Drew Brees, a second-round draft pick in 2001, is entering his 17th NFL season. He turns 39 in January.

He’s also led the league in passing in each of the last three seasons.

How does he do it?

“No. 1, he’s an exceptional athlete, but then alongside of that, his preparation, the amount of sleep, what he eats – everything (is) detailed to a tee,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “His offseason training regimen, it’s different for a handful of these players today than maybe it was 20 years ago. We laugh and kid about it; there’s still a picture of Len Dawson having a cigarette of halftime of a game.”



Dawson, 82, played int he NFL from 1957-75.

“You’re just looking at it and thinking, ‘Is this a spring game or something?’” Payton said, laughing. “It’s just different. We’re so much further along educationally in regards to training, taking care of these guys in practice. I can recall we weren’t giving water in high school or college football during training. That was frowned upon. So i just think we’ve come a long way, and when you match that with someone who’s as talented and as driven as a guy like Brees, you get what you’re having right now.”

Joining Brees in the backfield is Adrian Peterson, who, at 32, will begin the next chapter of his career in New Orleans. Peterson spent the first decade of his career in Minnesota. He was drafted in 2007 – one year after Payton began his tenure with the Saints.

Payton has coached superstars – Brees is one of them – but it has to be different coaching superstars for the first time this late in their career, no?

“Well, look, I think all great players want to learn and improve,” Payton said. “They want to have a chance to maximize their production, and he’s no different. He’s extremely competitive, and he’s someone that, man, from the minute he started (our) offseason program, you saw the way he worked. He’s someone that trained real hard in the offseason. Like any other player, they learn every once in a while that I’m going to have a sense of humor, poke them in a fun way sometimes and then sometimes in a series way. But I think we’ve got depth at that position, and that competition between he and (Mark) Ingram and the young runner, (Alvin) Kamara, who is having a real good camp – all of it, I would say, brings those players to a peak performance level, and I think ultimately that’s what we’re constantly trying to strive for and look for.”

The Saints, who have finished 7-9 in four of the last five years, including three straight, have one goal for 2017: win the NFC South and take it from there.

“I think you got to start with other three teams, and it’s a four-team race,” Payton said. “We know these teams well, just as they would us. You’re trying to obviously pay attention to the team that won it a year ago, which was Atlanta. I think it’ll be a challenge for the other three teams, and we feel like we’re going to be one of those teams contending for it.”

New Orleans opens the season on the road against Peterson’s former team, the Vikings, on Monday Night Football. Kickoff is Sept. 11 at 7:10 p.m. ET.

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