In an alternate timeline, Drew Brees' body never took the physical toll it endured throughout his career and the former Chargers and Saints quarterback is still slinging it somewhere in the league today. The future Hall of Famer told the Associated Press that had it not been for a shoulder injury he suffered late in the 2005 season with San Diego, he'd be in lockstep with current Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady playing deep into his 40s.
"If my arm wasn't put together with 13 anchors, I'd play until I was 45," The now-43-year-old Brees said. "And here's Tom doing it because it takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice and not everybody could do it."
Brees tore his labrum and underwent surgery to repair the torn cartilage in what was his dislocated throwing shoulder in January of 2006. Despite later signing with New Orleans and playing at an elite level for another 15 seasons, Brees knew at the time of his surgery that this type of injury would eventually catch up to him and force him to step away, which it did in 2020.
"It became a great struggle to be healthy enough to go out there and really perform at the highest level just with the limitations that I had," Brees said about his final season with the Saints. "I could dice you up inside of 40 yards all day long. But it became harder and harder to do things downfield."
Brees' last game in the NFL came during New Orleans' divisional round loss to Tampa Bay in January of 2021.
Upon retirement, Brees immediately went into the broadcasting world, covering the NFL and Notre Dame football for NBC. He's since put that career on pause to spend more time with his family, although he didn't rule out a return at some point in the future.
"These are just such valuable moments, and I'm coaching all the kids and they've got games on the weekends," he said. "I just don't want to miss any of those moments right now."
Even though he won't be back on the field again, Brees will be back on the center stage of the football world in relatively short order as he's eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2026, where he'll likely be inducted on the first ballot.