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John DeShazier: Drew Brees returns to practice, plans to play against Colts

Strained oblique had kept him sidelined

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees expects to play in the preseason for the first time Saturday night, when the Saints play the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"I think the expectation is (to play) a half," Brees said Sunday after the team's first practice in Metairie this training camp. "If we go out and we score on the first three possessions, then it might be less than that. If we go out and we don't score at all, then it's going to be more than that. I think typically, a half is what we've gone in the past.

"We know we're playing against a really good football team, on the road, and we've had some guys out. The most important thing is going out there executing well, and making sure that we all feel very comfortable leaving that game. Like, 'Hey, we are on track, we are where we want to be at this point.' Because if we're not, then that creates even more of a sense of urgency."

Brees on Sunday participated in his first full practice since Aug. 1, when he strained his oblique. Since, he'd done individual drills and as he progressed, threw to receivers during isolated work. But he was under center with the No. 1 offense during all team drills during Sunday's practice, which was open to the public.

"I think our plan is, he'll be able to (play)," Coach Sean Payton said. "I want make sure we're not looking at the date ahead of the injury, but today he went full participation and I think he's feeling a lot better.

"I think the time that we gave (the injury to heal) was important. It'll be interesting to see how he feels tomorrow. But that would be the plan initially."

Brees said that due to the nature of the injury, he wouldn't have been able to play with it because it only would've worsened. The act of throwing wouldn't have allowed the injury properly to heal.

But he said the target date for his return was Saturday, even though he likely could have played in Friday's preseason game against Tennessee at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"As you approach that third preseason game, this is really kind of the final dress rehearsal for the season," he said. "This is when the season becomes very imminent.

"No question. I feel good. Today was my first day to kind of be full go. I've been taking it very slow, very deliberate, no use in rushing something that could get worse. So I wanted to make sure that it was all good. I'm still not 100 percent but I hope that by Saturday, I am.

"I don't expect to be limited at all. I wouldn't play if I was limited. That's not smart. So my goal  this entire time, the minute I got hurt, the minute I got the prognosis, was, 'I'm going to be very smart, I'm going to take it one day at a time and I'm going to be playing in that Indy game. That's my goal.' "

The Saints are undefeated this preseason, and Ryan Griffin (29 for 42 for 358 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions) and Luke McCown (19 for 30 for 166 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception) have led the team to 57 points.

But the return of Brees, who has an NFL-record four 5,000-yard passing seasons, is a welcome one.

"We're all excited to possibly have him back," tight end Jimmy Graham said. "He's the leader of this team and he's been my leader since the first time I stepped in this building. So we're all excited to have him back and to get this thing moving."

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