Drew Brees has some critical words for Saints

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Drew Brees has some critical words for Saints

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Drew Brees said in a radio interview Wednesday night that he is frustrated by what he views as a lack of communication with the New Orleans Saints in his ongoing contract negotiations, adding the club should have shown more urgency to get a long-term deal done. "It's been extremely frustrating for me. I don't think the negotiations should have been this difficult," Brees said on WWL radio in New Orleans. "What's been a little frustrating on my end, or disappointing, is the lack of communication. We've reached out on quite a few occasions and at times I know I've been frustrated with the lack of response." While Brees said he wants to return to the team as soon as possible, he raised the possibility of missing minicamp and even training camp if he does not reach a long-term extension that he believes is appropriate. Brees has missed several weeks of voluntary offseason training with the club, and New Orleans holds its first offseason practices, called organized team activities, next week. Brees said the Saints cannot pretend that the NFL's bounty investigation and resulting punishment -- including the suspension of head coach Sean Payton for the whole 2012 season -- has not been a huge distraction that makes the remainder of the Saints' offseason work "very important." "This is a big time for our team, especially when you look at what has happened this offseason," he said. Given his leadership role and his performance during his past six seasons, Brees said he would hope the Saints would make his next contract a top priority. "There should be a sense of urgency and it just seems like there's not," Brees said. The Saints did not immediately respond to Brees' comments. However, general manager Mickey Loomis said last month he understands that he has never worked on a more important deal than Brees' extension, and he wants to come up with a deal that makes his star quarterback happy. The Saints this season will attempt to make the playoffs for a fourth straight time. If they do so, they'll be in the running to become the first team to play the Super Bowl on its home field next February in the Superdome. New Orleans has most of the top players back from an offense that set numerous NFL records last season, when Brees passed for an NFL single-season record 5,474 yards, smashing Dan Marino's mark of 5,084, which had stood since 1984. The Saints have placed the exclusive franchise tag on Brees, meaning he won't be playing anywhere else next season. However, Brees does not have to report and has said he has no intention of playing under a one-year franchise tag that does not give him any long-term security. "I feel like our position is very reasonable and certainly appropriate for the situation that I'm in, which is having played the full extent of my (previous) six-year contract," Brees said. "I knew exactly what I was signing up for and over the last few years I have not said a peep about wanting a new contract or not being happy with my current contract. ... Certainly, I took on a lot of risk last year by playing the last year of my contract without anything guaranteed for the future." Brees said he still wants to finish his career in New Orleans and has a plan to be as prepared as possible when he does eventually report. "If that means missing OTAs, minicamp, training camp, I will be as ready as can possibly be," Brees said. "There's no way you can simulate those things anywhere else other than being on the field with your team, but I have a plan, so I'll execute that plan as I need to."

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

MESA, Ariz. — It only took 21 minutes into spring training — or the first press conference on the day pitchers and catchers officially reported to Arizona — before Joe Maddon listened to another question about all the heat he took for his World Series Game 7 decisions.

More than 2,000 miles away at Yankee camp in Florida last week, Aroldis Chapman told the Chicago Sun-Times that he "was just being truthful" when he used the conference call to announce the biggest contract ever for a closer — five years and $86 million — to inform the New York media that Maddon misused him during the playoffs. Nothing lost in translation there.

Miguel Montero finally declared a ceasefire on Monday night, getting the sit-down meeting the Cubs felt should go longer than the standard meet and greet after the veteran catcher's jarringly critical comments on WMVP-AM 1000 (if only because it happened on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally).

"It's such an unusual situation," general manager Jed Hoyer said, "because we won the World Series, and theoretically you think that people would be really happy."

As ex-Cub manager Dale Sveum might say: "Ya think?"

Ending the 108-year drought might lead Maddon's Hall of Fame plaque someday, but it also led to waves and waves of second-guessing and speculation about how it might impact his clubhouse credibility. But with Maddon and Montero declaring their Andreoli Italian Grocer summit a success, gonzo strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss cruising onto the field in a Ferrari for the first wacky stunt of 2017 and Cactus League games beginning on Saturday, it's time to remember that the Cubs still have their manager's back.

