A typical practice for Garrett Grayson consists of him standing behind the line of scrimmage and trying to see things through Drew Brees’ eyes.
He’ll watch and mimic how Brees goes through the reads, leads the huddle and calls plays. Grayson joked that the veteran quarterback probably isn’t aware of how closely he’s being studied, but watching Brees and putting himself through mental reps is how the rookie quarterback is growing this season.
He doesn’t get to throw many passes. Outside of the week leading up to the first Carolina game, when Drew Brees was battling a shoulder injury, and a few practices after backup Luke McCown suffered a season-ending back injury, Grayson has mostly spent his time watching Brees and throwing passes during the non-team periods of practice.
“It’s hard, but you’ve just got to stand back there,” Grayson said. “I try to stand directly behind whoever is at quarterback and go through the motions and try to do everything as much as I can, treat it like I would be out there playing.
“It’s difficult, but it’s one of those things, when you have a Hall of Fame quarterback, you’ve got to adjust to it and learn how to make your adjustments to be successful.”
With Brees out of action, Thursday marked the first time this season that Grayson was afforded the opportunity to run the offense during practice, splitting time with backup Matt Flynn.
Both players said it was an invaluable learning experience.
If Brees, who is battling a Grade 2 tear of the plantar fascia in his right foot, is unable to play, Grayson or Flynn will serve as the starting quarterback Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both players said Thursday they have not been informed who would be the starter.
Brees was officially listed as questionable Friday, meaning he has no better than a 50-50 shot at playing.
Grayson, who was drafted with the idea that he would be able to develop behind the scenes, said he approached quarterbacks coach Mike Neu this week and let him know he feels he’s ready to play and the coaching staff should not be “shy or nervous” about putting him in a game.
The rookie is aware of the concerns about putting a young player in a game since his confidence could become rattled if things do not go well, but Grayson does not feel that should be a concern with him.
“It’s different, the NFL and college, but I’ve been thrown into the fire,” he said. “I was thrown in my first year in college and expected to do well, and I had my early struggles. But you learn from mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not going to learn as much.”
Grayson took some lumps during the preseason: He was 30-of-60 for 334 yards with zero touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Both of the picks came during the preseason finale against the Green Bay Packers.
Looking back on where he was then, Grayson said he feels he has grown by leaps and bounds. The biggest difference, he said, is that he’s now comfortable with the offense. During the preseason, he didn’t fully understand the reads and checks he was supposed to be making. He does now.
If Brees is unable to play, Grayson’s hoping for another chance to get on the field, gain more experience and measure his growth against a live defense. If he struggles, he struggles, he said. He’ll pick himself up and learn from it, just like he did after throwing those interceptions against Green Bay.
Most of all, he just wants to play.
“I just miss playing football. It’s hard when you’re getting back that and practicing with the guys — that’s fun, but when you’re actually playing the game, I guess that’s something you take for granted,” Grayson said. “Looking back to my senior year, how much fun I had, that’s something I miss.”
Brees said Thursday that he intends to play Sunday — or at least do everything he can to make that happen. He did not practice Thursday and was limited Friday.
Unlike when he missed the Week 3 game against the Panthers, Brees said he would be willing to go the week without practicing and test it out before the game before making a decision on his ability to play.
So, Grayson and Flynn will wait, and they’re OK with that. Grayson said he’s fine with waiting and that not knowing won’t change his approach.
“I would treat it the same, to be honest,” he said. “I’ve tried to treat all those games like I had a chance to play so, when this time came, I would be ready and I wouldn’t have to change anything.”
Sure, but there are a lot of people who will be hoping the quarterback depth chart changes this week — and Grayson gets the opportunity to get out from behind the line and take some snaps if Brees is unable to play.
Injury report: The Saints on Friday ruled out linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hip). Along with Brees, tackle Terron Armstead (knee), receiver Marques Colston (chest), tackle Zach Strief (elbow) and tight end Benjamin Watson (knee) are questionable.