Archive for November, 2009



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New Orleans Saints have four players from 2007 New England Patriots

By Nakia Hogan, The Times-Picayune

November 27, 2009, 7:00AM

A few of the New Orleans Saints’ players have been there before.

They remember how hard it was,  how the pressure was almost suffocating,  how it was virtually impossible to focus.

It hasn’t gotten nearly to those levels yet for the Saints,  10-0 and one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL.

But just in case it does,  the Saints’ roster includes four members of the 2007 New England Patriots who went 16-0 in the regular season. And tight end David Thomas,  cornerback Randall Gay and fullbacks Heath Evans and Kyle Eckel will be at the ready to offer advice.

Don’t expect any speeches just yet,  though.

The Saints contend that going 16-0 is just wishful thinking. Their true goal is simply winning Monday night against the Patriots at the Superdome and hopefully wrapping up the NFC South Division title.

“If anybody asks,  then I have some experience with the situation, ” Thomas said. “But I think the great thing about this locker room is everybody just focuses on what’s important now. And that’s the Patriots and winning this week.”

With each passing victory,  the Saints can expect the pressure to mount and the national media spotlight to grow brighter.

The Saints are the first NFC team to start the season 10-0 since the 1991 Washington Redskins opened 11-0.

And they’ve faced little resistance getting to this point.

Saints Coach Sean Payton said there is no added pressure on his team.

Throughout the Saints’ franchise-record start,  Payton has appeared to remain focused on the upcoming game. And his players typically have followed suit.

“I think there’s pressure each week to play well and to improve, ” Payton said. “But I don’t think  —  and you could ask the players because each one of them might answer it differently  —  but I don’t think any one of us feels a sense of mounting pressure because of winning football games.

“I think there’s always that weight of wanting to be perfect,  or that added charge of trying to play the best game or coach the best game,  and I think that’s urgency. I think we all coach and play with a sense of urgency,  and that’s a good thing,  not a bad thing.”

All of that could change with a few more wins.

During the 2007 season with the Patriots,  everything was ordinary until the team reached the final few weeks of the season. That’s when every move the Patriots made had to be a calculated step,  every word they spoke had to be well-thought,  and every play they ran had to be executed to perfection.

The Saints said they’ve noticed that they’ve been getting each of their opponents’ best game. If they keep winning,  that will continue.

Evans,  who is on injured reserve and serves as a bit of a player/coach,  remembers the Patriots facing similar circumstances.

“Those experiences might weigh more,  and that’s a big if,  if we can get to that 15-game mark, ” Evans said. “The last couple weeks of that ’07 year were tough. (Former Patriots linebacker) Tedy Bruschi said it. (Former Patriots safety) Rodney Harrison said it the last couple of weeks. We are so far away from that point. People say ‘it’s only four or five wins.’ But four or five wins in this league,  there are teams that can’t get that in two seasons.”

If the Saints are going to get to that point,  they are likely going to have to adopt a similar formula to the one the Patriots employed  —  the clichéd and boring one-game-at-a-time mantra.

During the Patriots’ 2007 run,  Coach Bill Belichick frequently driilled his players about remaining focused. The players tried to refrain from talking about a perfect season.

The Saints already have had a couple of minor,  human-natured slip-ups. Asked about the possibility of going 16-0,  running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas  —  on separate occasions  —  said it was possible.

Obviously,  Payton considers such talk premature.

“We’re interested in how do we beat New England, ” he said. “That’s the challenge in front of us.

“Each week,  it’s preparing and trying to improve and trying to really look at a game and get better the next week. That’s the approach we’re taking right now.”

Keeping that focus shouldn’t be a problem,  several of the former Patriots said.

Players point to the strong leadership in the Saints’ locker room coming from quarterback Drew Brees,  safety Darren Sharper,  defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma as evidence this team won’t crumble to outside pressure or lose its focus.

And just in case the Saints need a friendly reminder about what it takes,  there’s the crew of former Patriots.

“Everybody in here is working hard every day, ” Thomas said. “The great thing about this team is how everybody focuses on every week,  how everybody is taking it game by game. We’ve got a long way to go before we can start to looking at that team in ’07 and comparing us to them.”

Evans agreed.

