Bond between Philip Rivers and Drew Brees remains strong

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and his fellow signal-callers got off to a bad start in a quarterback challenge between Drew Brees and the visiting New Orleans Saints' quarterbacks Wednesday.

The competition, which took place at the end of the teams' first joint practice at Jack Hammett Complex, was a rematch of a competition last year between the two groups, which the Chargers won.

"We had a bad day today," Rivers joked. "I didn't touch one target, to be honest with you. They're off to a good start. They won today, and they've got a little lead on us overall, but there's always tomorrow."

Brees and Rivers are used to competing against each other. Brees was the starting quarterback for the Chargers when the franchise traded Eli Manning for Rivers in the 2004 draft. Rivers served as the backup to Brees for two seasons before Brees joined the Saints in free agency.

Old pals.

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"From the moment I was around Philip, you realize he was going to be a very good player and is going to be around for a long time," Brees said. "I like to think we -- for those two years -- brought out the best in each other. It was a great learning experience for both of us and I think we both got a lot better as a result of it."

Brees, 39, and Rivers, 36, stay in touch, with both still owning homes in San Diego. Rivers said the two set up a flag football game between their sons' teams a couple years ago.

"It's just unique because of how the whole thing played out," Rivers said. "Obviously, being [brought in] here to be the guy and then, shoot, Drew deserves credit for the way that he bounced back. ... In those first two years, I enjoyed working with him and competing, then it worked out. It worked out well for him. Shoot, he has had one heck of a run in New Orleans and won a championship. I've been able to have some longevity here with the Chargers. It is unique. Drew and I have always kept in touch. I have always pulled for him from afar."

The joint practices provide a unique opportunity for the Chargers and Saints to get work against another team at game-like tempo. The two teams competed in one-on-one pass-rush drills, along with wide receivers matching up against defensive backs.

As for the quarterback challenge, Brees and the Saints stepped their game up.

Quarterbacks received points for hitting targets, and the Saints won the first round, 5-1. Brees and New Orleans backup Tom Savage each scored two points.

The groups also matched up during team drills during the 2½-hour practice, and will do so again Thursday, the last day of Chargers training camp. The Chargers and Saints will play in a preseason game at the StubHub Center on Saturday.

"You really just like to break up the monotony of camp and go against someone else," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. "This last week of training camp is going to go by a lot faster because the Saints are here. We're going to get some good, quality work done. We get to evaluate our players against another team's players, just to see where we are."