Drew Brees is a Hall-of-Fame caliber quarterback, but the curtain nearly closed on his career before the show even started.
After five solid seasons with the San Diego Chargers, concerns about an injured throwing shoulder kept just about every NFL team away from Brees once he became a free agent before the 2006 season. But after a visit to Dr. James Andrews, the New Orleans Saints took a shot on Brees, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Brees led the Saints to a Super Bowl win in 2009 and has missed a grand total of one game due to injury in 10 seasons in the Big Easy. The Saints took a chance on Brees during a time when not many others would have, and almost 10 years later, the Eagles have taken a similar approach in landing Sam Bradford.
While the injuries are different, Brees knows what Bradford is going through in terms of re-establishing himself after a potentially devastating injury after a visit with Dr. Andrews.
"It's been unfortunate that he's had those ACL (injuries), but there's no doubt that he's a talented guy," Brees said during his conference call with the Philadelphia media. "I've heard nothing but good things about him from guys I knew who were his teammates or coaches. I think the right opportunity and the blessing to be able to stay healthy were there for him and have allowed him the opportunity to be successful. Obviously that's a good fit for him in Philadelphia with that offense.
"As far as overcoming something like that, back in 2006 when I had the shoulder – obviously you're talking about the differences between a knee and a shoulder. I had an ACL in high school, but not back-to-back like he had – that's a tough deal to overcome at times, but he seems to have done it. Obviously that's a big credit to him. As far as getting the surgery done and recovery and rehab and that kind of stuff, Dr. Andrews saved my career, so I'll always vouch for him."
Brees would also vouch for two of his former teammates, Darren Sproles and Malcolm Jenkins, both of whom joined the Eagles during the 2014 offseason.
"He's a stud," Brees said of the Eagles' running back. "Sproles is one of my favorite people and one of my favorite teammates that I've ever had. We've trained together for a while now in San Diego every offseason. I'd say we push each other, but it's really me trying to keep up with him all the time. His work ethic is second-to-none. His focus, his intensity –he's the epitome of what you would want in a teammate, both him and Malcolm. The way that they work, prepare and compete … they want to win and they're big-time players in big-time moments. I miss those guys. They're everything you would want in a teammate."
Once a teammate and still a close friend, Jenkins now becomes the enemy for Brees. According to the Saints' quarterback, Jenkins' versatility on the back end is just part of what makes the Eagles' defense such a talented group.
"I think they're better up front then they were when we played them in the playoffs (in 2013)," Brees said. "They've made some improvements. I think their defense is playing as well as any defense in the league right now.
"Unfortunately, you guys got Malcolm Jenkins from us two years ago. I think Malcolm is a great football player and a great leader. You can tell his presence makes a great difference on the field. I think just all around, they're playing really well against the run. They're playing really well against the pass. Everybody in the secondary has coverage ability, including the two safeties. … All of these guys have kind of that ballhawk-type ability. They have a great feel back there and they seem to all play well together, so this is a really good defense."
To hear all of Brees' conference call, click play on the video player above or click here.