“There was so much quality leadership on that (Patriots) team,  as there is here, ” Evans said. “The focal point was never to go undefeated in 2007. And our focal point for this season was,  ‘hey,  let’s dominate this division,  let’s find a way to get to 6-0 with all our division games.’

“People love to talk about the undefeated,  but for us,  each game is a battle. We all are prideful,  arrogant men,  otherwise we wouldn’t be at this level. We want to win because it’s this week and it’s this team. So ’07 was a fun year,  it had its challenges. The undefeated didn’t add or take anything away from that season. We had the typical pressure of trying to win an NFL game week in and week out.”

Nakia Hogan can be reached at nhogan@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3405.



Mike McKenzie….

Mike McKenzie on returning to the New Orleans Saints



Fleur D Licious Operation Dome Blackout



Source: Saints to sign McKenzie

Source: Saints to sign McKenzieBy Adam Schefter


Less than a week after signing veteran cornerback Chris McAlister, the Saints now are planning to sign former cornerback Mike McKenzie, according to a source close to the situation.

McKenzie played for the Saints last season but suffered a major knee injury that sidelined him the rest of the season.

Some believed it might be a career-ending knee injury, but McKenzie apparently has regained his speed and is ready to play.

He worked out during the summer for Seattle, and now will have to learn a new defensive scheme in New Orleans, where he played from 2005 to 2008.

The unbeaten Saints will need all of the help they can get in preparation for next Monday night’s game against New England.

Fortunately, the Saints are expecting positive news regarding their other players with injuries.

Running back Reggie Bush (knee), defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (knee) and cornerback Jabari Greer (groin) — none of whom played Sunday against Tampa Bay — all are expected to play against the Patriots.

Adam Schefter is ESPN’s NFL Insider.



Saints strive for perfection, ready for Pats

By Pat Yasinskas
TAMPA, Fla. — They strolled into the locker room with a few references to their 10-0 record, but the New Orleans Saints are the first to tell you they’re not perfect.

They rolled through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 38-7, and instantly started pointing out their flaws.

“Let’s face it, these are not the Jon Gruden-coached Tampa Bay Buccaneers that we’re used to,” New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey said. “No offense to Tampa. They’re going to be good in time. But we know we can play better than we did.”

Shockey and his teammates have been saying that for the past month or so, but it’s time to back up that talk. The Saints play host to the New England Patriots on Nov. 30 in a “Monday Night Football” game at the Superdome.

You can get by the likes of St. Louis, Carolina, Atlanta and Miami when you’re turning over the ball and your defense is banged up and not playing as well as it did early in the season. But you can’t get by the Patriots unless you’re at the top of your game.

That’s why Sunday’s victory over the Bucs was so encouraging. Even if it was against a 1-9 team, the Saints looked better than they have in their past few outings. They didn’t turn over the ball, and aside from an impressive opening drive by the Bucs, a defense that was without three injured starters didn’t give up much and took the ball away four times.

“I thought we got better today,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.

The outlook gets even more positive when you factor in that the Saints have a chance to get injured defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter healthy in time for the Patriots. That trio, running back Reggie Bush and receiver Lance Moore all sat out against the Bucs.

It’s likely the Saints will at least get some of those injured players back as they have eight days between games. And they have to be feeling better about their depth in the secondary after first-round draft pick Malcolm Jenkins got a start and produced an interception.

Take all of that as an indication that the Saints are heading in the right direction at the right time. No, they haven’t played a perfect game yet and there might not be any such thing. But the Saints got enough things right that they didn’t need a big comeback like they did against Miami and Carolina and they didn’t let Tampa Bay hang with them the way Atlanta did a few weeks ago.

“Throughout the season, you want to get better,” linebacker Scott Fujita said. “And I like to think we are getting better. People are going to build this up to be the biggest game in the world. We have to keep our composure, not let anything get in the way and go out and continue to get better in practice each day this week.”

In other words, the fans can get caught up in the hype. The players can’t afford that because they’ve got Bill Belichick and the best franchise of the past decade coming to town.

“Our fans are going to be tailgating for about 10 hours before that game,” safety Darren Sharper said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

Understandable because the Saints are 10-0 for the first time in franchise history. They’ve also won 10 consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. This kind of winning is basically totally new to New Orleans, a city that’s supported a team that’s been mostly a bunch of loveable losers throughout its existence.

