Drew Brees might actually be justified if he tried to scrape up an excuse for skipping out on the Pro Bowl.
After all, in a game in which avoiding injury is often the primary goal, Brees’ 2007 appearance at Aloha Stadium was abbreviated when the New Orleans Saints quarterback suffered a dislocated left elbow in the first quarter.
But where some might point to the risk demonstrated that afternoon for sidestepping the NFL’s annual all-star exhibition, Brees isn’t among them.
Brees returns today for his fifth Pro Bowl as a backup to NFC starter Michael Vick, and continuing to participate when invited remains important to him.
"It is, definitely, because it’s a lot of fun and I think it’s a great representation of the league and we want to show the fans a good time," Brees said yesterday. "We want great events like this to continue, in places like Hawaii."
Brees spoke in the cool of the NFC locker room after signing an array of items for fans as he left the field after the team’s walkthrough as part of Pro Bowl Ohana Day.
He had to vacate his spot on the roster for last year’s game in Florida. Seems he was somewhat occupied preparing for the Super Bowl held the following Sunday.
Brees helped galvanize an often beleaguered city by leading New Orleans to its first championship with a 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
His celebrity shot skyward after the Super Bowl and he was named 2010 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year.
So, close to 12 months removed from celebrating amid the hail of confetti in Miami, he took some time this week for "a lot of relaxation."
"It’s been a little crazy, but it’s been fun," Brees said of the demands that accompany folk-hero status. "It’s been a great experience, I hope there are more experiences like that. But you just never know, so you try to make the most of it and try to take advantage of every opportunity."
Brees followed his Super Bowl MVP performance by helping the Saints return to the playoffs with an 11-5 regular season, finishing behind Atlanta in the NFC South. He threw for 4,620 yards, good for third in the league, and 33 touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his passes.
But New Orleans’ reign ended with a 41-36 loss to Seattle on Jan. 8 in the wild-card round of the playoffs, and Brees — along with Saints teammates Roman Harper, Jonathan Vilma, Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks — settled for the consolation of a trip to Hawaii.
"It’s nice to be back out here in Hawaii," Brees said. "It’s great for the fans, players love it. It’s great for the families."
Brees will share time with Vick and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan in today’s game. Ryan will be working with a familiar set of coaches with the Falcons’ staff running the NFC. But with ample Pro Bowl experience, Brees has some insight into putting together a game plan while meshing the talents of players from around the conference.
"It’s fun. You just keep it simple," he said.