For the first time in his long, prestigious NFL career, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is considering retirement. The 41-year-old Brees spent this week practicing for the 13th Pro Bowl appearance of his career, and he told reporters on Saturday that he's not yet ready to make a decision regarding whether he'll be back for a 20th NFL season, but he will be soon.
"I'm really waiting until football is totally done," Brees told The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate on Saturday. "Obviously being here, I'm just very much focused on my family and this opportunity to be be around the guys, playing the game. Then, I'll kind of lay low for a little bit, get away and then assess. I kind of have a process in mind. And I'll give it a month or so."
He acknowledged that this is a bit of a strange situation for him to be in. Previously, he'd known for sure that he would be back with the Saints the following season.
"I have never been in the situation where I was mulling over the thought of (returning)," Brees said. "To me, each one of these contracts, I don't know how many it's been with the Saints, I've played with them 14 years, each one, it's not a matter of if it gets done, it's when. At this stage of my career, it's not a given that I'm coming back every year, but when that time comes, I'll always be a Saint."
Brees has been remarkably productive and durable throughout his career in New Orleans, which has to be considered a bit of a surprise considering the shoulder injury that contributed to his departure from the San Diego Chargers. But this season, Brees missed five-plus games with a thumb injury -- the first multi-game absence he's had since all the way back in 2003. With a 41-year-old quarterback, the risk of those types of injuries is perhaps a bit higher than a younger player.
Luckily for the Saints, they invested more in the backup quarterback position than almost any team in the league, and Teddy Bridgewater led the team to a 5-0 record in Brees' absence. They were unable to secure a first-round bye in the playoffs, though, and they were upset by the Vikings in the first round. Brees didn't have his best stuff in that game, but he still performed at a high level for most of the regular season.
Saints GM Mickey Loomis told The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate that the team would "obviously" bring Brees back, if that's what he wanted to do. If he decides against a return, it seems likely that Bridgewater would be elevated to the starting role. The Saints also have Taysom Hill around to contribute at the position, and Sean Payton scheming those players into position to succeed. They should still be able to find that success, but it'd obviously be better for them if Brees came back for one more try.