Brees’ free-agent courtship worked out for him, Saban

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS.  Saints QB Drew Brees (9) looks for an open receiver in the second quarter of the Saints'  30-13 win over Chicago Sunday in the Superdome.
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS. Saints QB Drew Brees (9) looks for an open receiver in the second quarter of the Saints' 30-13 win over Chicago Sunday in the Superdome.


During an interview with a Miami radio station, Saban said publicly for the first time that Drew Brees was their choice to be the quarterback of the future when he took a free-agent visit there in 2006.

Brees, however, felt more comfortable with the New Orleans Saints and accepted an offer that made him arguably the best free-agent signee in NFL history despite a shoulder injury that many believe scared the Dolphins off.

“I have a lot of respect for Coach Saban … I felt like he was honest with me when I was down there,” Brees said Wednesday. “But I felt like when I was here in New Orleans, I was embraced. I was given confidence that, ‘You’re our guy, and we know the situation you’re in but we know you’re going to come back and lead this team and this community.’

“The impression I got when I was there was, ‘Hey, we like you, but we’re not sure.’ I got the sense I was being evaluated every second I was there.”

As well as poked and prodded during physical testing, he said.

But Brees said it worked out well for both parties. He won a Super Bowl with the Saints and Saban will be going for his third BCS title in the past four seasons with the Crimson Tide on Jan. 7.

“Listen, it all happened the way it was supposed to,” a smiling Brees said. “He’s at Alabama playing for his third national title and I don’t think he’d trade it for the world. I certainly wouldn’t trade it for the world.

“We’re all good.”

Pro Bowl voting

The Saints and players and coaches from each of the other 31 teams will cast Pro Bowl ballots Thursday and Friday to choose the all-star squads that will play in Honolulu on Jan. 27.

Coaches and players count one-third each with the other third coming from an online vote of fans that ended Monday night.

Partly because they’re 6-8, the Saints may not get many players on the NFC squad. But interim coach Joe Vitt said he likes the chances of punter Thomas Morstead, who leads the league in net average (44.7) and is second in gross average (50.3).

“He has had a great year and he’s worked hard,” Vitt said. “He is fun to watch — his evolution as a punter and a leader — and to see what he does on kickoffs for us. I hope so, it’ll be great for him.”

Practice report

Not practicing for the Saints on Wednesday were T Zach Strief (ankle) and FB Jed Collins (knee/toe), while CB Patrick Robinson (groin) and RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) were limited.

For the Cowboys, RB DeMarco Murray (foot), NT Jay Ratliff (groin) and LB Ernie Sims (concussion) did not work out.

WR Dez Bryant (finger) and LB DeMarcus Ware (elbow) were limited.

White to injured reserve

The Saints put rookie cornerback Corey White on injured reserve with a knee injury, one of many moves they made Tuesday and Wednesday. White, who was the fifth defensive back on the field in the nickel package, injured his knee in a Nov. 11 game against the Atlanta Falcons.

White, a Dunwoody, Ga., native, who played at Samford, tried to come back 18 days later in the rematch against the Falcons in Atlanta, but could only play on special teams and missed four of the last five games before being shut down for the season.

More moves

The Saints signed wide receiver Saalim Hakim from the practice squad to fill White’s spot on the 53-man roster.

They also signed cornerback Phillip Thomas, guard Wayne Tribue, wide receiver Jarred Fayson and defensive back Ryan Steed to fill out their practice squad after promoting safety Jerico Nelson and guard Ricky Henry to the active roster Saturday.

Brees up for award

Brees is one of three nominees for the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week award, the fourth time he’s been up for the honor this season, after throwing four touchdown passes in a 41-0 rout of the Tampa Bay Bucs on Sunday.

Fans can vote online until 2 p.m. Friday at www.nfl.com/FedEx.