WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — By now, Drew Brees seems to be getting a little tired of the comment he made last summer, saying he wanted to play until he was 45.

Brees hasn’t backed down by any stretch.

If he stays healthy, Brees still believes he can play that long, but he knows there’s no way to ensure that will happen.

“Do I think I can do it? Yes, but I’m not naive enough to think it’s a given,” Brees said. “What I am focused on is how great we can be as a team this year. We’ll worry about those other years after this one. But yes, I love football, I love this game and I love this team. I’d love to be around for a while.”

Brees, 36, has often spoken about the process he goes through to stay physically sharp and fight off the natural effects of aging.

But football can also be a grind mentally and emotionally. From a few days before August all the way into January, a football player is focused hard on the task at hand.

“It’s a real grind mentally,” Brees said. “That is why when the season’s over, you just want to skate for at least a month and just get away.”

The mental grind, though, is also part of what keeps Brees going and why he wants to play so long.

“There’s a lot of satisfaction, and it’s a very rewarding feeling when you know the time and effort that you put into preparation, those long hours and long days, both physically and mentally; then you go out on gameday, and you watch these things happen that you visualized,” Brees said. “When you have that success and you watch young guys gain confidence, come out of their shell and become the players that they could be, too, there’s something invigorating about that. That is what keeps you going.”