Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/2006-03-08-nfl-report_x.htm">USA Today</a>
By Jim Corbett
<img width="165" height="227" align="left" alt="Drew Brees" id="image1943" title="Drew Brees" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/02/brees-drew.jpg" />Drew Brees needed some been-there, done-that reassurance. The quarterback recently had surgery for a torn labrum (shoulder cartilage) and on his rotator cuff. So Brees, the 2004 Comeback Player of the Year, called 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon for a psychological shot in his recovering arm.
Talking to Gannon for 15 minutes last week was the feel-good equivalent of a month of rehab. Gannon is the unofficial league leader in returns from career-threatening shoulder surgeries. The former Raiders, Chiefs and Redskins quarterback overcame a torn rotator cuff in 1993 and later torn shoulder cartilage that caused him to miss the final nine games of 2003.
"Rich had a torn rotator cuff back when most people thought rotator cuff surgery was career ending," Brees says. "Then, he had a torn labrum and made it back from that. Rich said to me, 'Man, it's no hill for a climber.' "
Just the motivational mantra Brees needed. He's been working to strengthen his shoulder - resolving to be 2006 Comeback Player of the Year.
"I was 38 when I came back 100% by training camp," Gannon says. "Drew is 27 with younger, healthier tissue. I'm 40. If not for my neck injury, I'd still be playing. I played the entire '04 preseason, was throwing the ball well and felt great until I hurt my neck three games into the season. I wound up taking such better care of my arm.
"I won't be surprised when Drew Brees comes back this year and plays great. In fact, if he comes back with the Chargers, I expect him to have a third Pro Bowl year."
Orthopedic surgeon James Andrews gave Brees a letter of endorsement, released by the agency that represents Brees, and the physician predicts Brees will make a full recovery for the '06 season. The letter marked the first time rotator cuff damage was publicly acknowledged.
"If the Chargers don't get a deal done with Drew Brees, they're out of their minds," Gannon says. "They're sending the wrong message to their players. Here they are on the verge of doing something special with a two-time Pro Bowler, fighter and mentally tough leader who understands the game, and they're going to let that guy go and turn a playoff team over to an unproven guy (Philip Rivers)? It's ludicrous."
What else does Brees have to prove?
When the Chargers traded the rights to Eli Manning to take Rivers fourth in the 2004 draft, Rivers' month-long holdout gave Brees one last chance to prove himself. Brees capitalized, leading San Diego to the playoffs with 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He is 20-12 as a starter.
The Dolphins, Lions, Raiders and Jets figure to have interest if the Chargers decide to go in Rivers' direction.
"There's quite a few teams that want me," Brees says. "I'm actually pretty excited about it."
The Chargers didn't believe Brees was worth a $9.3 million guaranteed franchise tag. It's a gamble that could ultimately haunt the franchise.
"I can't throw until early May," Brees says. "But I'm four weeks ahead of schedule."
And he's got plenty of friends around the league: Former Chargers offensive line coach Hudson Houck is in Miami, where coach Nick Saban covets Brees. New Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is Brees' former quarterbacks coach with the Chargers.
"I like the Chargers organization," Brees says. "I've invested a lot in them over the last five years. It would be a shame if I'm not back with the Chargers, because I believe they have what it takes to win a championship. But if they don't want me, I'll just have to go win a championship somewhere else."