Drew Brees has said it multiple times.
A smile often forms on his face before the words come out. The crowd chuckles. His audience doesn’t believe it can be done.
But make no mistake: That smile isn’t meant to signal that the words flowing out of Brees’ mouth are to be taken sarcastically. He thinks he can play well into his 40s, if not hit his stated goal of 45.
This is a real mission for him.
“We’re trying to beat the aging process,” Brees said.
Can it be done? No one knows. Historical data says no. Elite quarterbacks used to peak in their mid-20s, sustain for a few years, and then the game would quit on them sometime in the next decade.
But historical football and the old way of thinking about things could be facing extinction — at least when it comes to elite quarterbacks.
The game has changed. Quarterbacks are more protected by the rules than ever. Sports science has changed the way players train and prepare their bodies.
If Brees wanted, he could slip on a virtual reality headset and watch every snap he took during practice while recovering in a cyrochamber. That’s something that could happen right now, in minutes. The Saints already have the technology in place.
Joe Montana, on the other hand, played during an era when someone would get their “bell rung” and be told to “rub some dirt” on his bumps and bruises.
This is a different game.
“I think we’ve seen the health and training element that I think would contribute more to that than anything else,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “It wasn’t long ago, we as players weren’t allowed to drink water until the end of practice. We just didn’t know.”
Players know now.
They know how to take care of their bodies and use science to make sure everything is always finely tuned and working at peak performance. Brees’ coaches and teammates often talk about how maniacal he is about his health and staying in top condition, and he stays on top of his mechanics by working with throwing coach Tom House.
That might be his secret weapon.
It’s probably not a coincidence that both Brees and the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady both work with House, who is known to use motion sensors to players that help detect inefficiencies undetectable by the naked eye. If even the smallest thing is off, House will spot it and figure out a way to fix it.
That’s why when Brees injured his oblique early last season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, House was one of the people he consulted with when working his way back. Despite early reports that he would miss multiple weeks, the Saints quarterback was back in action after being down for one week. He finished the season with 4,870 passing yards.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how important he’s been to me in my career,” Brees said. “Not only preparing myself physically but mentally and emotionally and psychologically to play each year and to play this long. Do I think that he has helped with longevity? Yes. Without question.
“I think that’s part of the training that we do together. Making sure that I can sustain at the level I want to be at, playing at a high level for as long as I want to.”
Can every quarterback who achieves a certain level of talent and remain dedicated to his craft dream the same dream?
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SOURCE: The New Orleans Advocate