Brees had 'another 3 years' in him sans arm woes

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METAIRIE, La. — Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he might have played several more years in the NFL if not for degeneration in his right throwing shoulder.

“Honestly, man, if my right arm was still working, I probably would’ve played another three years,” Brees said Thursday. “My body feels great. My body can play, my right arm can’t. Unfortunately that’s what kind of forced me to step away. And it was time, too.”

Brees, who retired after the 2020 season following a 20-year career in the NFL, said he seriously considered coming out of retirement, but the diminishing capabilities of his surgically repaired shoulder prevented a comeback.

“At the end of the day, it’s like, how capable … Am I to do the job, right? I would’ve run QB draws, I would’ve done whatever. I would’ve done some veer option. We would’ve pulled out all the stops. I was ready. Pull out the high school playbook,” Brees joked.

Brees said he felt there was a lack of closure after concluding his NFL career in front of a mostly empty stadium. The Saints had less than 4,000 fans in attendance for the Saints’ loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC wild-card round of the 2020 playoffs due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Certainly to have it be in a situation like that where you’re not able to really be with the fans and celebrate it with all those who are so important, I felt like there was a little bit of a lack of closure,” Brees said. “I try not to think about, like, the glance back in the Dome because I wish it would’ve been with a packed house. That energy that is so synonymous with the Superdome that I’ll always remember and what we always fed off every game day. My image of the Dome is much different than that last one.”

Brees said that he can no longer throw with his right arm and uses his left hand when playing football with his sons.

“I can drop a dime like 30 yards, left-handed,” Brees said. “Unfortunately you need a little bit more than that to compete at this level. I throw left-handed with the boys, with everything. Anything below my shoulder, below the waist, racket sports, golf, that’s fine.”

The Saints announced Thursday that Brees, now 45, will be the lone player inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2024. Brees will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the fall and recognized during one of the team’s home games this season.

Former Saints coach Sean Payton, now with the Denver Broncos, said he doesn’t know which game the Saints are planning to recognize Brees. He smiled and said “maybe” during a Broncos news conference Thursday when it was suggested that the Saints’ Week 7 prime-time matchup against the Broncos could be the game.

Brees spoke at length Thursday afternoon at the Saints’ practice facility in front of his family, current Saints staff members and several former teammates about his 15 years in New Orleans and the five seasons with the San Diego Chargers. Brees had a 360-degree tear of the labrum in his right shoulder, which eventually led to him signing with the Saints as a free agent prior to the 2006 season.

Brees said the injury was significant enough that he considered cashing out an insurance policy he took out on himself during his final season in San Diego.

“I really thought my career was over. Five years into it. I really thought I may never play again,” Brees said. “… There came a moment after the surgery where I could’ve taken the insurance policy. … Here I was facing a career-ending injury and if I never played again, I could collect the insurance policy. And it was a good insurance policy. Point being, when that happens and all the sudden you just get a second chance … You just have so much gratitude in your heart.”

The surgery was successful enough to prolong Brees’ playing career by 15 years, but he said Dr. James Andrews warned him that the shoulder would eventually degenerate to the point where throwing would no longer be possible.

“He said, ‘You’re on the fast track to a degenerative shoulder. And so at some point this will catch up with you,'” Brees recalled. “All that wear and tear and all the work that was done. … Unfortunately there will be attrition at some point. I hung on as long as I could.”

Brees, who was a color analyst for NBC for one season and spent some time volunteering as an assistant coach for Purdue, has not ruled out a return to broadcasting or coaching in some capacity in the future.

“I have a passion for football,” he said. “I still love the game. I love to coach the game, I love to watch the game, I love to analyze the game. And that’ll never leave. … You’ve got to feed the flame somehow. So for me, I worked for NBC for a year, and honestly I had such a good time. It was awesome, the only problem was the travel schedule. … I love the game and I would love to broadcast NFL games at some point.

“… But otherwise, coaching. I love coaching my boys, I love coaching high school kids, I love coaching 7-on-7. I love being a mentor for guys. I probably had five NFL quarterbacks reach out to me this offseason just to talk. … I love being in that role and I always want to be a resource for the next generation. I feel that’s part of our responsibility. We wouldn’t be where we are without having those guys along the way, and now that baton is passed to us to be the next generation of mentors for guys that are coming up.”

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