clauses, something Brees could live with.
It was the 2006 compensation that caused Brees' back to arch.
"It was just not where I felt it should be,'' he said. "It wasn't fair."
He found something else to be foul.
According to Brees, the Chargers are wrongly saying there's more to his shoulder injury, which included the repair of a torn labrum. General manager A.J. Smith said there were issues but declined to expand on his sweeping statement.
"We have medical concerns,'' Smith said. "If you want to zero in on that type of question that you're asking, I suggest that you contact Drew Brees and Tom Condon (Brees' agent). Possibly they can lay it out. I'd rather not participate than to say there are medical concerns that we're monitoring right now continually."
That comment stunned Brees, who is rehabbing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
"There has not been a setback of any kind,'' he said, sternly. "In fact, it seems like every bit of information that comes out of the organization talking about my progress or surgery has been incorrect.
"Talk to anybody that knows, which is my doctor, Dr. (James) Andrews, or my physical therapist that is here doing my stuff. They will tell you exactly where I am, and that is way ahead of the game. The surgery went exceptionally well, and my body has responded very well.
"If the surgery wasn't done properly, would I be four weeks ahead of schedule? I don't think so. I would be having problems right now.''
"I've been rehabbing my butt off, and I'll be throwing by the beginning of May. I will have been throwing for almost three months when training camp opens. The doctors think everything is just fine, and everyone knows that I will be just fine. Rumors are being spread to discredit me or the people working with me to scare other people off. But it doesn't matter; I know what I can do. I invite anyone to come see me work. All those rumors are just false."
The truth is the Chargers could be playoff-bound next season. That's what makes this impending divorce so unsettling for Brees and the teammates calling him.
"All of them are just pretty shocked and trying to understand it," Brees said. "We have a great opportunity, but it seems like that opportunity is kind of slowly being pushed away.''
With so much invested, that pains Brees worse than his throwing shoulder.
"I've been part of something here that not everybody gets to be a part of: of not going to the playoffs in (eight) years and going, and now having a legitimate shot at the title," he said. "Of going through the bad times ---- I've been almost at the lowest of the low ---- and just fighting your way through that. And you feel like you can see that light at the end of the tunnel. But hey, maybe that light is somewhere else."
Like Green Bay, Oakland, Dallas, Baltimore, or the New York Jets.
There's no shortage of teams seeking quarterbacks, especially a 27-year-old with a Pro Bowl resume.
"That's good for me," said Brees, who last year was the NFL's 10th-rated passer after throwing for a career-high 3,576 yards.
Have the Chargers been good to Brees? He admits being "disappointed" by their stance, but understands the business of the NFL. But Brees notes that a player's value can be measured in various ways.
"There's more than the salary number to determine someone's worth, and that is what is kind of lost in this whole process is that maybe the dynamics of a team changes when you lose a guy," said Brees, who is 20-12 including the playoffs the past two years. "It would be unfortunate if that happens here."
If Brees flees, he won't vacate his niche in Chargers lore as the first quarterback since Stan Humphries to lead the team to the playoffs. It's a distinction that doesn't go unnoticed, from Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer to countless Chargers backers. Cloud nine to them is having No. 9 back in the huddle.
"It makes me feel good to have so much support from teammates, fans and coaches," Brees said. "And when I see them, they all wonder the same thing: Why isn't it being take care of?"
Come Friday, the team will likely say "take care'' and remove Brees' name plate from his Chargers Park locker. Appropriately, it's located near the exit.
"Whatever happens will happen," he said. "I've prepared myself to leave, and if that is what I need to do, that is what I'm going to do.
"I know there are plenty of other teams out there that would benefit having me on their team, plenty of places to go and be successful. Sure, I always said I would love to be in San Diego. That is where I've been the last five years and sacrificed so much. It's where I injured my stupid shoulder during a game that didn't mean anything."
If Brees departs, Philip Rivers ---- with zero NFL starts on his resume ---- gets tossed the keys to the revved offense. How does Brees think the student driver will do?
"I like Philip," he said. "I think Philip is going be a very good player because he works hard and is an intelligent guy. Unfortunately, we both feel like we're starters in this league and both of us just happen to be on the same team.
"But obviously, I feel like the Chargers are my team, and it would be a shame if I would be gone.
"But hey, life goes on."
Including the Chargers' future. Just don't expect it to include Brees.