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“If we’re not playing for a championship, I guess there’s no place I’d rather be than going to Hawaii for a week with the family and be able to enjoy the Pro Bowl and be around other guys that have earned that trip,” Brees said. “And maybe that’s going to be the time to decompress and reflect back on the season a little bit, but for now it still stings.”

Brees arrived in New Orleans in 2006, less than a year after Hurricane Katrina had struck. Since then he has passed for more yards than any other quarterback in the NFL (28,394) while lifting the Saints to new heights and simultaneously helping a region heal from Katrina’s devastation.

In addition to lifting the spirits of football fans, he and wife Brittany have worked through their Brees Dream foundation to sponsor about $8 million in projects primarily aimed at improving the lives of children in the area through the refurbishing of schools or renovation of athletic fields and facilities. His foundation also has supported the arts, along with hospital facilities for cancer patients.

He said his family’s growing bond with New Orleans is another reason it would be hard for him to envision playing anywhere else.

“This is a place that is very special in our hearts. We’ve had two of our kids raised here and hopefully we’ll have more in the future,” Brees said, alluding to a third child that is expected this summer.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey over the last six years to watch how far, not only our organization and our team, but just the mental psyche of the city” has improved, Brees said. “We’re always going to have a strong connection with New Orleans. We’re always going to give back to New Orleans, and I’m talking like 20, 30, 40 years from now.”