It's been a while since you've been removed from playing for the Saints. Do you still get amped up to play this team?
I just finished talking to our media, and honestly this is the honest truth as I'm not trying to feed you guys an anything, it's another division game so you get amped up, but it's so different because there's no more connection. There's no more coaching staff connection. It's Deuce (McAllister), Charles Grant and Kevin Houser. I don't believe there's anybody else that I played with. It's so totally different. I know Drew Brees, I respect the heck out of him as a player. Sean Payton the same thing. When I visited Dallas as a free agent, Sean was the quarterbacks coach there. That's who I spent the majority of my time with. It's more of a respect I have for those guys.
How does it feel being healthy again and leading this offense right now?
It's nice to be back. This first time I've ever missed anytime in my life whether it was high school or college with an injury (was with the elbow). I was put on injured reserve. It's nice to be back. The elbow's fixed. That's the biggest thing. I had some issues for a while. Just to get that over and done with, that's what I enjoy. I think it gave me more of an appreciation of the game, because I think it kind of got away from me. It was more of a grind and the season was a grind, a different grind. I wasn't having that true fun I was having. We'd win a game and I'd come in the locker room and it was more or less of a relief than an excitement of us getting the job done. Last year I was able to sit down and watch a ton. I was still traveling with the team. I was able to get an appreciation and see how much I missed it and how special it is to play in this game. As tough as losing is during the season, especially after a loss this week, you have the opportunity to go out and play a kids game still at my age.
How much did you appreciate the fact that the team didn't show any doubt in you and didn't really have a backup plan in the case that you couldn't recover?
I did in a way, but even if they had wanted to go in a different direction or to protect themselves, it was no big deal in my mind, because I felt that way the year before when they brought David Carr in, I was told early on that they were getting another guy to back me up. That was fine, I appreciated them telling me, but they didn't need to. I've been around a few years now that if I have to worry about someone to take my job to get me going to play good football, there's a problem. If someone's better than me, that's one thing. You have to be realistic in this league. If they want to go out and get somebody that's fine. I just needed to worry about doing what's best for me.
Defensively, the Saints seem to improved the last few games from where they were at, especially last year. What do you see in them?
I know they were kind of nicked up with some injuries, here and there, but I think that front four's very solid certainly Will (Smith) and Charles (Grant). I've always thought those guys were really good football players. Brian Young and (Kendrick) Clancy, I know Sedrick Ellis who got dinged up was playing well too. These guys get after it. They're like some Energizer bunnies. They can go and Bobby McCray comes in there and he flies around, but I think they have some veteran linebackers in their veteran linebacking corps in (Scott) Shanle, (Scott) Fujita and now (Jonathan) Vilma. Not only was Jonathan hurt last year, but he's been playing a good month and a half now and that does wonders. You can practice all you want in the preseason, but playing in those games is what he's doing. Certainly getting Mike (McKenzie) back he's the same Mike. He's a great cover corner, plus some young kids they started as rookies and now they're in their third or fourth year, those two guys. Certainly you lost 22 (Tracy Porter) to a wrist injury I believe a couple of weeks ago, but Randall Gay has played some big games I think and Aaron Glenn, I know he was nicked up, whether or not he'll be back. There is a lot of talent there.
We know when you watch film, you watch the defense. Have you kept any tabs on Drew Brees at all and his season?
Not a whole lot besides seeing highlights and there's been a ton of them, because it just happens with us being on the road or getting back too late, or we might play at the same time, but certainly I know he's playing outstanding football and I'm not shocked one bit. They do a great job there. Sean and Drew are really on the same page and they do a great job. They use everyone. That's the great thing. They use everyone and certainly Reggie (Bush) is playing great football. It kind of shows what a great pick it was to take him. He's a football player simply. You can label him what you want to. I'll label him a stud. You hear people ask if he's a running back? I don't care, I want the ball in his hands as many times as possible.
How big a shock was that loss to the Buccaneers?
More disappointing, we had a great week of work. We were well prepared in my opinion and we have a blocked punt and it's 7-0 before we blink. Next thing you know it's a third down, we have a tipped pass intercepted. They're in great field position. We're down again right away and we just never got anything going. That was the disappointing thing and of all the teams in the NFL you never want to play behind against, it's the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because they are just fantastic about what they do defensively. It was very disappointing that we played so poorly. It was one of those things. You have to come in Monday, take your medicine and move on. The New Orleans Saints coming in, they certainly aren't going to feel bad for us one bit.
