Of the many questions facing the New Orleans Saints right now, the biggest one might not even involve their bounty program or who will step in as their head coach.
As the calendar and the clock get closer to Monday, the question becomes whether or not quarterback Drew Brees will show up when the team starts its offseason program.
Brees wants a long-term contract, but all he has at the moment is a franchise-tag tender worth $16 million for the upcoming season. Brees was asked if he’ll show up Monday at the team’s facility in Metairie, La. As he attended a golf tournament in San Diego on Tuesday.
“We’re continuing to work on a long-term deal,’’ Brees repeatedly told California reporters.
There’s still time for a long-term deal to get worked out. Even if Monday passes, the Saints and Brees still are allowed to continue contract talks.
But opening the offseason without the team’s leader (and coach Sean Payton beginning his season-long suspension the same day) wouldn’t be a good symbolic start for the Saints. There was a time when Brees missing the start of offseason workouts was completely unthinkable. But the way things have gone for the Saints this offseason, I’m past the point where anything would surprise me.
Brees addressed the fallout from the bounty program and the NFL’s suspensions of Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant head coach Joe Vitt, saying “This is a shock to all of us.’’
Brees also was asked about the audiotapes of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams urging defensive players to injure specific San Francisco players the night before last season’s playoff game.
“Hard for everybody to hear,’’ Brees said.
But there was a bright spot. Brees sounded positive when asked about how the Saints will respond to all the obstacles they face.
“Whatever’s thrown at us this year, we’ll continue to thrive,’’ Brees said.