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Listening to the banter, it would seem the consensus is a resounding "yes" when the topic of returning Drew Brees to the San Diego Chargers came up. Everyone except the two people who matter put their necks on the line in support for the quarterback.

On a day that he was named Most Inspirational Player and Most Valuable Player, Drew Brees answered questions about his future with the team – and so did the rest of his teammates.

It is clear that Brees wants a commitment from the team that signs him. Whether that prevents him from signing the franchise tender that is sure to follow remains to be seen.

Made more evident than Randy Johnson on his stroll down New York City streets is Brees' teammates value his leadership.

"The way he came back from the kind of year he had last year," running back LaDainian Tomlinson said in awe. "To keep working as hard as he worked and believing. To get these guys to fall after his lead is incredible. Drew is a guy you could talk to. It is fun to be around him off the field."

When asked whether he wanted him back for next year, Tomlinson, just like the rest of his teammates, remained mindful of his words.

"Of course, but it is not up to me," he said. A.J. (Smith) and Marty (Schottenheimer) have to make the decision. Hopefully it will be the best for all of us."

Rounding out the Pro Bowl trio was Antonio Gates, the soft-spoken tight end from Kent State. His emergence has made everyone's job easier and his instant rapport with Brees made the impossible possible. Gates caught nearly half of Brees' touchdown passes on the year, 13, setting an NFL record in the process.

He gave his vote for Brees before tempering the enthusiasm with a nod to the other quarterbacks on the roster.

"He is the most respected player on this team," Gates said of Brees. "He gathered this team and led this team to AFC West Champs. That is something we all tip our caps to.

"We would like to have Drew back and we have confidence in our other quarterbacks, Philip and Cleo and Doug as well."

Rallying around each other has become the norm in San Diego. When there is a leak, several mates come to patch the hole. When there is talk of the starting quarterback leaving, they quickly prop him up for the world to see.

A hotels door doesn't revolve as much as the NFL carousel but the dynasties find a way to keep the core together for as long as possible. The offense, in particular, feels it has that core already in place.

"I hope the coaches would want to keep the continuity," fullback Lorenzo Neal said. "You got something special. Keep as many of these guys intact that you can."

Brees, for his part, was honored to be awarded two of the top honors in the organization. The Pro Bowl may be nice, but being recognized by fellow teammates for your work on and off the field speaks volumes to the strides Brees has made this year.

It will be tough to parlay that into a long-term deal that he so wants with Philip Rivers under wraps for five more years and perhaps his future is elsewhere. One thing Brees will take away from this year is the respect he earned in the locker room and in the stands.

"To be called inspirational, a leader, that is what you strive for," said Brees. That basically shows how the team views you."

The team may view him such but management cast an eerie shadow on the events. A.J. Smith and Marty Schottenheimer were tight-lipped about the future of their Pro Bowl quarterback.


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