METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Drew Brees' left ankle isn't hurting as much as his pride is right now.
Brees, who limped away from a hit last Sunday in Carolina and was listed on this week's first injury report, nonetheless took every snap in practice on Wednesday.
Then he addressed his role in New Orleans' 0-2 start, and his desire to live up to the expectation that he, more than anyone, would give the Saints a chance to win despite the bounty scandal and resulting upheaval that plagued their offseason.
"I take great responsibility in the fact that people feel that way," Brees said. "I know the things I need to work on. I know the things I need to improve on. Certainly, my productivity at the quarterback position, but also as a leader and someone guys look to for guidance and leadership, respect — and I certainly embrace that role."
When Brees ended his offseason holdout a few weeks before training camp and signed the NFL's richest contract — $100 million over five years — Saints fans were relieved. The talk around town was that Brees' leadership, skill and command of the offense designed by suspended head coach Sean Payton made New Orleans a contender to return to the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
Instead, Brees has thrown a pair of interceptions in each game. One was returned for a touchdown last Sunday at Carolina. Another in Week 1 cut short a potential game-tying drive that began with more than three minutes remaining.
In some ways, those plays have overshadowed the fact that New Orleans still ranks third in the league in total net yards (422 per game), tied for third in yards passing (324.5) and sixth in the league in scoring (29.5 points per game).
Brees derives some consolation from those numbers because he sees it as a sign that the Saints are within striking distance of their usual production. He only regrets that each game was marred by a few crucial mistakes.
"I'm always going to look at the thing with a very critical eye," Brees said. "I'm not going to change my mentality, my aggressiveness, my approach, my preparation, but I do understand how important it is to take care of the football."
There are other areas where Brees' play appears to be off his usual pace, although the sample size is still relatively small after two only two games.
Brees' completion rate is 54.5, well below his NFL record 71.2 percent last season. His quarterback rating is 71.6. Last season, he finished at 110.6
Brees teammates say they have not seen much of a change in the quarterback's approach and do not sense that he is pressing.
Right guard Jahri Evans said that while the offensive line has played well overall, the blocking has been riddled with untimely breakdowns that have led to sacks or hurried throws.