METAIRIE, LA. — New Orleans Saints quarterback Chase Daniel sees no competition from Luke McCown as the top backup to Drew Brees. If anything, he insists he is looking the other way.
"What competition?" Daniel said when asked about McCown after Friday's practice. "I am trying to take Drew Brees' spot. I don't see a competition with any other quarterback but Drew on the roster right now."
His boldness is more a state of mind than a statement of fact. Brees, the reigning AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year who just became the highest-paid player per season in league history, is untouchable. Still, Daniel made it clear he considered himself just as locked into a roster spot.
That would take away one of the few interesting elements of New Orleans' exhibition opener against Arizona on Sunday at the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio. With five preseason games on the docket and only eight training camp practices behind them, the Saints' starters likely will play sparingly, giving way to backups competing for roster spots.
McCown, a nine-year veteran, is one of them. He signed in June and has shown a strong arm in training camp.
Interim head coach Joe Vitt refused to talk about the plan for snaps, saying only that it would be similar to what the Saints did in 2007, the last time they were in the Hall of Fame game.
Brees figures to play for a series or two, followed by Daniel, McCown and Sean Canfield.
Daniel, entering his fourth year with the Saints, has thrown eight passes. He ran the first team the entire offseason, though, while Brees was negotiating his contract.
"I thought it was good for him to be in a position where he is the guy, he is running with the ones and having to exert himself and be the leader," Brees said. "I tell him that if you are not thinking about taking my job then you are thinking the wrong thing."
McCown is taller than Daniel (6-foot-4 compared to 6-0) and more experienced, although his career statistics (184 of 316 with nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions) are mediocre. He has nine career starts, including the regular-season opener for Jacksonville last year.
The Saints almost always have kept two quarterbacks on their final roster under coach Sean Payton, who is suspended for the season for his role in the bounty scandal. McCown is not eligible for a spot on the practice squad because of his experience, so he needs to beat out Daniel to stick in New Orleans.
He showed his strong arm with a perfect deep out pass Friday that wide receiver Joe Morgan dropped after running under it.
"It doesn't really matter what I say my chances are," McCown said. "I'm learning the offense. I've been here, counting mini-camps, about two weeks. I'm just trying to make the most of it, make completions and put the team in a good situation."