Earlier this month, the Saints traded Brandin Cooks to the Patriots for first- and third-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. The move surprised many, as Cooks was a vital part of the Saints’ offense. He had 78 receptions for a team-high 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
Some of his teammates, however, might not miss him. After the trade, Michael Thomas and Willie Snead, who combined for 2,000+ yards and 13 touchdowns last season, seemed to take shots at Cooks on social media.
Was there some bad blood in the receivers’ room?
“No, I think things were blown out of proportion,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Unfortunately, with social media and just with the media in general, I think there’s times that speculation is made and all of a sudden people believe that that’s fact. I talked to all those guys when that stuff started to happen, and all those guys, they were all on the same page. Now is it competitive? Yeah, it’s competitive. Did I expect this to happen? No, I didn’t. When the offseason came around, I did not expect Brandin to be traded. But it seems like that’s what he wanted in furthering his career, which is fine.”
Cooks, 23, had 75+ catches for 1,100+ yards and 8+ touchdowns each of the last two seasons.
“Listen, I love Brandin,” Brees said. “I’ve got a great relationship with Brandin. I loved the three years that I had with him. He’s the ultimate teammate, He works his tail off, he deserves every good thing that comes his way, and I hope that that’s a good situation for him. I think that we got value for that. Hopefully we’ll turn those draft picks into value for us, even if it’s not another offensive player. It might be a defensive player. But the bottom line is, life goes on. We constantly evolve as an offense depending on who we have in the system.”
That includes Thomas, Snead, Coby Fleener and Ted Ginn Jr., among others. Brees excels at spreading the football and remains one of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, even at 38.
“I think I can play until I’m 45 or beyond,” Brees said. “I think physiologically that’s possible. I think with what we know now, diet and nutrition and recovery and all those things, we can get our bodies prepared and able to do that well into our 40s. I think the desire has to be there, the commitment to play this game at a high level at the quarterback position. You have to invest so much of yourself into the game, not just during the season but in the offseason. I think as long as I continue to enjoy that process, I know that my heart is 100 percent in this and wanting to win a championship. At the end of the day, that’s really all I am in search of. Once you taste that, that’s all you want again. I love the locker room, I love being around the guys, I love the game, I love our coaches and our system. But at the end of the day, we have a job to do. We have an objective.”
Brees believes that both he and Sean Payton will be in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Brees, in fact, thinks he’ll end his career with the Saints.
“I don’t see myself ever playing for anybody else,” he said. “I hope that’s not the case, but I also understand we got to win. We got to win this year. That’s for all of us. That’s just the bottom line, and that’s what we expect to do. . . . We all understand the nature of this business is you got to win. You got to win. There’s a great sense of urgency for us right now.”
The Saints have finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs three years in a row. Brees deserves little to no blame for that. He has led the NFL in passing in five of the last six seasons and is arguably the most productive quarterback in football. Still, many fans consider Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and perhaps a handful of others more elite than the former Super Bowl MVP.
That’s fine. Brees isn’t worried about status or legacy.
“I don’t care about that right now,” Brees said. “I’m so laser-focused on what I want us to accomplish as a team. But I think at the end of the day, part of what makes you a great player is being available for your team – not only what you do on the field and being productive, but available as a leader and in the locker room just being there for guys and making sure they know how much you have invested and how much you care. But also being consistent in everything you do – that’s what I’ve always tried to do with my production. I want guys to know exactly what they can expect out of me when they pull into the facility every day and at the end of the year when they look at the record and they look at the stats or whatever they’re looking at, that they know exactly what they’re going to get out of my every time. If I accomplish that, that’s part of what I set out to do.”