METAIRIE — When the Saints returned to work on Thursday to begin prepping for Monday night’s game with the Atlanta Falcons, which could clinch the NFC South title for the Saints, much of the talk centered on Drew Brees’ pursuit of the NFL single-season record for passing yards.
Brees needs 305 yards in the final two games to overtake Dan Marino’s 27-year-old record of 5,084 yards. Considering that Brees has already broken the NFL record for 300-yard games with 11 in 14 games this season, he’s got a good shot to do in on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
But while Brees predictably tried to downplay the talk about the record during his weekly news conference Thursday, he did say that he talked to Marino about the mark after he came up 16 yards short in 2008.
“At the time, it was like, ‘We made our run at it,’ ” Brees said, recalling he thought at the time the chances of making another run at it were pretty slim. “Honestly, I’ve really tried to numb my senses to the whole thing right now and just think about winning football games … executing this offense, being as prepared as I can be, focusing on the process. I just know the result will take care of itself.”
Brees said Marino, who now works for CBS Sports, reached out to him to talk this week. Brees declined, deciding Monday night’s game was more important than any more discussion about the record.
“I’d really like to just focus on the game,” Brees said. “I respectfully said, ‘Let’s wait here and just kind of let everything fall into place the way it is.’ We’ll definitely sit down. I would love to do that.”
THE VOTES ARE IN: Saints players and coaches cast their ballots Thursday for the Pro Bowl game, which will be played Jan. 29 in Honolulu.
Fan voting ended after Monday night’s game before all 32 teams got their shot Wednesday and Thursday. Fans, players and coaches all count one-third toward the AFC and NFC all-star squads that will be announced Tuesday.
Brees finished third overall in the fan vote with 1,188,893 and was second among NFC quarterbacks behind top vote-getter Aaron Rodgers (1,581,982).
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (725,612) and strong safety Roman Harper (147,542) led at their respective positions in the NFC.
A pair of Louisiana natives — New York Jets kick returner Joe McKnight (140,926) and Baltimore Ravens free safety Ed Reed (198,075) — were among the AFC position leaders.
PRACTICE REPORT: Running back Mark Ingram did not participate in Thursday’s practice and could miss his third straight game since suffering a turf toe injury on Dec. 4 against the Detroit Lions.
Also not participating were middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), guard Jahri Evans (knee) and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (hamstring). Vilma had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last month, but has played the last three weeks even though he’s sat out some practices.
Linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee) returned to practice on a limited basis after missing two games, while defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin (knee) and linebacker Ramon Humber (knee) were also limited.
TURNER HELD OUT: Falcons running back Michael Turner, who has rushed for 1,129 yards and nine touchdowns this season, did not practice Thursday because of a groin injury.
Jason Snelling, one of Turner’s backups, also did not work because of an illness, while cornerback Kelvin Hayden (toe) also sat out.
Wide receiver Harry Douglas (groin) was limited.
ROAD WARRIORS: The Saints completed the road portion of their schedule last Sunday with a 42-20 rout of the Minnesota Vikings, which gave them a 5-3 record away from home thanks to three straight victories.
It’s the third straight year the Saints have had a winning mark on the road, which is a club record. They were 7-1 in 2009, 6-2 in ’10 and 5-3 this year and are 30-18 on the road under Payton since he took over in 2006.
The only other times the Saints had back-to-back winning seasons were in 1987-88 (6-2, 5-3) and 1991-92 (5-3, 6-2).
BREES NOMINATED: For the fifth time this season, Brees has been nominated for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week award after he shredded the Vikings for 412 passing yards and five touchdowns.
Fans can vote on the award along with the FedEx Ground Player of the Week, for which former Saints running back Reggie Bush is a nominee, online until 2 p.m. Friday at www.NFL.com/FedEx.