San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 03, 2012 10:13 PM
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Drew Brees has already beaten the San Diego Chargers, the team that tossed him aside after he hurt his shoulder in the 2005 regular-season finale, allowing Philip Rivers to become the starter.
Another win against the Bolts would be nice, for sure, and Brees admits there will be a little extra motivation facing the Chargers on Sunday night in the Superdome.
Still, Brees has to focus more on getting his New Orleans Saints their first win of the season.
"I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a little bit extra, but maybe not for the reason you think," Brees said Wednesday during a conference call with San Diego reporters. "I know the type of team they have, I know the type of defense they have, the type of offense they have. For us, there's no better time or place to play this than Sunday night, in the Superdome, with the crazy crowd, nationally televised game. It doesn't get any bigger or better."
With coach Sean Payton serving a season-long suspension over the NFL's bounty scandal, the Saints have opened 0-4. Their losses have been by single digits, including one point at Green Bay on Sunday.
"We've just got finish. We've got to find a way to win," Brees said. "We believe we're going to turn this thing around at any moment. We're going to get on a roll. Once we do, look out."
Brees and the Saints beat the Chargers in London in 2008. The next season, Brees did something the Chargers haven't done, win the Super Bowl. He was voted the game's MVP.
Last season, Brees set NFL single-season records with 468 completions, 5,476 yards passing and a 71.2 completion percentage. His prolific passing numbers helped the Saints set an NFL high for total offensive yards in a season with 7,474. Brees' yards passing record shattered a mark of 5,084 set by Dan Marino back in 1984.
On Sunday, Brees can claim sole possession of another NFL record. Against Green Bay, he tied Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas' record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass, 47. Brees threw for three scores and 446 yards in the loss to the Packers.
"There's no doubt that's not a coincidence," Brees said about having the chance to break the record against his old team. "The NFL, they're no dummies. They know what they're doing."
Brees and wife Brittany spend time in San Diego in the offseason, including hosting a charity golf tournament.
If he still wants to stick it to the Chargers (3-1) for the way he was tossed aside, he won't say.
"There's no ill will. There's nothing like that," Brees said. "I've got nothing but respect for the Charger organization. Certainly there are some players I played with, and people in the building."
He also has kind words for Rivers, who took over as San Diego's starter in 2006 after Brees signed with the Saints.
"I've got a ton of respect for him. I feel he's an elite quarterback in this league," Brees said.
When Rivers joined the Chargers via trade with the New York Giants on draft day in 2004, it was clear he was the team's QB of the future, said Brees, who led the Chargers to the playoffs that season after struggling in 2003.
"So I think people wanted us to be at odds. They wanted us to be adversaries," Brees said. "They wanted this to be a contentious relationship. And it wasn't. Listen, we are both competitive people. We both wanted to play. We both wanted to be the guy, but we had a good quarterback room during that time. Doug Flutie was with us. ... We all helped one another and, yes, it was competitive but it wasn't adversarial at all.
"Obviously, my departure, coming here, we do stay in touch. I see him at least a couple times during the offseason," Brees said. "I've been with him at the Pro Bowl the last two times, so I've got a great relationship with Phil. We'll even talk during the season at times, just similar opponents. We've done that before, just kind of comparing notes. So despite what people may have tried to make it, it was never that way."
Rivers said Brees has always been steady, "and that's how you bounce back from a situation like they're in. In a Drew Brees team with what they've been through, you can't ever count them out of anything. We'll get their best and we've got to prepare to make sure that we give them our best."
Rivers remembered that Brees' demeanor never changed.
"He could have thrown three interceptions and it was like he had thrown three touchdowns or vice versa. And I think that's something that filters down through the locker room. I'm a little more emotional and it's harder for me to keep as steady but that's one thing that I did learn from him. I appreciated being able to watch him those first two years."
Another former Chargers player with New Orleans is running back Darren Sproles. He was teammates for one season in New Orleans with wide receiver Robert Meachem, who signed with San Diego as a free agent in March.
Meachem has Sproles' old locker. Meachem said Sproles told him it would be fitting if he, rather than another Chargers newcomer, got his old locker.
"Emotions are going to be there, but there are going to be emotions for Sproles," Meachem said. "He was here forever, and I was there forever. You've just got to go have fun."
Asked what it's like to catch passes from Brees, Meachem said: "I still have him in a way, in Philip, because Philip learned from him. It's a great honor to have a great quarterback, because you know he'll get mad at himself if he throws you a bad ball. Same as Philip. He gets mad at himself if he throws you a bad ball. Philip is just like Drew as far as competitive. They both want to win."
The only big difference between the two QBs is height, Meachem said.
"When you throw a seam-six, sometimes you can't see Drew, but you can see Philip."
Notes: The Saints waived CB Elbert Mack and re-signed WR Greg Camarillo. ... Five Saints players sat out Wednesday's practice: S Roman Harper (right hip), WR Lance Moore (right hamstring), DE Turk McBride (left ankle), LB David Hawthorne (right hamstring) and RB Travaris Cadet (right shoulder). LB Jonathan Casillas (neck) was limited. ... San Diego's Norv Turner said K Nate Kaeding (groin) felt better but the coach doesn't know when he'll be back. Turner said Kaeding's injury doesn't seem as severe as when he missed three games with a similar injury in 2010.