NEW ORLEANS -- I spoke at length with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Tuesday about his desire to help "break the cycle" of violence in cities like New Orleans and make some good come out of the shooting death of his former teammate, Will Smith.
I also asked Brees about Smith as a player and a person, and what people might not appreciate about him.
"He was a smart guy, and he was just a cornerstone," Brees said of Smith, who was elected to the Saints' Hall of Fame last month and is to be inducted this year. "I’m pretty sure he was the only guy on defense from the previous regime by the time we got to '09. And he was a captain, and he was kind of the best of a lot of things.
"Here he was from the previous era, and yet he became one of our captains. He was a great leader, he was such a tough guy, such a team guy. He was as good against the run as he was against the pass, and for most elite pass-rushers, you can’t say that. You know, they turn it up on third down to get the sack and the rest of the time they’re just there. But he was a guy that contributed in every aspect, as a player, in the locker room, as a leader.
"When something needed to be said, he wasn’t afraid to stand up and say it. You know, he was always present, too. A guy who never missed a practice. He wasn’t a rah-rah guy, he wasn’t a real vocal guy. But, hey, when it needed to be said, he had no problem saying it. So there was a presence there and a toughness there, and I respected that."