That’s not lost on the players and they know they have to keep improving as they get ready for perhaps the biggest game this franchise has played since the Saints made a memorable return to the Superdome in 2006, the year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf region.

“It only makes it harder because every team we face now would love to give us that first loss,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “We’re building something special this year. In order to get there, we have to win games like the one coming up.”

That’s the next step for Brees, who got back to being a machine-like passer (he had three touchdowns and a 118.0 rating) against the Bucs after a few up-and-down games. Beating a team like the Patriots would only enhance Brees’ common ranking among the league’s best quarterbacks along with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

It could even be a step toward the Hall of Fame for a quarterback who has put up big numbers throughout his career, but doesn’t have the long list of big wins that Manning and Brady have.

“When we take care of the football and take away negative plays, we’re a very, very hard team to beat,” Brees said.

More importantly, winning against New England would be a major step for the entire franchise. Remember, the Saints are in uncharted territory.

“For most of us, this is the first time we’re 10-0 dating back to high school,” Fujita said.

The next step — and it’s obviously a difficult one — would be getting to 11-0.

“This is going to be a very good test for us,” Sharper said. “Coach Payton is always talking about doing things you’ve never done before. Winning this one would be something this franchise has never done before.”



New Orleans Saints shift focus to New England Patriots after 38-7 win over Tampa Bay Buccaneers

By Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune

November 22, 2009, 9:40PM\

TAMPA, FLA. — Let the hype begin.

Actually, the buildup to next Monday night’s showdown against the New England Patriots at the Superdome began when the New Orleans Saints’ schedule came out in April.

But now that the Saints have dispensed with their first 10 opponents — the latest an overwhelmed Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad in Sunday’s 38-7 rout — the anticipation will reach a fever pitch.

“Everyone’s going to blow this game up to be the biggest thing in the world,” Saints linebacker Scott Fujita said. “We’ve just got to keep our composure and not let anything affect us, not have any distractions, and just follow the mindset we’ve had all year.”

Momentum and confidence obviously won’t be problems for the Saints since they’ve won every game so far, but especially because of the way they played Sunday.

After a four-week stretch of sloppy performances, the Saints ran away with an efficient and thorough victory over the struggling Buccaneers (1-9).

“We needed a game like this to come out, to look sharp in all phases,” said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for 187 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Saints actually started slow on offense and trailed 7-0 after allowing a 95-yard touchdown drive. But the Buccaneers didn’t show any more signs of life, as the Saints won the turnover battle 4-0 and didn’t allow any sacks.

“It wasn’t always pretty,” Brees said. “The first half, (we were) 1-of-6 on third downs. … Then obviously we broke the seal there in the second half and came out with a lot of points.

“If you look at us historically, especially this year, if we take care of the football and eliminate negative plays, we are very, very hard to beat. And obviously when the defense is taking the ball away like they did today and have been, it gives us so many more opportunities.”

The most impressive part of the Saints’ defensive dominance is that they were so depleted by injuries.

New Orleans was without starting defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter. They also kept new cornerback Chris McAlister on the bench, deciding that he’s not quite in football shape yet. During the game, cornerbacks Randall Gay and Leigh Torrence were injured, causing the Saints to use backup safety Usama Young as an emergency cornerback.

“We are having a little bad luck curse right now, a little funk,” said Gay, who suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter and did not return. “But it shows the character and that the next guy has to step up.

“Hey, seven points (allowed). With four cornerbacks out, that’s huge.”

Rookie cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, in particular, stood out in his first NFL start. He held up all afternoon, but the highlight was a terrific athletic play to snag his first career interception in the second quarter when the score was tied at 7.

Jenkins changed direction and dove back to his left to make the catch after receiver Antonio Bryant ran one way and Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Josh Freeman threw the other.

“I jumped it, and when I jumped it (Bryant) kind of just broke off his route, because I kind of cut him off,” Jenkins said. “So when the quarterback threw it anyway, I think he was anticipating him being inside. And since I took that away, he kind of just threw it to me.”

Freeman, who was making his third career start, looked good on that first drive, using his legs and his powerful arm to convert three third downs, including an 18-yard touchdown strike to receiver Michael Clayton in the back of the end zone.

