METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees laughed when asked if he thinks guys in the locker room are paying close attention to Jimmy Graham's upcoming grievance hearing over his franchise tag.
Although Graham is missed and players are eager to have him back, they also understand the nature of these types of negotiations.
None more so than Brees, who went through a similar process when he was under the franchise tag two years ago -- complete with Brees' own grievance hearing over whether he should be considered a first- or second-time franchise player.
"I don't know if anybody knows that the hearing date is, when, next week sometime?" Brees said of the hearing, which is scheduled for June 17-18. "I don't think anybody's thinking about it. They're thinking about minicamp, they're thinking about OTAs.
"We all know and love Jimmy, and we know it's going to get worked out at some point, however it gets worked out, no matter the result of this hearing. So when he's here, I know he'll be ready."
Brees said recently that he's been in touch with Graham, checking in on him and making sure he doesn't get frustrated or take things personally during the negotiations.
But at the same time, Brees said the team has to make sure it doesn't miss a beat in his absence -- just the same as if they lost Graham to an injury.
"I'd hate to not have Jimmy," Brees told USA Today. "I'm very confident that a deal will get done. But if it doesn't, you worry about what you do have and who you do have out there. ...
"Look at our numbers over the last eight years. We've had a lot of different guys in there. Jimmy's only been here four years. He's only been here half the time. We were putting up some pretty big numbers before he got here, and we've been putting up some big numbers since he's been here.
"Hey, we do what we do. It's nice when you can have guys like Jimmy, and obviously he's a big part of our offense. If he's in there, we're going to try to get him the ball. We're game-planning ways to get him the ball, ways to put him in the best position to succeed. But if he's not, somebody else is going to get those touches. We'll put those guys in position."