TAMPA — After winning Super Bowl XLIV, Saints quarterback Drew Brees never really got off his parade float.
The parade route took him to Disney World, wound through the late-night talk show circuit, traveled halfway across the globe to visit troops in the Persian Gulf and to a players union meeting in Maui. Between bows, he wrote a book, Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity, that opened at No. 3 on the New York Times bestseller list.
So what did Brees do when he finally put on the brakes?
He invited Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman to work out with him for a week in San Diego.
The notion of Brees imparting wisdom to a player in the same division may seem like enough to make Saints coach Sean Payton choke on his gumbo.
Yet Brees was happy to grant a request from Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson, who coached him at Purdue.
But being that the quarterbacks are competitors and NFC South rivals, Brees didn't feel comfortable coming to Tampa and Freeman didn't want to meet Brees in New Orleans.
So Freeman and Bucs backup quarterback Josh Johnson joined Brees in San Diego at Fitness Quest 10, a personal health and fitness center where Brees works with trainer Todd Durkin, the first week of July.
"You look at the quarterbacks in the division, if not football, and Drew is the gold standard," Freeman said.
"(Freeman and Johnson) talked about different things, how we would run different routes and kind of bounced some things off him. We told him how we did stuff; he told us how he did stuff. We got some pretty good things from him. But at the same time, we play him twice a year, so he was not really giving up any family secrets."
The last time their teams met, Freeman led the Bucs to a 20-17 overtime win at New Orleans in 2009's Week 16. Brees had carved the Bucs up at Raymond James Stadium 38-7 five weeks earlier.
But in San Diego, they were just part of the NFL quarterback fraternity training in the offseason.
They lifted weights in the morning and had throwing sessions in the afternoon. The lunch conversations centered on a range of topics, including how to prepare for games and in the offseason.
"I've been with a lot of younger quarterbacks," Olson said, "and it's really the first time I asked that favor from Drew. It's based on what I feel is (Freeman's) potential. (Brees) said, 'Don't send me somebody who is going to waste time, somebody who's not serious about working, some guy who is not serious about the position.' I said, 'This guy will take everything you give him, Drew, and he'll try to apply it.'
"This was good because there wasn't a lot of distractions, there weren't a lot of players out there. That's what I didn't want. I just wanted those guys to go to lunch, sit down and … do some one-on-one talking without a lot of other quarterbacks or wide receivers there. And just talk about your routine during the week, during the course of the season, what you do to prepare both physically and mentally. I wanted him to talk about his thoughts on leadership and whatnot."
After completing an amazing 16 of 17 passes for two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in the second half of his Super Bowl win over the Colts in February, Brees may have cemented his place among the league's best quarterbacks. In nine seasons, Brees has passed for 30,646 yards and 202 touchdowns.
In Freeman, Olson sees a quarterback who is willing to work like Brees to be great. After a so-so rookie season in which Freeman went 3-6 as a starter with 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, he was a fixture at One Buc Place in the offseason.
"I got a chance to be around Josh Freeman and realized, okay, here's a guy that's got a great amount of potential and a great work ethic and really is a guy who aims to please," Olson said. "If I could get him around some great players, it would benefit him and benefit us."
Who knows. Maybe in a few years, Freeman will marshal a Super Bowl parade of his own.
"Definitely, going out there was a great experience," Freeman said. "I learned a lot and got a lot of work in. I hope to do it again sometime."