Freeman had a lot of time to throw on the play, and the Saints’ makeshift secondary had communication problems, leaving Clayton wide open.

After that, though, the Saints’ pass rush improved, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams flummoxed Freeman with a variety of blitzes and alignments.

Freeman completed 17 of 33 passes for 126 yards, three interceptions and a fumble.

Fujita forced the fumble when he sacked Freeman on a blitz during the opening drive of the second half. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma made a great leaping catch to intercept a Freeman pass on the Buccaneers’ next possession. And safety Chris Reis hauled in an interception in the final two minutes, making up for an easy interception he dropped earlier.

“Coming into this game, we knew how potent their offense was and we knew the best defense was for our offense to sustain drives,” Freeman said. “We knew what we had to do to come out and win, and I put that on myself. .¤.¤. I was just a little off, and I couldn’t get into a rhythm.”

The Saints’ potent offense eventually burned the Buccaneers.

Brees hit receiver Robert Meachem with a 4-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter. He found Meachem again in the final minute of the first half for a 6-yard touchdown pass. And he fired an 11-yard touchdown strike to tight end David Thomas early in the third quarter after Freeman’s fumble.

By then it was 24-7, and the Saints ran out the clock after that with tailbacks Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell, who combined for 167 yards on 24 carries (an average of nearly 7 yards per carry). Bell scored the final two touchdowns on runs of 3 yards and 1 yard.

“You’ve got to like the mentality of this team. When we get a chance to open up the game a little bit, we’ve been able to take advantage of that opportunity. Today was no exception,” said offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, who said it was just “a matter of time” for the Saints to win a game in this fashion again, like they had been doing in the first five games.

Now it looks like the Patriots (7-3), who defeated the Jets 31-14 on Sunday, will be getting the Saints at their best.

Although the Saints went into a bit of a slump this month — as much as an undefeated team can be considered “slumping” — they’re rolling now, and a handful of injured players could be back by Monday night (Ellis? Greer? Gay? tailback Reggie Bush?)

“I like where we are at. I mean, we are 10-0,” said Saints Coach Sean Payton, who also stressed Sunday that his team excelled on special teams, which had been an inconsistent area throughout the season. “I thought we got better today.”

The Saints have now won 10 games in a row for the first time in franchise history, breaking the mark set in 1987 and matched in 1990-91.

And they could clinch the NFC South title by next week, if they win and the Atlanta Falcons (5-5) lose at home to Tampa Bay.

But Brees said the Saints haven’t really accomplished anything yet, and he doesn’t think they’ve reached their peak.

“I feel like the sky’s the limit for this team,” Brees said. “But like we’ve said all year, and it’s going to get old, it’s only going to get harder. Every team that we play would love to be the team to give us that first loss. And we’re about to play a team who arguably has been one of the best teams in this league the last decade, somewhat of a dynasty. They know how to win, they know how to win big games. And obviously we want to be one of those teams, year in and year out, that’s fighting for a championship.

“We’re building something special right now. But we also have to understand that in order to get there, you’ve got to be able to win games like this one coming up. And obviously it’s going to take a total team effort.”

Mike Triplett can be reached at mtriplett@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3405.



New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton finds ways to keep players on edge

By Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune

November 22, 2009, 6:00AM

The NFL regular season covers five long months. It begins in the humid heat of September and ends in the frigid frost of January.

Along the way minds can wander,  focus can falter,  motivation can wane. Throw in a 9-0 start and four-game lead in the division,  and you have a recipe for complacency.

Motivation is weekly challenge for New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton. In addition to compiling a game plan for the upcoming opponent,  he spends time each week preparing a mission statement to mold the minds of his players and hone their focus. He delivers it in a power point presentation to the team on Wednesday morning to set the tone for the week ahead. The message typically highlights a few simple keys to success in the upcoming game and sets the tone for the week of preparation ahead.

“It’s one of Sean’s great strengths, ” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. “How do you find a way  —  and it’s one of the biggest challenges in the NFL  —  to make sure your team is ready to play 16 weeks. It’s a long season. It’s a marathon. How do you make it to where your team is always concentrated and never having a mental lapse. And you have to continue to find a chip to put on your shoulder,  a motivational tactic of some kind that will get guys to play each week.”

