NEW YORK — New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is confident that he and the Saints will agree on a long-term contract.

NEW YORK — New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees is confident that he and the Saints will agree on a long-term contract.

With the start of training camp about a month off, the two sides still have "a ways to go" to close the gap, the 2010 Super Bowl MVP said Tuesday.

Nonetheless, he said, "I'm confident, and always have been, that we'll get a long-term deal accomplished."

Brees acknowledged that the NFL's bounty investigation into the Saints has slowed down negotiations.

"This has been a stressful offseason in a lot of ways. There's been a lot of distractions for everybody," he said. "I'm not using that as an excuse other than just stating it as fact. That has delayed things quite a bit at times."

Even if Brees signs a contract in time and doesn't miss any of training camp, the Saints will be short-handed after the penalties handed out by the NFL in the bounty case. Coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathan Vilma have been suspended the entire season. Assistant coach Joe Vitt, the interim replacement for Payton, is banned for six games, while defensive end Will Smith is docked four. General manager Mickey Loomis will miss eight games.

Former Saints defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, was suspended eight games and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, got three games.

"They had a conclusion that they wanted to reach that this was going on," Brees said of the NFL. "So a predetermined conclusion: We're going to gear the investigation and everything toward that conclusion as opposed to let's just gather the facts."

The league accused the Saints of running a bounty system from 2009-11 under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who has been suspended indefinitely by Commissioner Roger Goodell and issued an apology for his role in the scandal.

Brees questioned the testimony coaches gave to the NFL.

"A lot those coaches were living in fear of their careers if they did not cooperate," he said.

The Saints placed their one-year franchise tag on Brees, barring him from negotiating with other teams. Brees has skipped voluntary practices and minicamp while holding out for a long-term deal. "I feel like there's been progress made over the last few weeks," he said. "But there's still a ways to go. I'm hopeful that it will happen sooner than later."