Brees laughs off questions about his future with Saints

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Drew Brees sees no reason to portray the Saints' season finale in Atlanta as the possible end of an era in New Orleans.

Brees laughed when asked if he expects to be back next season, and questioned the job qualifications of anyone who'd report otherwise.

''I wonder how some people in this industry have a job, reporting some of the stuff that they report, with their sources or their cousin or whoever,'' Brees said. ''That's why I just kind of laugh.

''Call me naive or just call me somebody who has a feeling. I feel like we're headed in the right direction.''

After last season, coach Sean Payton put together a plan for ''acquiring the type of veterans, the type of young talent, the type of leadership, character that we need to kind of build a foundation on which we can make a run at it here,'' Brees said. ''I feel like that's what's taking place here right now.''

The Saints are about to conclude consecutive losing seasons for the first time since Payton was hired as coach in 2006 and quickly brought in Brees as his quarterback.

Brees noted that the Saints weren't much better in the two seasons before winning their only Super Bowl in the 2009 season. They were 7-9 in 2007 and 8-8 in 2008.

If the Saints are going to keep Brees, financial maneuvering might be involved. He has one more season left on his contract, which counts about $30 million against the 2016 salary cap. One way to lower that number next season would be to extend Brees, who'll turn 37 next month - if the Saints see him as their starter for the next several years.

Brees declined to discuss his contract and said it won't be a concern in any event until after Sunday's game.

Brees has passed for 4,547 yards and 31 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. If Brees doesn't throw an interception in Atlanta on Sunday, he'll have tied his lowest interception total in any season as a Saint.

His numbers have come despite a shoulder injury that forced him to sit out a game earlier this season and a torn plantar fascia in his right foot that has forced him to play in pain for more than a game and a half.

Brees expects to play once more this week on his injured right foot before finally getting the rest he needs to heal.

Veteran right tackle Zach Strief called the idea of New Orleans parting ways with Brees ''ridiculous,'' adding, ''I can't fathom it happening to that guy at this point in his career. He's too good.''

Whether Strief and several other longtime offensive starters return is another matter.

Like Strief, receiver Marques Colston and right guard Jahri Evans are about to finish their 10th NFL seasons - all with New Orleans.

Evans said after last Sunday's game that he expects to return.

''Me and Coach Payton talked this offseason and I don't think I'm going anywhere,'' Evans said. ''I love playing for Drew. I think he's the best quarterback in the game, so I plan on being here as long as he's here.''

Strief said he doesn't feel like he is finished either, but acknowledged that he might not be a starter much longer with New Orleans having used its top draft pick last spring on tackle Andrus Peat.

''As long as they want me back here, and we can come to an agreement on what that means financially, I'll be here,'' Strief said, adding that he intends to retire as a Saint. ''When they say, `We're done with you,' I'm not going to another team.''

Colston has not discussed his future lately and was not in the locker room when it was open to media on Wednesday. He did not play last week because of a chest injury and his numbers are down this season. But Brees said Colston's leadership and presence on and off the field has helped young receivers Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead both have big seasons.

''His influence is felt even if he is not the one that is necessarily catching the ball,'' Brees said of Colston, who has 45 catches for 520 yards and four TDs. ''He has been a big impact on the offense and those (younger) guys.''

Notes: The Saints placed running back C.J. Spiller on injured reserve for the final game. Payton had said when Spiller was scratched last Sunday that the running back, acquired last offseason, has struggled to regain strength in his leg since preseason arthroscopic knee surgery.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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