Last week Payton reached deep into his bag of motivational tricks for a game against the St. Louis Rams. The Saints were coming off a pair of emotional wins against NFC South Division rivals Atlanta and Carolina. The Rams were 1-7.

So as he does every week,  Payton tasked his football operations staff to mine relevant statistics about St. Louis. They found a doozy: NFL teams coming off a bye week have won 62 percent of their games.

Forget that the statistical sample only covered the past three seasons or that it didn’t factor in the success rate of one-win teams.

Payton had effectively seized the attention of his team as it prepared for a two-touchdown underdog. By the time the Saints kicked off at the Edward Jones Dome they were convinced they had only a 38 percent chance of winning the game.

“Yes,  62 percent winner, ” Brees said this week. “That number still sticks in my mind.”

Payton spent three years studying under Coach Bill Parcells in Dallas before joining the Saints and he admits he borrowed a few motivational tricks. Like Parcells,  he’s not afraid to use props if necessary.

In previous years,  he littered the locker room with mouse traps to warn players to “not eat the cheese” during a winning streak. He left empty gas cans in the lockers of veterans Joe Horn and Hollis Thomas back in 2006. He also brought baseball bats to the facility before a game to encourage players “to bring the wood” on Sunday.

“If it were every week it might come across as gimmicky, ” right tackle Jon Stinchcomb said. “But he knows when to pick his spots.”

Two weeks ago players found leaflets in their lockers with a photo of the Superdome beneath shots of Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme and coach John Fox and a message: Who’s house is it: Theirs or ours? The reference was to Carolina’s then six-game winning streak against the Saints in the Superdome,  which the Saints snapped with a 30-20 victory.

“Do I think it’s the reason we beat teams on Sunday,  absolutely not, ” reserve tackle Zach Strief said. “But it’s just his way of planting a seed in your head and keeping you focused. I know this,  it doesn’t hurt.”

Linebacker Scott Shanle sees a lot of Parcells in Payton. He said Parcells was a motivational master. He knew exactly what buttons to push for each of his players. Payton,  players said,  similarly pricks the egos of his players. And no one is spared.

He’s gigged Jon Stinchcomb about his pre-snap penalties,  Jammal Brown for his weight and Shanle for his ability to cover the tight end.

Earlier this season he even picked on Darren Sharper,  who,  at 34,  is enjoying arguably the best season of his 13-year NFL career. After a win against the Detroit Lions in which Sharper intercepted two passes,  the coach chided the veteran free safety that he couldn’t return a pick for a score unless all of the players on the opposing offense were blocked or fell to the ground.

“That gets everybody laughing, ” Brees said. “It’s funny. It’s humorous. But I guarantee you Sharper being the competitive guy he is walks to his locker and is like,  I have to prove that I can take one back.”

The ploy worked. A week later Sharper returned an interception 97 yards for a touchdown in a win at Philadelphia.

“He knows little ways of motivating you, ” Sharper said. “And it’s motivation you can understand. It’s not B.S. motivation.”

A season is a building process,  and Payton understands the construction has only just begun. He can’t afford to relent. He knows its human nature for players  —  and indirectly a delirious fan base and fawning media corps  —  to look ahead. So he relentlessly lives in the precious present. He works the locker room,  the meeting rooms,  the cafeteria,  giving everybody something to think about.

“He’ll be in here at 7:45 before the 8 a.m. meeting,  wired from a couple of cups of coffee because he’s been in here since who knows when,  and you can tell he’s just looking for someone, ” Brees said.

Payton faces another motivational challenge this week. The Tampa Bay Bucs are 1-8 and ranked 28th in the league in total offense and 29th in total defense. They start a rookie quarterback and a host of new defenders. Yet this week Payton has emphasized the strengths of the Bucs’ special teams,  which rank among the best in the league.

“He’s always finding ways to give us an edge, ” linebacker Scott Shanle said.

Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or 504.826-3404.



New Orleans Saints tailback Reggie Bush, defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis won’t play at Tampa Bay

By Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune

November 21, 2009, 2:56PM

Saints tailback Reggie Bush and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis didn’t make the trip to Tampa, Saints spokesman Greg Bensel confirmed.

