What's the best thing about being a video game quarterback as opposed to playing the position in real life?
Nobody better to ask than "Madden NFL 11" cover boy and Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees.
"No pain," Brees says with a laugh. "I'm not worried about getting hit in 'Madden.' It's a little different when you're out there for real and you have to be aware of who is trying to knock your head off. If I get hit in the game, all that happens is my controller shakes."
But there are some things Brees loves about the real NFL that he thinks can never be captured in virtual form.
"I think the atmosphere of a game, where you step out on the field and you hear the crowd noise, is really special," Brees says. "Then when you throw a touchdown and run into that end zone and jump on a teammate that interaction and that atmosphere is obviously something where you have to be there to feel.
"But to me, being in 'Madden' is just another way to connect with the fans. It helps educates the fans about the plays, the players, the teams. I have a Wii, and when my son gets older, it's going to be fun to be able to play the game together. I have a feeling he's going to be a gamer pretty soon."
I had the chance to sit down with Brees just hours after his "Madden NFL 11" cover was officially unveiled in New York's Times Square to talk about the game, the Saints and, of course, that dreaded Madden Curse. Here's what EA's newest spokesman had to say.
Jon Robinson: Does it mean more to be on the cover of "Madden" this year because the fans voted for you as opposed to some suit just giving you a check to pose for a picture?
Drew Brees: Absolutely. This game is driven by the fans, so it means so much more to me and to all the Saints players because we understand the bond we've had with our fans and with our city. Certainly when the fans have spoken, that means so much. I think it's a great way to continue to highlight New Orleans and the Saints organization and what we've been able to accomplish and the direction we're still headed.
Jon Robinson: It was only a few years ago where you were coming off of an injury and searching for a team to give you a shot. Now you're the Super Bowl MVP and the "Madden" cover guy. What has that ride been like?
Drew Brees: It's crazy how it all played out, it really is. I just can't tell you how excited I am about what we've been able to accomplish in New Orleans. When I was going through free agency, it came down to New Orleans and Miami, but New Orleans just instilled so much confidence in me. I remember how they told me that I could not only lead them to a championship but I could help rebuild this city and be a part of this community. That meant the world to me knowing that they had as much confidence in me as I had in myself.
Jon Robinson: There are a lot of scenes in "Madden NFL 11" where they show you without your helmet. They have a cut scene of you walking around the locker room before the game and throwing passes on the sideline where you see your face and hair. What do you think of the new look?
Drew Brees: It's interesting because I went through the facial scan and all that stuff, and then seeing the game and going, wow, that looks like me in a digital, animated kind of way. The fact that there are so many new features in the game, like the GameFlow, where you choose to run and execute the plays that your coach is calling. There's also this Game Plan feature where you go in beforehand and you can put together your list of plays for the season or for a certain game. C'mon, that's awesome. That's as close to being in the real-live action as you can.
Jon Robinson: So if I'm playing as the Saints, what's the coach going to be telling me to do on offense?
Drew Brees: We have so much stuff, he could be telling you any number of things. [laughs] I just like that EA Sports has broken down the film, and really, for every team, they're taking plays that you actually run in certain situations and put them in the game. Now you don't need to worry about trying to figure out what to call in a tough spot. Now the coach will call the best play for you and it's up to you to execute that play. I'm amazed at how accurate the game is. I can't wait to dive into "11."
Jon Robinson: Another cool thing about "Madden 11" is the new control scheme. Now you can use the right analog stick to do all your moves from the juke to the high step to the spin and you can even link them all together in a combo. Is this the perfect way to control a guy like Reggie Bush in the game?
Drew Brees: He might be one of the only guys quick enough to be able to pull off all those moves in one run. I'm sure he'll have fun playing as himself in the game this year.
Jon Robinson: How about if I get you in the open field. What move should I do?
Drew Brees: I don't think you want me in the open field. [laughs] I can't say that's one of my strengths. Try to keep me in the pocket if you can.
Jon Robinson: They even have it where if you lean forward too long on the stick, your guy will fall down.
Drew Brees: Hopefully they give me enough agility so that I don't just fall over all the time. I want to be able to play as my self without getting too upset. [laughs]
Jon Robinson: I'm sure as soon as you found out you were going to be on the cover, you heard all the talk about the Madden Curse. Do you think fans of rival teams in the NFC voted for you just so the Saints won't repeat as champs?
Drew Brees: The Madden Curse has really taken on a life of its own. People just love talking about it, and it is what it is, but I look at it as a challenge. I also feel like we're still destined to do great things in New Orleans. Our work is not done, and we still have a lot to accomplish. Our time is now, and destiny is still pulling on us, so I feel like destiny is stronger than any curse.
Jon Robinson: They added your pregame ritual of pumping up the team before the game in "Madden 11." When did you realize that this chant had become an iconic NFL moment?
Drew Brees: When that started, it was just for us, it was for our team. I don't think we ever even fathomed how many people would take notice or take interest in what we were doing. But no matter where I am, the No. 1 question I got this offseason was, "What do you say in that huddle?" People tell me that it hypes them up because we're getting hyped up, whether they're watching from the stands or TV. It's wild.
So then the night of our Super Bowl parade, I went with some of the offensive linemen and some of the guys for a last hurrah to celebrate the season. Everybody was like, "Hey, you gotta do the chant! Do the chant!" And all of our guys were like, "Yeah, do the chant!" So I went ahead and divulged what we said. I figured it was appropriate because the spot where we were was a really popular place among Saints fans and this was a way to bring our fans in to what we were doing. Obviously, they are such a big part of our success, so we were just sharing that time with the fans and letting them in on what we actually chant before the game. They deserved to hear it.
Jon Robinson: Are you changing the chant for this season?
Drew Brees: Absolutely, it's a new season. Every year, I'm constantly thinking of motivational, inspirational type things that I can say to the team and how we can get in that mindset for this year, so I'll definitely be thinking of something else. But who knows, it might be somebody else doing the chant. It might be something a little bit different. We need to change it because the fact is, it's a new year.
Jon Robinson: So I'm going to take the Saints in "Madden 11" and try to repeat as Super Bowl champs. What do you guys need to do for real to win another one?
Drew Brees: We're just going to have to re-establish focus and discipline this offseason. We have to understand the situation we're in and the fact that as hard as it was to get there in the first place, it's going to be even harder to stay on top. Everybody is gunning for us now. Every game is going to be the toughest game of the season, and we need to prepare ourselves for that. I feel like we have all the pieces in place to make another run, so I'm excited about the opportunity we have and the challenge, but it's going to be one of our toughest seasons in terms of preparation and getting ready to succeed. It's going to be tougher than anything we've ever had to experience.
There's no reset button in real life like there is in "Madden." It's going to be intense.