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Drew Brees focusing on present as New Orleans Saints prepare for playoff run

'I've played the last four seasons in a row as if it was my last'

Per the usual, Drew Brees would not be tempted into an in-season prognostication about his career, beyond Sunday's Wild Card playoff game against Chicago in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"I've made a decision about being the best I can be this week so we can go win this game so we can keep playing," he said, smiling, during his weekly media availability Wednesday.

That said, the vast majority of NFL snaps that the New Orleans Saints quarterback will take are unquestionably behind him. He contemplated retirement after last season, and said he returned not to play for himself, but to play for his team, organization and city.

Each playoff game this year presents the very real possibility of being the last game that Brees, a 20-year veteran who can be fitted with his gold Pro Football Hall of Fame blazer the day he retires, will play for the Saints (12-4).

"Honestly, I was asked this (Wednesday) by (Chicago) media: 'Is it different because it might be the last season?'" Coach Sean Payton said. "I don't think so. I just think all these games – down the stretch, you kind of felt like you were playing in these type of games to secure your seeding and improve your seeding.

"And now you get into the first round, there's that sense of urgency because there isn't a best-of-five or a best-of-seven, you can't have a bad day and bounce back and take another one at home and get one on the road. It doesn't work like that. So it's handling the week the right way.

"His preparation is the same as it always is, very thorough and detailed. I think it's very similar as it was back in '06, '09, '10, '11, '13, '17, '18, '19, '20."

Because – almost above all else – Brees has been a consistent creature of habit, including in his approach to seasons and playoff games.

"You know what? Honestly, I've played the last four seasons in a row as if it was my last," he said. "So as I sit here, right now, my approach is very much the same."

Brees missed four games during the regular season with cracked ribs and a punctured lung, but returned for the final three games and threw three touchdown passes in the regular-season finale. He finished the regular season having completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 2,942 yards and 24 touchdowns, with six interceptions.

In the last four regular seasons, playing a total of 54 games and leading the Saints to the NFC South Division title each year, Brees totaled 106 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, with no season of more than eight interceptions.

A Super Bowl victory has remained elusive, with the Saints eliminated in the divisional round, NFC Championship Game and Wild Card game in successive years. But this year's team has proven its mettle through its variety of ways to achieve success, having won games without Brees, receiver Michael Thomas, running back Alvin Kamara, left tackle Terron Armstead, cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Jackrabbit Jenkins and safety Marcus Williams, among others.

"Well, I mean, listen, we've learned a lot over the last four years," Brees said. "Obviously, we've had some success, we've won a lot of games. We've had some unique playoff experiences that we're going to be able to draw from and learn from, but at the end of the day, this is a team that maybe unlike the other three have just found a way despite a bunch of crazy circumstances.

"I was thinking about it a little while ago. And, like, offensively, we've had backups play at every position during this season, and it's pretty remarkable when you think about it, just the amount of contribution that each guy has had across the board, and you can say that for defense as well, you can say that for special teams. And I just think that's really unique.

"I think it says a lot about this team, our ability to find ways to win, but also just the leadership, individual guys, and their ability to get themselves ready, but also just the brothers who rally around them, and put them in the best position to succeed. And then just watch their growth and maturation throughout the season. So more so than anything, it just it makes you really proud of this team and it makes you want to play even harder for this team and the guys in that locker room."