Worth repeating: Payton and Brees

METAIRIE, La. -- I'll continue to dissect several of the topics we discussed with New Orleans Saints players and coach Sean Payton during Monday's season wrap-up interviews over the next week or so. In the meantime, here are a couple of great, reflective quotes from Payton and quarterback Drew Brees that stood out:

Payton on how rewarding it was for him personally to be back this year after his 2012 suspension:

"You're back in something that is extremely relevant, and so it's exciting, it's disappointing [the way it ended]. You experience those highs, those lows, the long nights, getting into the postseason, the excitement of winning in the postseason, certainly the disappointment of losing in the postseason. All of that is something that quietly for a year when it's gone is something you miss. But more than that still, I would say, is the interaction with people that are closest to you. So it was fantastic to be back and be around these players and to do what I enjoy doing."

Brees (who turns 35 on Wednesday) on where he feels like his ability is at this point in his career:

"I felt as good at times this year as I've ever felt. Throwing the football, just seeing things, processing things. And so that obviously got me excited, just feeling like I can do this for a long time, play at a high level for a long time now. That part gets tougher, because obviously as you get older there are other things from week to week, just the challenge of keeping your body ready to play at the highest level and that kind of thing. That's just Mother Nature catching up with all of us, you know. But I don't feel like I've physically, mentally, psychologically ... I feel like I'm still on this upward tick."

Then he smiled and added: "I certainly won't let myself believe otherwise."