New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and his team are 1-4 and dealing with the highly controversial "Bountygate" situation. For the entire 2012 season Brees and his teammates have been forbidden from having any contact with suspended head coach Sean Payton; Pro Bowl linebacker Jonathan Vilma was only recently reinstated and may play this week for the first time this season. Brees, who is also busy off the field as an advocate for the Xbox 60 Million Minutes Challenge , caught up with The Huffington Post to discuss the struggles he and the Saints have faced in 2012, as well as his deeply rooted frustration with the league's front office.
This has obviously been a frustrating season thus far. How are you righting the ship?
The hard part is when your expectations are so high, like they were for us. You start off the season 0-4 the way we did is extremely disappointing. I obviously did not feel like we were an 0-4 team, I feel like we are much more talented than that. And more importantly, we have great leadership. But unfortunately in this league, you are what your record says you are. The positive thing we looked at was that each game, we were getting a little bit better. The result was not what we wanted, but each week we were making progress. It wasn't until against San Diego on Sunday Night Football (Week 5) that we really felt like we played a complete game. Now there will be many more wins. Man, as you look around the league, it is so competitive. We're not out of it by any means, not even close.
What has been the biggest adjustment from not having Sean Payton there on a daily basis?
Well, he's obviously one of the greatest offensive minds in this league. He knows our team, he knows the personnel, he knows the scheme. He's got great instincts. He's a great play-caller. We miss his presence, his leadership.
You're often described as another coach on the field. Have you increased your leadership role this season without Payton on the sidelines?
I've certainly tried to do my part. I think the trap that you try not to fall in is feeling like you have to do too much. That was the advice that Sean gave everybody before he left: Do your job, don't try to do more than what you're supposed to do. It's been a tough road thus far, but I find that we're better off now for having gone through it than we were before.
Do you ever speak with him?
I don't talk with Sean Payton. I'm not allowed to talk to a lot of people. In fact, I'm not quite sure of all the rules and regulations that are put against him.
You recently just broke the all-time NFL record by throwing a touchdown in 48 consecutive games. Just how much has this offense changed?
I wouldn't say it's a lot different. I've been with our offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael since 2002, in San Diego. Nothing has changed in regards to our approach, the way we prepare and practice. It's all very similar.
You've been critical of the league for how its dealt with the "bountygate" situation. Discuss your overall feelings with that and where you see this going.
I'll just boil down to it -- and I'm not the only person that feels this way -- but I don't believe that the process has been handled fairly throughout this entire bounty probe. I think there have been biased opinions throughout this entire process by the league. I don't feel like they've necessarily based everything on fact; I think they've based a lot of it on speculation and rhetoric and on the testimony of some not very credible sources. From the standpoint of an experienced player -- in my 12th year -- what concerns me is that I see an NFL that is somewhat out of control right now in regards to its leadership in the front office. When you look at the way this bounty fiasco has taken place the past six months, when you look at the whole replacement referee situation, honestly, as a veteran player, it concerns me greatly.
Would you agree then with the notion that the NFL is not going in the right direction right now, even though the front office constantly stresses the need to "protect the shield"?
Yeah, I feel like there's a lot of hypocrisy and contradiction in the things that they talk about. They talk about the integrity of the game. Yeah, "protect the shield." They talk about all these punishments being handed down because of conduct detrimental. I mean, I could go very easily flip that around and give you instances of cases where it was the league's front office that was engaging in conduct detrimental. You don't want the fans and players to lose faith in what we've built here with this game.
Email me at email@example.com or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report.
RELATED ON HUFFPOST:
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more