METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Drew Brees turned 30 this year, still in his prime, but old enough to start pondering how much time is really left for him to win it all.

“When I look at our team, we’ve made some great moves in free agency and that kind of thing, but we’re a very veteran team, so we’re definitely not getting any younger,” Brees said.

The Saints opened training camp with one of the older rosters in the NFL, with 19 players in their 30s and an average age of just under 27. Their oldest player is second-string quarterback Mark Brunell, who’s 38, followed by their new long-snapper, 37-year-old Jason Kyle.

One of New Orleans’ most significant moves in free agency was to bring in projected starting safety Darren Sharper, who at 33 is entering his 13th season.

“There’s definitely an urgency this year,” Sharper said. “When you get up in age a little bit, past 30, you don’t know how many more years you’re going to play, and then it’s so hard just to get to the level of only getting to the playoffs. … So each chance you get to be on a good team that you know has a chance to make it, you want to do everything you possibly can to get there.”

Brees’ final two seasons in his 20s were two of his best, but the Saints fell short of the playoffs both years.

In 2008, his 5,069 yards passing made him the only quarterback other than Dan Marino (5,084 yards in 1984) to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season. Yet the Saints finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs. In 2007, Brees’ 4,423 yards passing ranked second in the NFL, but the Saints were 7-9.

Every NFL team covets the kind of quarterback play Brees has given the Saints. No team wants to waste it.

“This is definitely a window of opportunity for us and no longer can you say, like most young people do, ‘There’s always next year,'” Brees said. “There might not be next year, so it’s all about the here and now.”

The Saints don’t necessarily lack young players in starring roles. Running back Reggie Bush is 24 and receiver Marques Colston 26. Yet New Orleans sees a potential advantage in having a number of key players in their 30s.

The Saints were competitive and not far off from being a playoff team last season, given that five of their eight losses came by three or fewer points. They figured bringing in a few more veterans such as Sharper, or versatile, 30-year-old fullback Heath Evans, could establish the level of maturity, experience and leadership needed to make the difference in close games.

“Experience will beat speed and youth every single day of the week,” Evans said after practice on Saturday, the second day of full practices at Saints training camp.

“I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think this team had the experience that it needed to win. I love hearing there are that many guys over 30 because it means you’ve got a lot of war wounds, a lot of knowledge, and that’s really what it takes to win in this league, experience and knowledge.”

Evans spent the past four seasons with veteran-filled New England, a stint that included the Patriots’ 18-1 season in 2007 that ended with a close Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants.

Having come so close to winning what would have been his first and only title in his nine NFL seasons, Evans likes to think he’s learned some valuable lessons that could help in New Orleans.

“I’ve got that bitter taste in my mouth that we’ve got to get out,” he said. “I saw myself as a piece of the puzzle and maybe a piece that pushes us over the hump.”

Similarly, the Saints’ coaching staff looked at Sharper, with his 54 interceptions, as a potential defensive leader whose difficult-to-teach knack for creating turnovers could compensate for the steps he’s lost with age.

“He’s in the books as being able to make plays on the ball and that’s why he’s here,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said. “I have to help keep him fresh, but the instincts and the ability to make plays on the ball, that’s Darren Sharper.”

“I like those guys,” Williams added, alluding to the Saints’ most seasoned veterans. “Young guys drive me nuts.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.