It seems like you probably had a better feeling than some other athletes about the word "Tommy John Surgery" ?
Maybe I was being naive, but my arm had to be fixed. It was very simple. I wasn't going to keep going on the way I was going taking the cortisone shots and being miserable, warming up and the process I was going through to get ready and almost couldn't wait for practice to be over to put some ice on the arm. It was one of those deals where maybe that's why football became more of a grind. I was just excited to get it fixed. Immediately when I tore the ligament, I had immediate relief from that point on. I had trouble sleeping and didn't have that anymore. That was because the ligament wasn't partially torn anymore, it was gone, so those nerve endings weren't fraying. I was more excited to get back. It wasn't just that ligament. It was a forearm and a piece of bone floating in the elbow and a piece of bone spur in the back what we did.
Were you not that concerned about the Tommy John surgery even though many quarterbacks haven't had it?
It wasn't well documented because Rob Johnson and Craig Erickson. I was lucky, because our trainer Ryan Vermillion was the one who rehabbed Craig Erickson, so he had kind of already went through it. Our team doctor did an outstanding job, Dr. Connor on the surgery and our trainer. Every way that they said it was going to turn out, everything turned out that way. I'm very fortunate for those two guys.
How is your fastball now?
I'm just trying to get it accurate. I feel good. My arm really does feel good. Some guys say it's the best I ever felt. They're lying. When you're 22 or 23 and you wake up in the morning, that's the best you ever felt, but I felt really good. My arm's stronger than the last two or three years because it's been fixed. Hopefully it will be okay.
How far back are you saying football had become a grind because of the injury?
It was more the '06 season. We were a struggling and up and down football team. The elbow was bothersom4e, but more or less we couldn't get anything going. We'd play decent one week and then we were just awful. It's one of those deals where you put in so much work and you just weren't seeing anything coming out of the work. It made for a long, long season that year.
When you played the Saints in New Orleans last year, you threw on the sideline that day. Did you know that day it was over?
When I threw that day it was exactly two weeks to the day that I tore it in Atlanta and I was actually going to throw the following morning to decide whether we were going to have surgery or not. We were trying to repair the forearm muscle to take pressure off the elbow. The way it worked out, my trainer and I talked and I told him if something happens to David (Carr) we're going to go in and try to throw in the locker room, just to see. And sure enough he gets hit in the back of the head early on and he's kind of dinged a bit. We had to go do that right away. The adrenaline was pumping and flowing, but I knew right away. Maybe I could have done some three step droops and tried to smoke and mirrors my way through the game, but other than that, I couldn't play.
Where did they get the ligament from?
My left hamstring.
Talking about the Saints defense, is the secret to beating them also to get the ball into Steve Smith's hands?
We want to get it to Steve as much as possible, but the big thing that I think we've done this year is we didn't have Steve this year for the first two games against some pretty good teams in San Diego and Chicago and we were able to win without him. We feel like we have some weapons and some other playmakers on this team, but certainly we like to get the ball in his hands. We all know he's a good football player. Basically he's our Reggie Bush except he lines up at receiver instead of running back.
What was your reaction to Jim Haslett's admission that he made a mistake in not playing you towards the end of the 2002 season?
I was told about it Monday talking to the media. I didn't hear anything about it until media guys told me about it. It is what it is. In the grand scheme of things, who knows what would have happened. If I would have played, hopefully I would have played well. Maybe I would have been in New Orleans a little longer. Who knows? Things have a way of working out.. I'm a firm believe in that. What is meant to be is what is meant to be. I'm glad I'm here. It's worked out great. I loved my time in New Orleans, but that's the NFL. You just got to enjoy your time. I'm glad I'm here now.
Can you expand a little bit on the contributions of Jonathan Vilma to the Saints defense this year?
I don't know him that well, but playing with Miami linebackers like Dan Morgan and Jon Beason, we played the Jets in '05 and that's when they were having all the injuries at quarterback and they were really struggling offensively. They had a solid defense. I remember watching film and thinking this is a real good defense and this kid is the heartbeat of that defense. That was something I remembered very well and talking to him after that game, you knew it was a tough season for them because they were having so many issues with the quarterback, they weren't putting up points and I remember that he was a typical Miami linebacker and I don't know how to put it. That's what they are. We have one in Jon Beason. We had another one in Dan Morgan. It's something about that infectious enthusiasm that they have.