Drew Brees said he understands Jimmy Graham's absence from OTAs

In 2012, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was involved in a contract dispute that dragged out through the offseason and into the summer. 
So he knows exactly what teammate Jimmy Graham is going through. 

Graham is currently involved in a contract dispute over whether he should be paid as a tight end or a wide receiver. Graham's camp contends he's earned wide receiver money, while the Saints will contend he is a tight end.

But it's likely anything will be resolved until mid-June, when a grievance hearing will be held that could bring the two sides one step closer to deciding that. 
Until then, Graham isn't participating in offseason training with the team. And Brees said he's just fine with that.

Brees, speaking during Ben Grubbs' charity softball game on Wednesday, said he didn't like holding out of OTAs, but understands sometimes its a necessary evil during contract negotiations.

"I didn't like having to miss," Brees said. "As you're going through it, you're thinking 'it should be much easier than this.' But it's part of the process. It's a leverage game and it's back and forth. The team has a job to do and the player has a job to do in regards to their contract. You just understand that's the way it is, and you live with it."

Brees said he regularly texts with Graham and smiled when he was asked if he thought Graham would be in shape if and when he shows up to team activities. 

"When he's here, I know he'll be ready to play," he said. "He'll be staying in good shape and all those things. I'm not worried about Jimmy Graham."

Brees said one of the most difficult part of contract negotiations are trying to keep emotions out of something that ultimately can become deeply personal for a player.

"I've been checking on him to make sure he's doing already and he's not getting frustrated or disappointed or taking things personal," he said. "It's easy to do that, especially as a young player. ...

"You're looking at your contributions to the team and 'Here I am, I was drafted in the third round and pretty much played for the minimum for the last four years and now this is my opportunity to get compensated.' It's what every young player hopes that they have the chance to go through or the opportunity to get, is that second contract."

If it were up to him, Brees said, Graham will be playing in the Saints colors until they're both retired.

"I know he wants to be a Saint for the rest of his career," he said. "I know I want him to be a Saint for the rest of my career and hopefully we can play five, six, seven more years together and go out champions together."

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