"Everyone says they don't see or read anything," pitcher Jake Arrieta said. "We see and hear a lot of the stuff. But I just think that critics are going to find holes in something always.

"Joe was our leader all year last year. He obviously set the tone in spring training and gives us all these freedoms that help us play the way we played. So the people that matter — and know what Joe's about — are on the same page with his philosophies.

"The way he expresses himself to us is the most important thing. And we stand behind him. We trust that he's going to do what's in our best interest. And we know that any decision he makes is geared towards trying to help us win."

Within the last two seasons, the Cubs have won 200 games, five playoff rounds and their first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. Maddon readily admits that the scouting and development wings of Theo Epstein's front office did most of the heavy lifting and credits the strong coaching staff he largely inherited. Spending more than $475 million on free agents like Jon Lester and Ben Zobrist certainly helped.

But all this doesn't happen without Maddon and the environment he created. The Cubs Way absolutely needed a ringmaster for this circus.

Arrieta developed into a Cy Young Award winner. Kyle Hendricks transformed into an ERA leader. Kris Bryant burst onto the scene as a Rookie of the Year and the National League MVP. Addison Russell became an All-Star shortstop by the age of 22. Maddon didn't prejudge Javier Baez, immediately appreciating the dazzling array of skills and super-utility possibilities.

Surprised by the Maddon backlash?

"Yes and no," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Because there needs to be a story. But what he did — people who are real involved know that since Day 1, he came in and he set the tone.

"He completely flipped the way people think, the way we believe, and everyone has bought into it. The credit he deserves — he gets a lot of it — but I don't think he gets enough of it. Because he lets me be me. He lets Javy be Javy.

"Willson (Contreras), Kris and Addie — everyone has their different personalities. He understands that. And it's not easy to do."

It's such an impossible job, at times, that even Cubs officials and players have acknowledged their frustrations with some of Maddon's in-game decisions and communication gaps. This can't just be written off as a media creation. But imagine the grumbling if the Cubs didn't have a leader with seven 90-win seasons and three Manager of the Year awards on his resume.

"We have a competitive group of guys," Hoyer said. "Every guy wants to be on the field at the right time. Every guy wants to be on the roster. Every guy wants to pitch in winning games.

"That's not realistic sometimes. It comes from a great place. It doesn't come from a place of selfishness. It comes from a place of: 'I want to contribute to winning.'

"The meetings we've had have been awesome. Our camp is unbelievably focused. We are just as focused as last year. I really don't look at it as a negative."

The last word from Maddon, who turned 63 this month and has a $25 million contract, a wide range of off-the-field interests and the championship ring that will make him a legend in Chicago forever, no matter what kind of heat he took this winter.

"Stuff like that doesn't bother me at all," Maddon said. "Regardless of what people may have thought — like any other game that I worked all year long — I had it planned out like that before the game began. So it wasn't anything I tried to do differently game in progress. Had I not done what I thought I was supposed to do — then I would have second-guessed myself.

"So, no, I have no problem with that. I really don't mind the second-guessing from anybody. I kind of encourage it. Please go ahead and do it, because I'll take that kind of second-guessing after winning a World Series on an annual basis. Thank you very much."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Jonathan Toews' the Blackhawks' MVP?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Jonathan Toews' the Blackhawks' MVP?

Chris Emma (670TheScore.com), Chris Hine (Chicago Tribune) and national college football analyst Anthony Herron join Kap on the panel.  The guys discuss if Jonathan Toews is the Blackhawks’ MVP so far this season, whether a Jimmy Butler trade to the Celtics makes sense and why Rob Manfred is focused on shaving seconds off of the length of games.

Plus with Jay Cutler heading out the door, who will replace him?  And should Northwestern be on the NCAA Tournament bubble after losing again to the Illini?