NFC South: A.J. Smith
|Julian Finney/Getty Images|
|Surrounded by reporters on Wednesday, Drew Brees discusses the Saints' upcoming game against the Chargers.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
WATFORD, England -- On the edge of a soccer pitch, masquerading as a football field, Drew Brees sold New Orleans.
"Just like London is one of those spots where people feel like they need to visit when they come to Europe," Brees said, "well, New Orleans is one of those spots that if you're European and you're coming to the States and you want to know where to go, hey, come to New Orleans. I think the culture is unlike any other in our country and, certainly, you want to share that with the world."
The quarterback of the Saints suddenly has become the unofficial tourism director for New Orleans. Brees' latest spiel came with about 50 members of the British media in attendance Wednesday after the Saints had finished practice for Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers.
"I think that post-Katrina, maybe a lot of people have kind of forgotten about New Orleans or think that there's still so much damage there that it's not worth going," Brees said. "There are a lot of things that still need to be done. But, in a lot of ways, I think New Orleans has come back better than ever."
For Brees, New Orleans has turned out to be paradise found.
Nearly three years after being cast aside by the Chargers, Brees has established himself as the face of the Saints and an ambassador for New Orleans. He did it in the aftermath of one of the most vicious hurricanes ever to strike the United States.
Weathering difficulty is nothing new for Brees. He dealt with plenty of that in San Diego. He'd been the starting quarterback for three seasons when the Chargers brought in Philip Rivers, a first-round pick, in the Eli Manning trade with the Giants. At that moment, Brees knew that meant his time in San Diego would come to an end at some point.
Brees actually wound up holding onto the starting job as Rivers stood on the sidelines and general manager A.J. Smith and coach Marty Schottenheimer feuded over what to do at quarterback and a lot of other things. With Smith favoring Rivers, Brees had two very productive seasons. But a shoulder injury at the end of 2005 made it easy for the Chargers to let him go and clear the way for Rivers.
Brees doesn't dwell on his San Diego days much anymore, but that period is coming up a lot as he prepares to play his former team.
"I guess ever since I signed with New Orleans, I knew the day would come," Brees said. "I feel like I'm still preparing the same way I would for any opponent. I know a lot of those guys, and there might be that extra added motivation to win or put more pressure on myself, but I'm really trying to approach this as just another game that we need to win."