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Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Morning report: Brees on Graham, Sproles

By Mike Triplett

Drew Brees understands the business side of the NFL better than most. And he's gotten used to the concept of a revolving roster. But Brees admitted that the New Orleans Saints' decision to trade running back Darren Sproles last week was one of the tougher departures he's ever had to deal with.

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Brees also said he's "very confident" that the team's contract talks with tight end Jimmy Graham will eventually work out.

Brees spoke at length for the first time this offseason to FOX Sports' Mike Garafolo and USA Today's Tom Pelissero while at the NFL Players Association meetings in Orlando.

"I think a Darren Sproles only comes around once in your lifetime, in my career and in everybody's career," said Brees, who said he felt even more personally connected to Sproles because he helped recruit him to the Saints while they were working out together in San Diego in 2011.

"There may be another one 15, 20 years from now. But there's not many guys like Darren Sproles. He's a special player, he's a special person, he's a special teammate. ...

"I feel like that was my guy, that was my pick and I wanted that to last forever. But unfortunately it didn't last forever."

Brees said it was also tough to see the Saints part ways with longtime teammates such as receiver Lance Moore and defensive players Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Roman Harper, Jabari Greer and Malcolm Jenkins.

He stressed that he does expect Graham back, though, having been through a similar drawn-out contract negotiation himself two years ago.

"Listen, I know Jimmy will be ready to play, whether that means he's coming in tomorrow, April 21 or Aug. 21," Brees said.

Brees also intimated that he likely plans to give up his seat on the NFLPA executive committee.

President Watson? Speaking of the NFLPA meetings, Saints tight end Benjamin Watson has emerged as a leading candidate to become the union's next president, according to both Pelissero and the NFL Network's Albert Breer.

Vitt speaks: Reporter Mike Nabors also caught up with Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt during Florida's pro day for a CoxSports TV interview. Vitt also said that the player releases are never easy and that coach Sean Payton "agonized over it." And he said he has followed new Saints safety Jairus Byrd since high school in St. Louis, where Vitt used to work with Byrd's father Gill with the Rams, among other topics.

Harper speaks: Former Saints safety Roman Harper spoke with the media in Carolina after signing his new deal with the division rival Panthers. Harper said it's "mind blowing" to think of the Panthers without receiver Steve Smith after they've had such a competitive battle over the years.

Harper also said, "When I'm healthy I play at an extremely high level and I know I can compete and play at a high level in this league," according to the Charlotte Observer. "I just want to continue to do that until it's time for me to go. And it's not time for me to go, yet."

Gleason's birthday: Happy 37th birthday to No. 37 -- former Saints safety Steve Gleason, who wore that jersey number while earning his place as a fan favorite in New Orleans. Gleason's charitable foundation @TeamGleason is holding a contest, asking for fans to take a video or photo replicating Gleason's famous blocked punt in the Superdome in 2006. Click here for more details.

Longer odds? As The Times-Picayune's Larry Holder pointed out, the Saints' odds to win the Super Bowl have worsened over the past two months, according to @BovadaLV. They were 18-1 on Feb. 3, and now they're 22-1. The Eagles and Colts both jumped ahead of New Orleans.