NEW ORLEANS — It’s no surprise Drew Brees would rather be a competitor than an ambassador, but the city’s patron Saint put on his best effort Wednesday to promote and help his adopted hometown as it prepares for Super Bowl XLVII.
“It’s hard to imagine somebody else playing in our dome but us,” he said. “But there is a great opportunity to showcase the city of New Orleans this week. It’s been a long time since the Super Bowl has been here (2002), and New Orleans has been waiting for this opportunity.”
Brees said he’s still waiting for his first chance to speak to newly reinstated Saints coach Sean Payton. He said he texted Payton as he was traveling to Hawaii for last week’s Pro Bowl and Payton was heading to Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl.
“It’s one of those relationships that, though we haven’t been able to talk for the entire season, when we see each other it’ll be like we haven’t missed any time,” Brees said.
Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season for his failure to exert proper institutional control over a bounty program overseen by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams from 2009-11. While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell allowed Payton to return in time to evaluate players at the Senior Bowl, he didn’t restore the Saints’ second-round pick in April’s draft.
Asked about the decision, Brees did his best to audible around it.
“It is what it is,” he said. “We’re all ready to move on to the 2013 season. Sean’s back; all the pieces are in place. Now it’s time to put ourselves in a position to make a run.”
A prime order of business is to hire a new defensive coordinator. One of Payton’s first acts after he was reinstated was to fire first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo after a 7-9 season in which the Saints surrendered an NFL record 7,042 total yards.
Whomever he hires, Payton said he wants the Saints to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base defense.
“I don’t have all the information,” Brees said of the firing. “I haven’t talked to Sean or anyone about that. Obviously tough decisions need to be made. I wouldn’t say I agree or disagree, but the fact of the matter is there is always turnover, and we as players always have to do our jobs. I’ll be interested to see who we get and what scheme we’ll be running. I think we all trust the man who’s making (the decisions), and we’ll move on with what we have.”
The MVP of the Saints’ win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV three years ago in Miami, Brees said he expects a competitive game Sunday between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens. The 49ers beat the Saints 31-21 here Nov. 25.
“Both are great teams,” Brees said. “Both of them have traveled a tough road to get here, going on road and win (in the playoffs). It’s one of those rare occasions where both teams have dominant defenses and extremely explosive offenses, so it really could go either way. I wish it was us.”
Brees appeared Wednesday at an event called “Financial Football” at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy to promote financial responsibility among teenagers. Brees and Wilson joined students from McMain and McDonogh 35 high schools to “coach” them through a video game in which their answers to financial questions allow the teams to gain or lose yardage.
Brees’ Saints beat Wilson’s Seahawks 7-0 on — what else? — a fourth-quarter touchdown pass.
Brees told the students how he got himself in financial trouble with an unpaid cell phone account from his playing days at Purdue that made it harder for him to buy a home when he started his NFL career in San Diego. Asked about his credit score now, Brees laughed and said, “It’s improved quite a bit since college. It was in the low (600s), and now it’s about (800). I can get a loan.”
Not that a loan likely is necessary for the NFL’s highest-paid player. His current contract averages out to about $20 million per season.
“We’ll have to get him to loan the state money,” Kennedy said.
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