Both players stayed back to rest knee injuries. Bush missed practice all week with a bruised knee, but Coach Sean Payton indicated that the Saints don’t expect his injury to linger too long. Ellis, who missed the last three games with a sprained medial collateral knee ligament, returned to practice on a limited basis this week. So he appears close to a return.

Ideally, the Saints would love to have both players back for next week’s Monday night showdown in the Superdome against the New England Patriots.



New Orleans Saints not ruling out Reggie Bush against Tampa Bay Buccaneers

By Mike Triplett, The Times-Picayune

November 20, 2009, 9:06PM

New Orleans Saints tailback Reggie Bush was held out of practice again Friday with a bruised left knee. But Coach Sean Payton didn’t rule him out of Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay,  officially listing him as questionable.

Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune

New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper might be called on to return punts Sunday against Tampa Bay. Coach Sean Payton said even if Reggie Bush is available he probably wouldn’t use him as a punt returner.

“It’s a knee bruise. With that,  there’s swelling, ” said Payton,  who considers Bush’s injury more of a temporary issue than a long-term concern despite Bush’s history of more significant left knee injuries. “It’s just a matter of trying to keep it immobilized,  ice,  treatment,  seeing where it’s at tomorrow.”

Payton said Bush knows the Saints’ offense well enough that he would be able to play Sunday even without practicing all week. But at the same time,  he doesn’t want to risk any setbacks if he’s not close to 100 percent.

Bush declined to speak to reporters Friday.

Whether or not he is active Sunday,  Payton indicated that Bush might not be available to return punts. That leaves the Saints thin in that department. Their backup punt returners are receiver Lance Moore and cornerback Tracy Porter,  both of whom are sidelined with injuries.

Receiver Devery Henderson,  tailback Pierre Thomas and safety Darren Sharper have been taking reps in practice as punt returners. Henderson and Thomas have never returned a punt in the NFL. Sharper hasn’t returned one since 2004.

Sharper was a part-time punt returner earlier in his career with Green Bay,  and he said it’s not much different than returning an interception  —  something he’s obviously quite good at.

Sharper is listed as probable despite a sprained knee,  but he practiced fully Friday. He said he’ll test his knee before Sunday’s game to make sure it’s ready to go,  but he said he feels better this week than he did last week,  when he was held out of the game at St. Louis.

OTHER INJURIES: Moore (ankle),  Porter (knee) and cornerback Jabari Greer (groin) have been ruled out for Sunday. Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (knee) is questionable after practicing on a limited basis Friday,  and center Jonathan Goodwin (ankle) is probable despite missing Friday’s practice to rest his injury.

Newly signed cornerback Chris McAlister fully participated in practice all week despite a full year away from football while recovering from a knee injury. Payton said he has been able to pick up the playbook quickly,  but he did not indicate if McAlister will be active for Sunday’s game.

“We’ll see, ” Payton said. “You know,  he practiced this week,  and the reason we signed him was because we feel like he’s going to be able to come in on a short week and do that. So we’ll see.”

BREES AS MENTOR? Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Greg Olson was Drew Brees’ quarterbacks coach at Purdue. At the time,  Olson enlisted the help of young Colts quarterback Peyton Manning,  driving Brees to Indianapolis to meet with him for some guidance.

Olson told reporters in Tampa this week that he has spoken to Brees about returning the favor with rookie Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman this offseason.

“Figure I could give him some advice that could come back and haunt me, ” Brees joked when the Tampa media asked him about it this week,  before turning more serious. “I’m all for talking to young quarterbacks,  and I guess,  helping them along. I was that guy at one point. I’m still that guy in a lot of ways,  looking for all kinds of ways to get better. So,  yeah,  I’m very receptive to that sort of thing.”

Freeman said Brees has already been a big part of his tutelage in Tampa.

“I hear a lot about Drew Brees, ” Freeman said. “Coach Olson is trying to give me tips on how Drew works in practice,  how he works throughout the week,  just his commanding presence on the field.”

TURKEY GIVEAWAY: Several Saints players and their families will help distribute 1,000 turkeys and food baskets on Monday afternoon to families selected by the Dryades YMCA.

Mike Triplett can be reached at mtriplett@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3405.